In a past post, I wrote about ‘redeeming the world’ with gratitude. And now, it seems, I see more and more social media posts by people writing about what they will never again take for granted, about the simple things they miss, the small details of life they appreciate so much since social distancing and quarantining started. They write about loved ones, giving and receiving hugs, taking walks, visiting beloved places and feeling the sunshine. Such is the nature of spiritual work: discernment, deconstruction, creation. The work is incomplete, however, if it is only in one direction, in one ‘realm’ of existence. The old teachings say: ‘As above, so below’. The absolute and the relative, the spiritual and the material, the inner and the outer must no longer be perceived as separate in any new version of reality we want to step into. They were never really separate but we took them to be, and suffered as a result.
While these ideas are catching on like wildfire, lots of people still remain oblivious or confused as to their implications and applications. As a result, I have conversations with spiritual friends who misunderstand and minimise the suffering of this world. This world is relative, illusory, nothing but a dream. All one must do is wake up to their eternal and infinite nature. An incomplete truth ignoring their own, suffering existence, a form of spiritual bypassing. I have scientist friends and political friends who rail against the secondary importance (if any) of inner work, of prayer and ritual. The world is objective, they say, and no amount of airy-fairy, woo spiritual stuff is going to change anything unless we work hard, organize and protest. A half-truth, also. An ignorance of their own subjective reality.
I don’t pretend to have the answers or solutions to the world’s problems – all I have is my experience, and putting to the test in my life the words and work of other human beings who came before me. But I stand witness to the grief and vulnerability of our world and its beings. I can’t always be a strong enough presence to contain it, and I am not a perfect vessel with which to express it either. I stand here as myself, with my upbringing, conditioning and predilections, just like you. And from where I stand, the world is equal parts ugly and beautiful, equal parts terrifying and inviting.
Some writers choose to highlight one or the other, according to their interests, agendas, and the desires of their audiences. Other writers report back on both parts simultaneously, the most masterful taking the splendor and the grotesqueness, weaving them together and amplifying them into a tapestry of the Sublime.
Then there are those who have befriended Hermes, who brings seeds from other realms so that they may be planted here on Earth. Of course, one doesn’t need the gods to know that humanity is ripe and in need of a new mythology at this time: relationship with the Earth, interdependence and cooperation with our fellow beings, a cultivation of the higher values of integrity, respect, love and community, a maturity of spirit, a passion for life and reverence of death. Evolution cannot turn backwards; onwards we march towards a higher order or…extinction. Whether the script has already been written or not, we seem to be faced with a choice. ‘Amor Fati’ retains more dignity than being dragged to hell kicking and screaming, but what ultimately inheres in accepting the suffering we currently face is the opening up of our vision to other perspectives which can be known, chosen and traversed so that we might participate in the transformation fully and consciously.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about consecrating life, I’m talking about making whole that which our mind has tricked us into believing is vulgar or divided, that which we othered and vilified, feared and rejected. I’m talking about being intelligent and wise with regards to our personal and communal affairs, I’m talking about harmony and beauty in running our families, businesses and societies. To be open-minded is to let go of our fixed mental positions and listen, listen, listen for the distant sound of air rushing through a pair of winged sandals coming towards us from behind the clouds of our own heartbeat, bearing counsel from the gods. To be open-hearted is to take that counsel and apply it, being that life- and love-force we’ve been shown we are, and looking for its evidence in the world and in other beings.
May I look at separation, greed, selfishness, viruses, neoliberalism, war, famine and climate catastrophe, and may I know them well. May I suffer them consciously, may I be a conscious witness to the suffering they cause. May I be honest, learning the lessons, forgiving my ‘adversaries’ and allowing my humanity to come forth in embodied power to transform the world, in a manner as unique as my fingerprint. May I have the courage to step beyond what I know, and dare encounter love, and dare make a home for it here on Earth.
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