Become a Follower of the Big Dude!

Meet the divine Dude in this blog. This Dude has had and seen his share of sacred shit. He's not afraid of it or of its language. I can't relate to a god that's been crucified, but I can relate to one whom my government has imprisoned and humiliated. I can relate to one who's been raped by his own holy men. I can relate to one who grew up playing baseball or soccer and who dated the Prom Queen. I can relate to the god who knows the working of corporate conglomerates, pimps, and teen-age girls who are pregnant. I can relate to the god who loves alcoholics and drug addicts just a tad more than wall street hotshots. This Dude thinks all of us are mortal particles in an ocean of sacred shit. This Dude recycles.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Chaos, Comfort, and Compost: Welcome to the Human Condition

Sometimes a series of external events mirrors a stirring in our soul, unrecognizable in its early stages. Perhaps we find ourselves excessively angry with our children. Perhaps we deplore the helplessness we see in a friend or family member. Perhaps we are overwhelmed by what seem like chaotic happenings in our life. The trouble with "soul messages" is that they rarely come to us directly. Perhaps they don't want to be ambushed and taken hostage by our minds.

This month, I've been plagued by chaotic happenings over which I experience little control. From a leaking roof and little springs of water gushing from various places in the ceiling and walls to an outrageous income tax bill, life suddenly came at me from so many unexpected directions that I felt helpless and out of control.

This wicked earthquake of events culminated in two instances when I acted impulsively and without my normal filters and caution. In both cases, I said something I wished I hadn't. Upon reflection, I realize that the external chaos had moved within. I lost touch with my loving center and began taking cheap and quick shots at others.

Why is it that we sometimes are more inclined to think ill of others than well? Almost certainly it is because we are actually thinking ill of ourselves. I don't know how to fix that kind of chaos. I don't know how to make up for a negative balance in the self-love column. It seems like a vicious circle. I don't love myself and so I don't attract love. That's a universal law of life, isn't it? What a terrible law! Who most needs love? The one who doesn't feel loved, right? In my minimally damaging sniping at others, am I not asking if not begging not to be sniped at in return. Am I not asking for love?

I think about Shakespeare's Shylock crying out, "If you scratch me, do I not bleed?" In the laws of the land, Shylock had to forfeit a "pound of flesh" for his offence. But the ruler of that Shakespearean land lived more by mercy than justice; he forgave the debt. That makes me think about the soft heart of the good shepherd looking for a lost sheep in the night.

I eventually figured out how to manage the leaky ceiling and the overwhelming tax bill. External crises I can handle. I have no idea how to fix the leaks in my soul, the heavy spiritual bills that are coming due. Why is that? Maybe I can't fix them. Maybe I have to wait to be forgiven my debt, for the shepherd to find me.

So, I light a candle and sit quietly watching my mind pick at my spirit. Watching gushers of self-doubt erupt within me. I watch my mind impose its inexorable judgments upon my soul and the fines that it levies seem too heavy to bear. I am awash in despair.

Big Dude, why is it sometimes so hard to find our way to you? Like some dark warlord, you just seem to melt into the darkness leaving us without comfort or grace. Why do our souls just seep out from under us sometimes? What's up with all this inner and outer chaos? Stop! Don't give me any holy crap about how you created life itself out of just such a messy kind of darkness. I'm not buying the creation myth today. I'm not buying it.

I am sitting here with a candle just barely smelling the yeasty, incubating dark hope of the human condition.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow and Water and Rain, Oh My!

I've been sitting here listening to the dripping of water from the leaks in my ceiling, watching the snow grow deeper and deeper. How complacent we who have homes become even in the face of natural disasters!

Most of the US is experiencing one of its biggest, widest, and most fierce snow storms. All life outside of the home is cancelled--no work, no school, sometimes no roads or power. I am awash with gratitude for my home even with its leaky ceiling.

Do you ever wonder about the cycle of the seasons, however they occur where you live? The obvious connection is to the human life cycle. Egocentric, we think most things are here to teach us about human life. And that's probably true, but it's not all.

Although there's probably meaning in the rhythm of all this, it could be random. It also could be quantum--having an order that we don't comprehend at all. Not logical or symmetrical for those are concepts that we invented to make manageable meaning out of mysteries.

Did you ever think that there are far more unexplained phenomena than explained ones? That there are mysterious healings and remissions for no known reason? That there are heart attacks without cause, randomly attributed to stress or adrenaline? Lost, we create names and purposes and causal relationships in the face of the most overwhelming and chaotic natural occurances.

So, I'm thinking about all this snow. It defies the limits of my reason to imagine that it actually will melt. I used to run a children's camp in the middle of rural Michigan. The children got trapped at the camp one year because a terrible blizzard completely isolated it from the outside world. We had no power, the snow drifts were over the buildings and to the tree tops. Sara, age 10, was crying and I went over to her. "What's wrong?" I asked. She said, "I'm thinking it's the coming of an ice age and I'll never see my parents again."

I reassured her that it was just a storm and it would pass. Of course, it did pass and the children eventually were restored to their families.

Young and glib, I believed my own words that it would pass. Today, I wonder if her instincts were right. Maybe something bigger than my mind can imagine is at work, manifesting in catastrophic weather patterns and natural disasters. I'm not denying the cycle of the seasons. I'm wondering if that's a small cycle within a much bigger, unrecognizable pattern.

Like the heart attack for no known reason, is the overload of snow, water, and eventually rain more than it seems? My Buddhist self says, "It is what it is, breathe." I'm not so sure. I'm not so sure.

Sometime, imprisoned in our lodgings, we are as much at risk as those who are out battling the storms. We are a risk of a failure of imagination, of a failure of heart and nerve. Living behind walls and seeing out of windows is truly viewing the Divine itself "through a glass darkly." We like to think of the Divine as a person, a bigger human, someone who thinks and feels as we do only more so, maybe better. It's comforting to think there is a lovingly cranky Being watching over this natural world and its creatures. Hemingway's novel, The Sun Also Rises ends with the line "Isn't it pretty to think so?" It is pretty and comforting to think everything will be alright.

The trouble is that when I reassured that child and when we reassure ourselves, we are hoping for a good outcome on human terms. We hope the storm will pass, we'll survive the heart attack, and we'll be safe and well. I do think we'll be alright (I can't help it!) but I'm pretty sure that I don't know what that means in real terms. Clearly, we're all going to die and, in some sense, this is not alright. I can't help believing,however, that it's also going to be alright, right in a sense that reason can't help me with.

My favorite way to think of meaning uses the particle and the wave from physics. If I'm thinking of myself as a particle, then I think of myself as a separate entity and I fear my demise, the loss of my sense of self, the loss of what I experience as my existence. If I'm thinking of myself as a wave, then I know that I sometimes and briefly get to raise up out of the water and look around. As a wave, I know that human life is just looking around.

As a wave, I know I'm made up of water and I don't fear subsiding back into the ocean. Sitting on the couch listening to the water dripping watching the snow bury my car and windowsills, I'm trying to remember I'm a wave. I'm water and snow and rain. Oh my.