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.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Darkest Night

As humans, we go through dark times, the "dark night of the soul" it's been called. It can feel a bit like quicksand, like the harder we try to get out of this painful place, the worse it gets. We feel stuck and unhappy, maybe even afraid.

So, I'm sitting here today and it's a dark night for me. I'm not fooled by the blue sky and puffy clouds outside the window, the lilac bushes about to burst into bloom, and the "gold" of "nature's first green" as Robert Frost would say. The spectacular visuals around me don't touch the feeling inside that the Big Dude is a figment of my imagination just like every other god before him.

What if there IS no god as many people (mostly sociologists and philosophers) suspect? What if? When you're in a dark night of the soul, you join ranks with rational humanists and sociologists and there IS no god for that moment. You don't just doubt it; you don't believe it. There's a difference.

Doubt means you're waffling between various options one of which IS the existence of god. Not believing means you've given up on god. You accept that god is just another concept created by the needs of the human mind (with apologies to Marx).

The terrible thing about a true dark night is that you have temporarily, at least, accepted the latter as truth. You don't believe there is a god. You have no contact. You don't feel in touch. You feel isolated from the richness that you have experienced at other times. Even nature doesn't move the blindness that fills your soul.

I don't mean to be sacriligious or to make light of this terrible state of mind, but when I'm in this state, I bake! I read somewhere that when you can't figure things out and nothing feels meaningful, you need to engage a different part of your brain--make a list, the article said. Buddhists often say things like "don't just do something, stand there!" My mother used to say the rosary over and over.

What all of these suggestions imply is that this, too, shall pass. In the meantime, you might as well distract yourself by consciously moving yourself in a completely different direction. Prayer, baking, meditation, or shooting a round of golf. The first thing you have to do to get out of a dark night, it seems, is to "forget about it." Stop thinking about it. Engage another part of your being.

So, I'm going to bake a cherry pie. Roxie

Friday, April 22, 2011

What? The Devil?

So, a mother drove her car into the Hudson River killing herself and three of her four small children. War in the Middle East results in innumerable deaths and atrocities every day. Earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes are ravaging the earth's people.

We are seeing or actually experiencing record-setting disasters. In addition, life's smaller hurts eat away at us. A friend seems to snub us, a child grows up and moves away, our spouse has an affair. Heroes fail us. Tiger Woods was a case in point.

Last night, when it was time for my daily gratitude reflection, I couldn't think of anything I was grateful for. I was overwhelmed by the pain and suffering of my brothers and sisters around the globe. I was angry at the smaller pains in my little life.

I railed at the Big Dude and asked the age-old question, "Why do these bad things happen to just regular people?" Why? Why do people kill each other? Why do we reject and hurt each other? Is the Big Dude asleep at the switch? How CAN I have faith in the face of so much evidence that no gracious or even neutral Being is watching over the creation? Last night, I couldn't.

This morning, I wonder if faith is a process rather than a decision. Perhaps, it's just getting up in the morning and walking the dog, making the coffee, brushing the teeth. The little things that make up a life. With that in mind, I turn off the news. Suddenly there are no tsunami's or hurricanes in my life. That which we see on the news, after all, is only real to those who are experiencing it. Perhaps faith is a daily decision not to react to news as if it's happening to us. There's too much of it. Our faith, such as it is, can't take these assaults.

As I sit here quietly, peace washes over me. I return to living this moment, feeling the keyboard beneath my fingers, the pillow behind my back. I listen to the breathing of my dog. Life slows and I'm at home within my body.

I don't understand the state of the world and the Big Dude's relationship to it. Not burdened by knowing only through faith, perhaps even he has turned off earth's news and is holding a billion quiet moments in his hands. Perhaps he, too, seeks occasional refuge from the havoc of humans even as he accepts and loves them. To bring it home, I seek refuge from the humans in my life at times even as I love them. I even seek refuge from myself.

