I got to sit and marvel over both my sons last night. One with longish red hair and a still-cherubic face and viola vibe. The other with this dignified silence his friends can’t ignore. The way our lives twist and turn, taking on hues and chords we never imagined before struck me as I sat there with my daughter in-between me and the father of my children, a man who is friend and co-parent but no longer husband. It was at once amusing and moving. Amusing because the ironies are many and moving because it works beautifully. Like my eldest son’s chucks and long hair with black dress pants and long-sleeved white shirt, the concert garb of a boy from a family held by love.
The image below shows my eldest son, Isaac, complete with cleft chin and slight smile. For over a year now he’s been dubbed “Jesus” by some of his classmates. The irony of such, given the intensity of my past life, blasts a trumpet of hilarity and resilience the likes of which I have to say I thoroughly revel in. I still have the leather purse given me at a tender age with the phrase “Jesus is King” etched on the outside by the maker, one of those 60’s hippie-style numbers with a Jesus Freak twist. I still have appreciation for what Christ accomplished. But my sense of humor sings louder than anything else on this one colorful thread of life’s relentless irony weave.
Does Isaac mind being called Jesus? No, it was meant as a joke because he’s grown his hair fairly long for this quiet town in the Bible Belt and he’s one of those compassionate but candid creatures with a propensity for keeping it simple. A young man of few words, the moniker has stuck. Give this Jesus 2 hours on Minecraft and the worlds he builds are intricate and elaborately planned. His deep affection shows little use for words while the hugs, pats, and meaningful eye contact sing a silent feast. He feels deeply but don’t ask him to say much. Isaac is busy with his amness. And he’s rockin’ great at it.
Formerly known as Buddha Boy, back when he was a chunky toddler, it’s fitting his friends playfully call him Jesus now. His hair goes a few inches past his shoulders and he’s been known to evoke the nickname “string-bean.” This shift to Jesus works well. It goes right along with the path he’s on, not in terms of service to humanity but just in the way he’s open to the various songs of truth coming from seemingly opposed forces. And that, in itself, is a service, isn’t it?
Buddha boy should inevitably take a Jesus turn. And it’s a blast to watch him grow, play his way along the violin’s voice and kick a soccer ball with the kind of precise finesse you expect of someone who cares about detail. More and more I love these lives whose actions speak so many things, singing varied melodies and saving their world one work of individuality at a time.
“…if God is the source of life, then the only way you worship God is by living, living fully, sharing life, giving life away, not being afraid…wandering out of the known into the unknown…”
I’ve had a bit of adventure over the past couple of days in my exchanges with both a Christian and an atheist. Suffice to say it has taught me more about myself than anything else. My struggle has been more along the lines of accepting the loss that Christianity’s frailties exacted on my life. The uber-positive guru groupies might not want to hear anything about loss but that doesn’t change the fact that there is irretrievable loss in many lives. But even in my process of acceptance and healing I find that the loss does afford me a unique treasure through the lessons I’ve learned of value, of the preciousness of every pulse of our lives. And I still have so much to learn. This little nugget from John Spong hit me hard. It’s not that I haven’t realized this truth he expresses before – in terms of how to manage my frustration with narrow-minded Christian thinking. But for whatever reason, it hit more fertile ground in my soul than it has in the past. And it specifically connects with my angst with more ignorant, destructive Christians and encourages me to see things from a different perspective. It doesn’t change the fact that someone’s best experience of the Divine might be so limited and limiting that they actually injure those they have charge of for a season. But it does bathe the angst in a bit of much-needed light, dispersing bitterness in a more balanced perspective… “That person is responding to as much of God as they can experience….” Insert “love” if that’s as far as “god” goes for you, in any case, it’s a beautiful truth Spong expresses here… As someone standing outside of Christianity I still need to hear this from time to time in order to deal with my own reactions to those I experience as toxic.
Phil Rockstroh, rockin’ the truth . . .
