Worth the less than 5 minute time investment to hear…
Drops of December don’t always feel bright or cheery or anything short of challenging. Of course, there’s always the “drop” and “down” aspect of that word, that gee, trajectory? Wait. Wrong direction! Or maybe not. In any case, snow falls down in drops of frozen wonder. I wonder if this means my downward spirals are a cosmic display of something lil kid gods squeal with glee over as they sit at their windows from on high, happy to miss creation school or lightning bolt assembly day… “Oh look! It’s snowing!” (I’m a snowflake, ok? Stick with me.) What do we know, really…? Maybe we’re all drops of something for some unfathomable force out there to curse at or delight in or build something with. Or.
Ok, nevermind. Maybe this is how I feel today. (Maybe?) Like a whimsical flotsam for the gods. But not. There’s a sense of being this delight of shining something. (Even when I’m “down.”) Why? Because at every turn, with all the challenges and daunting obstructions, there’s this inevitable ground zero reality I can only call love. I may run into yet one more dilemma with one of my kids but we land on our feet, and we’re closer for it. There may be one more delay, one more setback but it doesn’t hinder our capacity to open up to love, to kindness, or even to the wonder of restful repose.
So, drops of December … here’s to a pile-up of delight. Or a redburst of berry pleasure or…
This Sunday my youngest son participated in the bell choir at a local church. It wasn’t just any worship service. It was a Moravian feast candlelight service. I sat there (and stood and sang hymns and held the candle and broke bread) looking up at the chandeliers and all around at the lights and decorations of the season and wondered why I felt glad to be there. Former semi-fundie no longer of religion sitting in a pew. With sister to my right and son and daughter to my right and the father of my children too. It was, once again, an odd arrangement of purposes. I was there to honor my son’s love of the bells and all things group. He loves community and has felt estranged from it all by our very unique way of living. His parents co-parent ‘though divorced and don’t fight, squabble or otherwise do anything but support each other in nurturing three beautiful lives. This is odd. We foster love and generosity in their lives and educate them on different paths of spirituality, as we’re able. And we live in a town that is 99.9% uber Christian. So, we are even more odd. And add to that the fact that we sit in what is actually a beautiful church with thoughtful and caring souls and we are that much more odd. We can go where we don’t “belong” and yet find belonging. And I realized, as I sat there, that I was glad to be there apart from the wonder of hearing my son in chime rhyme with all of his choir friends.
It was perplexing to me. On the one hand I knew immediately that it was that part of me longing to belong to a group bigger than my own clan, my own little world. I watched the bell choir director and her passion, knowing from her own revealing that she was struggling with some deeply challenging grief. And she stood there giving with whole heart.
There are, to my mind anyway, so many deep flaws in Christianity and so I walked out. But there I sat. Glad to be. And today I find this from Fromm:
“The most important sphere of giving…lies in the specifically human realm. What does one person give to another? He gives himself, of the most precious he has, he gives of his life. This does not necessarily mean that he sacrifices his life for the other–but that he gives him of that which is alive in him; he gives him of his joy, of his interest, of his understanding, of his knowledge, of his humor, of his sadness–of all expressions and manifestations of that which is alive in him. In thus giving of his life, he enriches the other person, he enhances the other’s sense of aliveness by enhancing his own sense of aliveness. He does not give in order to receive; giving is in itself exquisite joy. But in giving he cannot help bringing something to life in the other person, and this which is brought to life reflects back to him; in truly giving, he cannot help receiving that which is given back to him. Giving implies to make the other person a giver also and they both share in the joy of what they have brought to life.” Erich Fromm – The Art of Loving
And I realize that the source of perplexity in my mind was the recognition that there was something deeply and authentically good about my being glad to be there. And that it didn’t mean I had changed my mind about my place in Christianity (not IN but with those who can be in it without being destructive). It meant that I could appreciate the flow of giving that occurs in these odd arrangements of purpose. I wondered, as I sat there, why are these folks here? Each family. Each person. Why? Do they do it by rote? Is it just another habit? And as I wondered that, it occurred to me that even that didn’t matter. I knew, without being able to say so to myself, that they were there to partake of each other. Even if stiffly assembled in long pews of wooden restriction. It is a place of sharing, of opening up to receive and reaching out to give.
