As summer wanes and autumn emerges, the Celtic shamanic tradition tells us that we are entering into the mythic west—the direction associated with dusk, the horizon where the sun vanishes, with the element water, with grieving and letting go, and with the theological ideas of destiny, fate, mystery and faith in that which lies beyond the horizon.
Religion is often framed as the path to inner peace, and perhaps it is as long as you don’t say yes when beauty comes dressed in clothing from outside your religious box, or as long as you don’t follow those strange tracks into the woods. Truthfully, I do not believe there is anything wrong with loving your religious box and dedicating yourself to living firmly inside it. As a Rabbi told me once: Adhering firmly to the Law (the hefty set of strictures in Judaism) frees you because it draws in your limits so you can focus yourself and become deep rather than wide and shallow. I understand that. I’m not built for life in the box, and perhaps that is why I am wide and shallow, and I only really object to other people’s boxes when they demand I live in it with them, and they control an army. That makes for trouble in the world.
Perhaps life in the box (or a more gentle term: the walled garden) brings peace of mind. To be religious and to be a seeker are not the same thing. To seek, to be a prayerful pilgrim through this life, is to invite inner struggle.
In every time and every place, to be alive is to struggle. It does not matter who you are or what advantages you were born with or what has been held back or stolen from you. Every one of us struggles through this life, each in our way. Yesterday at the gate to the driveway I looked down to see two tiny black ants dragging some kind of moss green winged bug across the crack in the sidewalk. The winged thing wriggled frantically. The unflustered ants bore it over what, to them, were huge boulders, down into the deep cavern and up again, over the mammoth dried leaf, the winged thing writhing the entire way. Certainly the ants were asking “why must we struggle so merely to attain a meal for our family?” And the winged thing: “Was I born merely to struggle and become food for moronic goons?” And into the west, beyond the horizon, they dragged him.
All religion tries to answer the question of why we struggle, and then tries to provide frameworks to soothe the suffering we all carry. All religions are full of stories of humans struggling with the Holy, for all sorts of reasons and with all sorts of outcomes. But I believe there is a common thread through the stories of humans struggling with the divine: the struggle transforms the relationship—and perhaps it is only through struggle that the relationship between humans and Holy can evolve. Perhaps the Holy recognizes this about us, and therefore regularly delivers new struggle to us.
I believe the entire human race is at a point of transformation in our relationship with the Holy. There was a time when we did not bury our dead, and then we did. This was a major evolution of the relationship between us and the Kosmos. I believe you and I are alive smack at the fulcrum of an equally momentous transformation. The human mind and spirit is on fire right now, and I hope you will try to remember that as you move through your day wondering why everything feels so screwy, why it feels like you are being dragged across the cracks by ants.
A hot new You Tube video says that we are living in “exponential times.” The 8 minute video is called “Shift Happens” (or “Did You Know”) See it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljbI-363A2Q.
Here are a couple of the tidbits from the video:
· There are 540,000 words in the English language today…about five times more than in Shakespeare’s time.
· More than 3,000 new books are published….daily.
· It’s estimated that more new information will be generated this year than in the previous 5,000 years.
· New technology is allowing the transfer of ever more information through existing fiber optic lines. The capacity is tripling every six months and will continue to triple every six months for the next 20 years.
And on and on it goes, blowing your mind with just how on fire the human mind and spirit are right now. We are radically reforming our consciousness, not only the consciousness of an isolated tribe or nation or region as has happened so often before, but of the entire human species. So it’s okay to feel a little geschmoofelkuntzed.
I made that word up. Now there’s 541,000 English words.
When we gather this Friday, we will celebrate the end of summer, and the transition into early autumn, from the dancing of the bright-lit south to the mystery of the dusky west. We will do this with at least one wild whirling exponential throb and at least one sonic wistful meander. In hour two, I hope to tell you a story or two of struggle with the divine. And I hope to set in motion an experience for you to move into the mythic western geschmoofelkuntzen kerfluffle.
See you soon,