Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Way to be Sustainably One - Lao Tzu chapter 23

Laozi said,

A few words about the nature of things:

A violent wind does not sustain itself throughout the night,
A sudden rain does not sustain itself throughout the day.
What makes this so?
It's in the very nature of heaven and earth.
So, if heaven and earth does not sustain wind and rain forever,
then how can people possibly sustain their affairs?


Those who follow the Way in their affairs,
With respect to the Way, become one with the Way,
With respect to Virtue, become one with Virtue,
With respect to Loss, become one with Loss.

Those who are one with the Way are joyously fulfilled by the Way,
Those who are one with Virtue, are joyously fulfilled by Virtue,
Those who are one with Loss, are joyously fulfilled by Loss.

When Oneness is not enough,
then you are not One.

I think there is a tendency in our human nature to ever desire more, to keep progressively getting richer, smarter, more friends, more of everything.  It's kind of like a race, to continually progress, to get better.

It's admirable, I suppose, to seek for continual improvement.  In religious terms, we speak of becoming god-like in our journey toward "eternal life".  Mormons speak of "eternal progression" as this principle.

Yet there is something about this that can be unsustainable.

My wife's grandfather was a deeply spiritual man, a Patriarch, and successful in almost every way.  I admired him, and felt that his advice was a precious thing.  Yet toward the end of his life, he became bitter about losing his independence.  Deep within him, he identified with his accomplishments, spiritual power, and independence, and when these waned, he was deeply depressed.

I have seen ebbs and flows in my life -- times where I think I've done well, and other times when nothing goes well.  The Daoist writer Wenzi wrote a similar concept to Ecclesiastes, that there is a time for things, and when the time is about to come, there is no rushing to meet it, and when it leaves, there is no use in trying to hang on to it.

Becoming One with the moment, is realizing this time in the moment, amidst change. Try as we might, we often seek to manipulate things in such a way that the outcomes are always favorable to us. We want to continually progress and have success -- but such desires are often unsustainable.

In contrast, when we are faced with a situation, whether it be completely in harmony with the Way, or with Virtue, or with even a situation of grave Loss, the key is not to rue the loss of the Way, as it were, but rather, realize that the Way is simply in every situation -- even that of loss.  And if we embrace the loss, we become one with it.  This leads us to find fulfillment - healing -- becoming "whole" within the Loss.

So we speak of Oneness all the time, without realizing it.  We seek healing amidst loss, yet the terms "heal" and "health" are etymologically connected to "wholeness" -- or being One.  We speak of integrity in terms of faith and trust, yet the term "integrity" literally means, "that which makes us One" -- leading us to realize that faith and trust are the connection necessary to being One.  We realize our individuality, often thinking ourselves to be distinct from others, yet the term "individual" means "that which is not divided, not dual" -- our "individuality" is both our uniqueness, as well as our interconnectedness with all that makes us One.

We speak in religious terms about becoming "perfect", and yet, Jesus' words to this extent were intended to convey that we are to be "whole" in our dealings with others -- indeed, unconditional in love to others whether or not they are our friends or enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).  We hear Jesus praying in John 17 that his disciples might be One, in exactly the same way that Jesus is One with the Father.  He spoke to prophets more recently saying, "I say unto you, Be One, and if you are not One, you are not mine."

This desire to be One need not be something vague and impossible.  It certainly does not mean that we need to conform to a specific model of being.  Noting that the weather of wind and rain vary within nature, we too need to realize that we are all unique "individuals" with distinct identities (Identity is another word for Oneness).  Yet the key to unity is not to be divorced individuals -- a contradiction in terms -- but rather, connected, interdependent individuals -- lovingly One with all there is.

All this said, it's tough to "be one" at all times.  I feel loss, especially as I come to milestones of feeling old and useless.  I cannot sustain the relentless energy of the race track of life we call "career". Instead, I seek refuge in Oneness, and find peace even amidst loss.

Such a fool am I.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

LDS Conference and Faith Transformation

Something happened to my faith.

I don't believe the same things I once did.

I see things in a different light.

My perspective has changed: things like conference, once filled with magical expectation that God will reveal some new new doctrine or a significant milestone toward the second coming, no longer thrill me.

And in radically changing my perspective, lowering my expectations from a magical worldview, I longer get disappointed when the magic doesn't happen.

Conference has become a bit of a "meh" for me, probably for some time now.  I hear some good points, and some very narrow perspectives.  What impresses me is how incredibly human and mundane conference is: well-intentioned men and women trying to express the inspiration they feel from the spirit within them.

Their words point to something, but the object of their pointing is often vague.

It's an art form.

And like art, my experience with it is far more important than the intention of the artist or the form of the art itself.

My believing friends and family believe they heard a masterpiece inspired from on high.  I heard failing human words, mostly.  What I perceived as divine was not those words, nor do I think the artists were particularly inspired, but rather, I perceived something deeply human--people trying to find their Way.

As are we all.

Indeed, something happened to my faith.  But it hasn't weakened or been destroyed.

It also hasn't "transitioned" -- a word that connotes going from one "thing" to another "thing".

No.  Not transitioned.

My beliefs have died.  The God of magical intervention has gone away for me.  And with it, my magical expectations for Mormonism have died as well.

Yet, something was reborn this weekend, and not because of conference, but rather, conflict.  Watching negativity arise around me over some word or phrase, some trigger here or there, I realized that while validating the hurt we feel in losing our beliefs is real, the need for human connection is far more important.

Faith is that connection.  It's a kind of hope born in adversity and not-knowing.  It's found in the love we need, and in love we give.

Faith is about transformation, not transition.  Transition disconnects from one thing and moves to the next.  It may be necessary for many to do so, but if we do, it's not about faith, but something else.

Faith transforms.  Faith is about rising above our human frailties to embrace something more -- not an independent embrace, one where it's between me and that more and to hell with you.  No, faith is really found in the literal embrace of struggling humans discovering love beyond the words.  My faith is nothing if I am not connected.

Faith saves.  I know we say that "Jesus saves", but who is Jesus without our faith?  In saying this, faith in Christ does not seem to be believing certain things about Christ, but rather, knowing in being connected to the source of being, the I AM.

And being connected to Christ, means authentically connecting with all around me, including my very human LDS believing friends, family, and...leaders. a different kind of faith, one that doesn't transition, but rather, abides in love.

It's not easy.

Faith is a leap into the unknown.

Yet I will try.