And in the one most cherished verse of a long-favored hymn…
Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel…
We inherit our delusions sometimes, or our blind acceptance of long-held beliefs passed down from generation to generation. Or we openly, knowingly choose our walk of faith. We are an odd arrangement of reasons and purpose. And we resonate to what is inherently human within both our delusions and our beliefs. We do the best we can until we learn what more we can give, what more we can know, what more we can discover.
And sometimes we make ourselves odd. We disrupt the rhythm and cast off the tradition. But ultimately, we all want the same thing. To know and be known in love, to give and receive of our stories. The only way to do that is to meet each other where we are, as we are, without insistence on agreement in all things. We have this common ground…
This is a great addition to the previous quote…
My social media trail for the morning led me to a cool Facebook page, Live Intentionally, an encouraging oasis in the vast world of social outpourings. The trail I turned down to get me to this point right here involved the question: “Do you believe everything happens for a reason?” I committed to answering the question so, of course, I went after it thoroughly. Somewhat.
But what of it? This statement, “Everything happens for a reason,” teeters on the brink of sheer stupidity and well, brilliance. It just depends on how willing you are to explore what it proposes. For one, most things happen for a reason. Apples fall from trees because gravity and ripeness play with each other to the point of inevitability. Forces we can’t see are at work all the time and this idea, that “forces” are at work, creates an almost magical or Divine notion of God at work or the Universe doing something for our good. And there are times when life slams us with signs, with songs, with phrases and “happenstance” designed to get our attention. Truly.
What is my answer to “does everything happen for a reason?” Yes. And. No. Yes because cause and effect are what they are, dancing with each other ’til the collapse into the next song. The next song of cause and effect. Yes, because, when we’re not consciously working towards certain outcomes, we’re still usually causing things to happen on levels we’re unaware of. The mighty unconscious, the ice under the tip of the iceberg. Etc. etc. And yes, everything happens for a reason, because I personally believe love is always at work for our best. Always. This “yes” addresses the underlying spirit in the statement from some who believe “all things work together for good.” All things might work together for good if you get yourself moving in the direction of your best efforts without fear and hopefully with the best of timing! Not too soon, not too late. Go to a garden with tomatoes growing, maybe you want one now. Maybe you see one now and maybe you’re color blind. You might not have a good time with the tomato you pick. We need the eyes to see and the experience to know when a situation or a person is at that point of readiness for whatever is needed or wanted. And back to the garden and love working always for our good. How do we make sure that when “everything happens for a reason” we’re able to get the most and best out of the happenings? By avoiding cynicism, by keeping the earth of our hearts fertile, breaking up the hardness and allowing life to break us open as we’re able. By knowing that we can lose precious irretrievable things, situations and people.
So, yes, everything happens for a reason. And yet. No. No to several of the toxic layers of the oft-present SPIRIT of this question. Those toxic layers?
1. The underlying desire to tag everything I can’t currently change as “events bigger than me” What makes this toxic? Powerlessness as an attitude when all avenues of possibility have not been exhausted is sometimes tragic. For example, when you ignore your valid anger in a situation because you can’t see the way out of it or because you don’t want to bother with “bigger” people who are being destructive. Or when you assume the doctor has all the answers and, as it turns out, the doctor is not even slightly diligent or caring beyond the greedy bottom line. But, powerlessness is also sometimes the only answer or solution (even if only temporarily) in a situation. But knowing the difference between when to act, dig, insist, employ relentless scrutiny and effort and when to let go requires maturity, humility, and self-awareness. I’ve discovered that particular trinity of character can be rare in many lives and requires a level of diligence to cultivate on my own part in my own life that is sometimes just downright annoying. But it’s so worthwhile.