“Both fundamentalist religious types and reductionist materialist true believers both are anthropocentric in their concept of divinity–both insist the language of the cosmos speak the language of man–whether it be religious dogma or scientific lexicon. The closer one comes to approaching the sublime…the more deeply the recognition arrives that it communicates (impersonally) by way of symbolic speech–the thoughts of the heart–visions, dreams, poetic insights. To insist that the cosmos speak our language is to ghettoize the soul of the world…The act imprisons one in a concretized belief system. Notice how fond both atheists and fundies are of the words “only” and “just.” While religious types eye the distant heavens–believing life on earth is merely a dismal slog through mortal sin–only the pathetic acts of fallen man, reductionist insist our dreams, visions, imaginings are only fantasies–just metaphysical piffle. Both, in short, have an abundance of hubris squatting in the place their heart should occupy. This makes them very testy…a trait of folks who live in cramped quarters of concretized belief. My suggestion: Open a window…
on the cosmos as it is creating verse.” Phil Rockstroh
Found here: http://on.fb.me/vYdTiB
Emphasis and breakdown of final words are mine.
“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
“In this present world-order God does not normally intrude the full light of his glory upon our minds, but rather reveals himself as the mysterious Void whose content wholly transcends normal thinking and feeling, and can only be known to the intellect by analogy. We may transcend images, ideas and symbols but we are then confronted with a Reality which we experience but do not comprehend, a living mystery which imparts life, power and joy, though we cannot say how. When we stop to examine it, there seems to be nothing in it, but in use we find it inexhaustible…the realization produces definite effects, though no amount of striving for and imitating these effects will produce realization. It infuses our life with a deep undertone of love, joy, peace and spiritual freedom.” Alan Watts – Behold The Spirit
Perpetually we are brought back to the only point, which is, of course: love. And we don’t get there by trying hard. We don’t get there by thinking about it. We get there by realizing we ARE there now. We unfold, receive, swim through/with our days, our ways in acceptance and sometimes even with vision. And it just so happens love is who/what/why we are.
Eight days in Georgia trail behind me now but the water flows more surely within, winding a path of constancy beyond the landslides. The river bathed us in that abandon found when skin sings shock and joy in water barely warmed in summer’s pounding sun. We laughed in a circle of light and water less wily, floating, hair flowing out ahead, forgetting our differences, our past lives, the scars beneath. We followed my two sons in their quest for the sun’s lingering shine on a river we all love. Their little adventure ended in a place perfect where only the crippled and soul-dry weary walk away, a place where clothing soon becomes swim gear and all those fears of cold river wetness washing lose their grip as you sink, slip, melt into riversong. I can’t point to anything that redeems the loss between souls who no longer share the same beliefs. I can’t find any more ground to stand on with some. But. The river. It took us to the flesh of being, pure raw human wash in a flow no belief system or faith revision can devastate. Why do we leave our rivers, how is it we forget that abandon wily romp of washing human pride in the humble truth of skin baptized in river ride? Why do we shun river’s rippling cleanse? Why can’t we all carry such a place within us, into our daily lives, remembering our vulnerability, our humanity? Sink, slip, melt us all into wholeness…
I’m licking wounds, growing stronger, settling into acceptance of who I am (a dynamic thing I must fight to keep up with and then give up on and then be visited by and then yes…this is life) and I can find few words for it. But. But the theme that keeps dogging me like a hound of Hades is this one issue – what to fight for.
I run to Thomas Moore’s Dark Eros, for whatever intuitive reason, and these are the pieces of synchronicity life speaks to me now, on this one issue:
“Life itself is both caring and hostile. We are born astride a grave, the hopeful swell of life an inevitable move toward death. Nature is lovely and vulnerable, and yet it is also cold-hearted and cruel, oblivious to human reasons for protection. To live this life with full participation in nature is to adopt its cruelty and vulnerability. Often it seems psychological problems center around this issue of participating in the Sadeian nature of reality. We back away from engaging in cruelty, but the harshness does not go away. We deny the victim our gift of power, and then we become the victims of that denied force. We cannot believe we are capable of the vulnerability a life episode asks for; we retreatk and then feel literally and utterly wounded.
If the individual human soul is torn between victimization and cruelty, the soul of culture also gets tangled in problems of power.
We have so humanized and rationalized the positive powers of life that only in pathology does the divine peek through.
..innocence split off from shadow is not innocence at all but only a posturing. Paradoxically, embracing Sade could ease conscience and guilt, and it could revivify social justice.
