A week or so ago, I wrote about a Dark Night of the Soul I felt caught in the crush of. I pushed at it by writing, and reading, and listening to good folks who cared and were concerned.
Part of my understanding of what it is that weighs on me at times, is my frustration in not saying out loud some of the things I believe. I hold them in and they itch to be expressed. But then they begin to claw at me. And I feel myself bleeding, inside, from the heart. And that is the Darkness.
I cannot pretend that the Bible is the only book that speaks to me of God. I never have pretended that, but it would be easy to think, based on much of what I write and speak, that that is the case. The Bible is, for me, a primary and never-endingly fascinating collection of people’s responses to God the Spirit. I met Jesus there in that book in 1984. But there are also sutras in Buddhism that sound as if they could have been spoken by Jesus. The Upshinads of Hinduism contain “Ahas!” in abundance. The birds of the air and the lilies of the field also speak to me, sing to me of God, as they did for Jesus. I can’t see the pictures returned to earth by the Hubble telescope as anything less than revelations of the size, wonder, and colors of God! The Bible, in other words, is not the only way I know God. The religious and traditional dogmas and doctrines forced by humans from the Bible are certainly not the ways I know God; in fact, as often as not, those doctrines and dogmas have hindered me in knowing God.
Where I thrive spiritually is in those cracks between and within religious dogmas- those white spaces on the pages of sacred books that are often labeled as mysticism. There, I find recognition of those things that connect us all, to each other, and to the universe. Many of the mystic writers that we have record of are Christian. I find them, of course, most accessible. But even many of them in history have been executed for what the dogmatic religionists called heresy. They dared to say God was larger, maybe even more colorful, loving, and interesting than the religionists were making God out to be.
In other words, what I’m doing is risky. If you don’t like something I say, toss it aside, consign me to someone’s doctrinal definition of hell, or find a label for me- there are many to choose from. But I can’t stifle it any longer. I’m sick of periodically bleeding.
My guide for these musings will be Stephen Mitchell’s The Essence of Wisdom, because it is a great tool, a place to focus, and is available on amazon.com to anyone whose curiosity may be whetted. Each page is a quote, a quote by someone, some mystic, in history who was able to perceive God in various and surprising ways, and who couldn’t be quiet about his or her discoveries.
Page 1: Franz Kafka- “In the fight between you and the world, back the world.“
The irregular rhythms and discordant harmonies in which we live are making our souls sick, wreaking havoc on the earth and its dwindling species, and setting the stage for “being cast out of Jerusalem” in some of the precise ways the Hebrew prophets warned Israel would happen to them. Which it did.
I think it is because we are indeed fighting with the world and enjoying too many “victories.” But those victories are illusory. Just as the ancient Hebrews thought they could live outside the rhythms and harmonies God had prescribed for them, and as they did live outside them for awhile, so have we turned a vibrant, creating, expanding universe, to the best of our learned abilities, into a pile of dead riches, to be mined and held by the quickest, strongest, and already richest among us.
The mantra of our age, which every human in the U.S. and most nations of the world has grown up with, is “Get more, be happy.” Every one of the several dozen advertisements we see on television each day and every one of the hundreds we think we’re not seeing but do, on the Internet and in newspapers, is saying that same thing. From childhood, we are learning that particular cereals, toys, and TV screens on the back of mom’s and dad’s carseats will make us happy. By the time we are 10, then 20, then 30, we are experiencing the time of happiness between the acquisition of things and the perceived need to replace those things to be decreasing. So we buy more, or stew in our inabilities to buy more.
We even display those objects d’happiness for others to see, in an attempt to convince them and ourselves that we are there, where we are supposed to be, where everyone else wants to be: happy. An $800 Louis Vuitton handbag to carry stuff in? (Or is that last year’s source of handbag happiness?)
Our worldview is one of wanting more and better stuff. That’s true of wealthy people and poor people both, in the U.S. and third world countries. Our species lived for almost a million years in relationship with the world around them, rather in direct conflict with it. Their’s was a difficult existence, to be sure, from our points of view: tigers, ice, volcanoes, and tsunamis took their tolls quite regularly. But not a single one of them died of auto accidents, black lung disease, or heroin overdoses. Our DNA screams “Harmony” while our culture-soaked, modern egos scream “Mine!”
“All I can hear, I me mine, I me mine, I me mine” (George Harrison)
Kafka died in 1924, before he had a specific whiff of the Hitlerian nightmare that would soon begin in his native Germany. But, prophetically, he could see the consumerist attitudes and actions of an Industrial, Acquiring, and Greedy Europe already at work. He could sense, and wrote about, the crushing of individuals by the forces of GroupThink, the worldview which was already fueling the 20th Century (and which would be given that name by George Orwell). Hitler understood that attitude perfectly, as all demagogues understand the worldviews of their times perfectly, and goaded and guided the human selfishness it embodied into what he called a solution for all humankind. He used the language of the predominating churches of Germany, and the “Christians” there were among the first to line up behind his eloquence. He twisted biblical truths, ancient truths, DNA-filled truths about community and harmony into ego stroking and seductive siren songs.
And he and his dreams, while flourishing for awhile, were eventually and shortly, destroyed.
The world, and the breath of God that runs through it and propels everything, will not be
stilled for any man, or any nation.
Back the world, yes. There is more truth in a sunflower or a thunderstorm than there is in any
Louis Vuitton handbag, in any death of a child anywhere from starvation, or in any madman’s
or madnation’s temporary victories.
Even with all of that, though, I’m still more optimistic, than not. More to come.