2. The inevitable “surrender” posing as the inner wise man who just knows God is up to something or the Universe is so very wise when you just don’t wanna look at the dirt on your clothes. This one is not dissimilar to the first toxic layer. But it’s also potentially a mock surrender to a God who may or may not exist, may or may not want you to give up and may or may not want this situation in your life…supposing these possibilities matter to you. It presumes much. What if this God you believe in exists and this happened because you or someone else didn’t give due diligence to something critical and now God’s sitting by steaming with frustration because you’ve taken the “This happened for a reason beyond my comprehension” approach as a pious, “wise” stance that really means you want to avoid the truth? And God/Universe sure ain’t gonna infringe on your free will. Is it possible that many people really mean, when they say “everything happens for a reason,” “I can’t deal with this. I don’t want to even think about why that happened because I have a feeling it will hurt when I realize the truth.” And “I don’t. really care, next?” Or do they mean “Don’t bother me with anything, I only want to deal with my world and my wants.” Apathy, fear and powerlessness. Sometimes it’s all we have, actually. Sometimes it’s the best stance until we’re ready. If you can’t care, you can’t care. But it’s not where I want to reside on any regular basis if, and only if, I can help it. It tends to cause things to happen for reasons of apathy, fear and powerlessness. Ugh. To borrow from the brilliance of LIVING INTENTIONALLY, where’s the intention of love in apathy?
3. The refusal to actually dig into why things are happening because “everything happens for a reason” often means “God did this. Not me, not you, not my big sister or brother.” Again, not too different from 1 and 2 but it includes the avoidance of others’ power and actually prevents a process of deeper love and awareness. How so? By shutting down the capacity to see clearly and love anyway. This happened because he didn’t face something (gee, I can so relate to not having it to face some things! Enter: Empathy; Exit: Judgemental Nonsense.) and the result is less than pleasant (I would so like this to be better! Go ahead! Give your energy to the truth so good intentions can grow!) and could’ve been prevented (How can this go differently next time around?!). But damn if I don’t still love him and understand his humanity even more now and want to be there for him. (Deeper, fuller, more honesty. Gee, this happened so I could love more? I don’t know…) But, also, it challenges you to decide if you want to continue with people who keep accidentally hurting you through their inability to grow. And sometimes, we do decide we’d rather put up with so much else than lose that one person. Count the cost. Be aware. Make your choices alive with a conscious and fully present spirit, not a mock surrender to a God who’d rather you face yourself and the people you love.
Everything happens for a reason…and things happen because they happen. But I bet we just don’t know why yet…
“Our problem is not that we are born in sin. Our problem is we do not yet know how to achieve being fully human. The function of the Christ is not to rescue the sinners but to empower you and to call you to be more deeply and fully human than you’ve ever realized there was the potential within you to be. Maybe salvation needs to be conveyed in terms of enhancing your humanity rather than rescuing you from it.” John Shelby Spong, retired Episcopal bishop
“We cannot figure out everything in the universe or second-guess the Creator. Chaos always precedes order, and the impeccability of divine order allows our dreams to be nurtured and to be born, manifesting in our physical lives. Since we are not being asked to figure everything out, what are we being asked to do? We are being asked to adopt the faith and inner knowing that our lives are a part of an intricate weave of Creation, reflecting our personal attitudes and our willingness to express love. Every human being is a vessel of love, whether we are willing to see it or not.” Jamie Sams – Dancing the Dream
I know the enlightened are supposedly not reporting on the “bad” news of the world. But I remind myself that this blog was set up with the idea of words awakening: Awakening me, awakening whomever comes along and has a heart for wakefulness. It’s my way of casting my bread on the water. This is bad news, don’t get me wrong. I put “bad” in quotes because it’s not so much bad as it is awfully accurately spotlighting humanity’s ugly stuff stifling beauty. Stuff that has to stop. It needs to be mentioned. The whole positive/negative mindset, blissful ohmness and glory to godness eventually falls flat. You know why? It’s not all we have of love. Love is something besides bliss-bathed bounty and conspiracies of beauty. “Besides” means, in my application of it, in addition to, as well as. Love is also hard work. Love is courage in the face of corruption. Love is indignation and refusal to swallow oppression. Love is strategic in planning for long-term fulfillment and freedom. When the train suddenly jumps the track and is barreling down on you at ungodly speeds do you sit there and say “all is well, the universe is blessing me?” No. You run like hell out of the way. And if the trains begin to make a habit of jumping the tracks, it’s time to take active measure to prevent any further carnage. Basic truth. Basic love. Basically exposing ugliness for what it is when beauty is under attack…
I have precious little else to contribute after the miscarriage of justice yesterday in Georgia. Alan Watts reminds me why I feel so alienated from this culture.