The shadow in human life cannot be brought home as long as we concretize it in some objectionable other. Like everything else, evil is assimilable by soul only after it has been subjected to a poetic alchemy, refined into fantasy and feeling instead of personality and emotion, and woven into the fine tapestry of imagined experience.
It’s fine to be imaginative in articulating the details of a sensitive life, but the real nub comes with the presence of aggression, vicitimization, and power. Will we ever cease reacting to victimization with increased violence? Will we ever realize that strength of heart is to be found only at the deep end of the well of vulnerability? Only the person or nation open to influence, dependent, relying, often disabled can know the deep muscle that grants effectiveness, creativity, confidence, and security. Only the allowance of failure breeds moments of success.”
I keep coming home to vulnerability. It doesn’t tell me what to fight for except those components in life that give room for vulnerability between peers and allow strength to grow and withstand the strengths of others, however lovely or not. We fight for the dynamics of power that give us room to be vulnerable with a peer without being destroyed or devoured by their shadows. We fight for the dynamics of power that give us room to grow, hopefully without destroying anyone else, without hindering their own progress. Those “dynamics of power” are simply the muscles we use to open ourselves up and be real in the moment, to push past the internal resistance, to push past a bit of the resistances in others. Those dynamics of power are the ones we utilize to retreat until a safer day, while the ones we long to be vulnerable with or open up to are still learning just how potently reactionary they are.
I had occasion to fight this week and I left it alone. And a noble fight it would have been. But I realized the message was deeper. I pulled back after much tremendously ugly and rabid frothing at the mouth with rage long tied to things I have still to redeem. It was, if you take it apart, pretty small. But not really. Not when you look at the dynamics of it. The messages. The energies. The powers. The victims. The perps.
My son’s locker was broken into at school. By. A. Teacher. But it’s their policy. But it’s not their policy to take, seize and possess personal items. But they did. He went to his locker to put his books away and the locker shelf his sister had given him was gone. He mentioned it to a friend and was overheard by a classmate. She informed him that the teachers regularly check to see if a student has left the locker on the last number of the combination (hence, unlocked). If so, they take a personal item without telling the student, put it in a closet and wait. So, he went to his teacher. She had broken it, his personal property, in the attempt to remove it. Her commentary, after volunteering to pay for the item: “I hope you see this as the lesson it is meant to be. Do not leave your locker unsecure.” [insert image of mocking, incredulous redhead saying “what kind of stupidly revealing statement is that?”]
Vulnerability is as much a right as is protection. And choice is something I find even just as valuable. If choice is something that needs to be submitted in lieu of greater gains, then hopefully that choice is submitted willfully and with full awareness of what will be gained, what will be lost, what will be required. Scenarios, environments, timing, situational “ethics” have their meaning. But when? And. What to fight for when? And how? And. When your heart is beating, head is pounding, hands are shaking and the voice is trembling, it’s time not to fight but to retreat and discern which fight you’re spoiling for at the time. Epic reactions mean epic past unfinished business. Usually. Especially. When. A. Locker. Is. Involved.
My son was not upset by it. We decided to leave it alone and keep it for later reference if the need should arise to show a trend (this does seem to happen). But I was wiped out. It hit on a deep wellspring of pain from my past, one I keep working to heal. An issue so perfectly symbolized by the locker and the teacher and. And the broken personal yes. Well, I have no recourse, no re-imbursement. Only one thing. The fight to keep myself vulnerable when it matters most. The fight to recognize that the beauty I experienced of the one involved, of the whole thing is not gone because of a betrayal. But must simply be accepted along with it. While I keep my safe distance and acknowledge my longing to do anything but that (and I don’t want to attack).
And I surf the internet, scan the news and find one is going to burn a book. In reaction. To fight for something. But he fights himself. He fights the very thing he treasures and has no idea of it. And nations toss words and it all swirls in frustration and stupidity supreme and all I can say is this: We are vulnerable. What will we make of it?