The fact that he doesn't rise up like Thor and in one made moment strike out at the universe is itself testimony to his restraint if not his love. Personally, sick of it all, I yelled at the dog last night. Perhaps faith is ongoing reflection and the courage to go about each day. Wailing, kicking, and lashing out in the face of frustration, I shouldn't cast the first stone. Roxie

Friday, April 15, 2011

Displaced to Develop

So, I'm sitting on the sofa with my faux attack dog, Emma Jane, completely surrounded by stacks of insulation, sheetrock, buzz saws, electrical cords, buckets and random containers. The water is turned off. Tall men with giant tool belts and baseball caps are wandering around. My ceiling and walls are bare with insulation partially installed. Genial guys, they are letting me stay in the corner of the living room so I can work online grading papers and, of course, blogging.

Despite their genial ways, I feel displaced. For several days, I've been sitting outside with the dog to avoid the noise and mess. I invent errands to take me out of the house. Right now, my hair is wrapped in a towel as I managed to wash my hair before the water got axed.

Sometimes to make things better, you have to first be willing to accept them getting worse. You may have a vision that's drawing you forward but nothing prepares you for the kinds of obstacles and disasters you encounter en route to that ideal. Joseph Campbell writes about the hero's journey, stepping off the everyday path into the unknown. You may think you know where you're going, but you don't. The minute you take a step off the trail, you enter an unfamiliar world. The rules you have lived by are suspended and you learn to cope minute-by-minute with the misadventures that arise.

So it is with each new phase of life. You go off to college and, wham, displacement and adventure. You fall in love and same deal. You have children, get a job, join the military, and before you know it, you're facing midlife challenges. And, of course, it's all preparatory for the greatest adventure of all--aging. Yesterday, Paul Simon was on the Today Show, he said, "I'm afraid of dying." A few minutes later, he admitted that his music is getting better as he ages. Displacement and development.

Those of us who are sixtysomething are in Paul Simon's generation; we matured along with his music. We still see him as a poetic genius masterfully expressing the paradoxes of life.

It was reassuring to hear this icon say he was afraid of dying, the ultimate displacement. It was equally stunning to realize that he is still writing his profound music, even more wise from the weird displacement of aging.

It's how I feel at sixtysomething. The rules of the road that I've lived by don't work anymore. I'm clearly on a different path altogether. I have hopes and visions of what might come of this phase of life, but, like Simon, I'm afraid of death. I'm hoping it's a worm hole into the next phase of consciousness. I can't know that, however. There's nothing to do except embrace the hero's journey. Step off the known path and let events, monsters, mentors, and new maps be my guide.

Let's hope, the little displacement and development taking place in my house preview bigger, scarier displacements to come. Let's hope it all leads to an even better home for the errant human spirit. Roxie

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How Do You Feel About Lovin' Yourself?

So, the spiritual path seems to say we need to love ourselves as a primal condition of enlightenment or spiritual wisdom. Dude! What the heck does that mean? Since the Big Dude is probably not going to answer directly, I pose the questions to you, my readers. What do you think it means? Are you able to experience this? How do you approach it?

The biggest question in my mind is this: Is self-love a feeling? Sometimes, lately, little feelings of self-respect have swept over me. Is that it? I'll take it. It feels good. But, I'm thinking it's more than that. Otherwise, what do you do with all the multiple moments when you don't particularly respect yourself, when you know you've messed up? There's a person you interact with regularly that you feel dead towards or, worse, you feel confused and untrusting towards. What about that? You drink too much or ignore your spiritual practice. You're petty in human interactions or you enjoy a good gossip a bit more than you should. What about that?

I'm guessing that self-love is a kind of abiding forgiveness of our slip-ups, boundless compassion for the humanity in us. Yes?

Beyond even that, it must be a sense of connection and oneness with all creatures. Long pause here. That's where I know I have a long way to go. And yet, and yet, so do they and you! There it is, the oneness. We are equal screw-ups in the Big Dude's laughing eyes. This may sound silly but, honestly, it rings true to me. Stumbling through life together, grabbing a stranger's hand. Love. Self and other.

Hoping that each of you will share your sense of self-love, I'm grateful for the self-respect I'm feeling today. Roxie