My youngest son kept me up last night past midnight, expressing his feelings and pouring out his heart about life and particularly about the question of life after death. I knew we were coming ’round to a place of renewed peace and joy when the emotions had been spent thoroughly and these words came out of his mouth and the sun rose a smile as he spoke: “When I ride my bike, it’s like I’m not me, I’m the bike. I’m one with the bike…” We’d discussed the failure of language and how it suggests reality as only what the mind can conjure through words. And how inadequate the comprehension of life itself when relying on concepts created by minds not our own. Actually, he’d brought that little factoid up himself. Wow, what a scramble for “reality” and totems and “truth.” He knows what his mom believes about life and the divine. In the process of sifting through the turmoil, I endeavored to open his mind to now, to letting go of fear while cherishing the fleeting and yet precious reality of life. This is a boy who can poke holes in every belief system out there and yet he wants something to believe in. I aksed him: When you were in the womb, did you stop and ask and wonder about the beyond? Did you fret about losing the rhythmic sound of heart and world around you? Did you even “know?” For some reason, this particular line of gentle questioning kept bringing him to peace. The sense of being released into all the best rest and humor finally came flooding into our dialogue. He wouldn’t stop gabbing on and on about life, about connection, about nature, about the earth and how it is we don’t fall off of it as it turns and. And, I suggested he study physics. The will had quickly, resiliently found comfort and was off on that bike flying down the hill fast with a smooth grace. The will…so vital…
Healing The Will
The heart of every human holds
The feelings and the dreams
Of deepest aspirations,
Freewill’s creative esteem.
The urge toward higher purpose,
The drive to create from grace,
Unlimited power of expression,
The potential of the human race.
Yet, the side roads are many,
Blighted by denial and fear,
Refusal to express the feelings,
Until numbness blocks our tears.
Lost in our machinations,
Yet craving release from pain,
Surrender may not come sweetly,
But the will can be regained.
The sacredness of being lies
In feeling all that appears,
Without applying judgments
To the joys or to the fears.
Trusting every emotion as
Something we created to feel,
Then expressing every feeling,
Allows the will to heal.
So…it was a long day and it had begun with my focus on writing about the will and particularly about healing the will as a foundational work of personal growth. My 8 year old son’s post bedtime struggles highlighted the importance of expression in safeguarding true will, of working through the turmoil we all face when questioning life, when trying to give freewill the freedom needful to infuse our lives with vibrance. So often belief systems and programs are tossed at us in honest endeavors to provide comfort but how much ownership of truly personal peace is possible when this occurs? Then again, how much of that future ownership of personal peace is inspired by those very attempts to bring comfort? It’s sometimes a tightrope walk across a divide we cannot truly fathom. But we are drawn to it regardless. If we can find peace in what life is, in what life can be, we can find something no lack of proof can shake or otherwise unhinge. But we don’t get there by running away from the expressions of doubt, of fear, of appreciation for how fleeting life truly is. And this is what had sparked my son’s turmoil, his own sudden comprehension of the transitory nature of the moment itself. And up to that point, it had been a feast.
We, as children and as adults, need a place from which we can reach into the beyond, a place of security where we can say “I don’t know how to believe that when…” … where we can express our doubts and still find sure footing. Stability. I kept wanting to tell my son, “It’s ok. Trust me. There’s a God. We’ll all be together after life. I promise.” But it struck me as a violation of his will, an abortion of his own processes of comprehension and growth. He was too focused on the fact that there’s no proof. And I admitted that I cannot know what will be or if there is a beyond. But neither could I deny a sense of the mother and father heart of God or all the possible projections that very sense may be. And yet, it still is and I can live with it in appreciation of the wealth it provides but not in denial of all that is truly uncontrollable in life, the vast unknown. I can still sense and know that within is a depth of the divine untapped and eternal.
We discussed different attitudes about life after death, some philosophies and religion. He had suggested that to call a tree a tree is to lose or even just shut out what that particular expression of creation is. I grinned at the Tao of his articulation. Where did he finally land? With a question… “how do we know we aren’t God?”
The will needs to run free, to live with the courage to say what is rumbling in the heart, to fly with intention beyond the programs that give us ideas and the words that seek to grasp what could never be fully grasped. On and into life being lived and becoming one with what we can never truly name, pedalling fast free, knowing self as feeling in motion, feltness supreme.