The longer I stay in this body, the more I come to agree with Robert Fulghum that a human incarnation is an experience of forgetting; that we embark upon this grand adventure with rich and inherent knowledge about how to navigate the world of human relationships, the world of stuff and things, the world of magic and mystery, but that, over time, we are lulled into a forgetfulness—a forgetfulness of those rich and inherent tendencies toward curiosity, friendship and honesty, generosity, imagination and creativity in lieu of a dog-eat-dog paradigm perpetuated by tall people—a dog-eat-dog paradigm which espouses caution, enmity and manipulation, lack, cynicism and limitation instead.
So, let me ask you the questions, “What might it mean to remember curiosity? To remember friendship? To remember honesty? What might it mean to remember generosity? To remember imagination? To remember creativity? What might it mean to awaken from our forgetfulness into a remembering of the Kindergartner’s Code?”
Here’s how it plays out in ministry. See if you can relate.
A new minister takes a community in total trust. And total trust is easy for a new minister because having been there, I can quite assure you that sometimes, total trust is all you really have.
I mean, as a new minister, you don’t often have years of leadership decisions— effective and not-so-effective—to draw upon as legalities and technologies and tendencies find their way to your doorstep.
You don’t often have years of human relations—healthy and not-so-healthy—to draw upon as addiction and codependency and projection find their way to your doorstep.
You don’t often have years of spiritual exploration—individually and collectively— to draw upon as disappointment and despair and debate find their way to your doorstep.
But over time, those years of leadership decisions are accumulated, those years of human relations are experienced, those years of spiritual exploration are navigated. And over time, the total trust of that new minister—a total trust in nothing more than an illogical knowing, an undeniable pull, an irresistible inspiration, a next idea is displaced by a total trust in an accumulated experience.
Over time, a total trust in something right here and right now is displaced by a total trust in something out there and out then. And even as the worldly self of us celebrates this rising into the wisdom and ways of the world, the spiritual self of us mourns this falling from the wisdom and ways of the spirit.
Said another way, having nothing to lose isn’t the problem. Spiritually speaking, having nothing to lose is a place of amazing power. Because having nothing to lose tends to rend us open us to the very highest selves of us in a way that daily life just doesn’t tend to do.
It’s like having difficult experiences, you see. Marianne Williamson said it this way, and I paraphrase, “…difficult experiences tend to return us to our knees where we should have been all along.”
So, while having nothing to lose and while having difficult experiences is uncomfortable for us, let us not be quick to label such places, as bad. Let us not be quick to hurtle ourselves through their shadowy valleys so quickly that we miss the gifts they would impart.
So no, having nothing to lose isn’t the problem. Because having nothing to lose tends to rend us open us to the very highest selves of us in a way that daily life just doesn’t tend to do.
Having something to lose—now that’s where you have to be careful because having something to lose tends to close us to our highest selves as we subtly come into the belief that the creative source that gave rise to the thing in the first place is inadequate to give rise to something greater in the future. And as we subtly come into the belief that the creative source that gave rise to the thing in the first place (maybe the thing is a job, a business, a relationship, a windfall, a formula, a healing - it doesn’t matter) as we subtly come into the belief that the creative source that gave rise to the thing in the first place is inadequate to give rise to something greater in the future, then we start to think we have to protect the thing.
And lost is that total trust in nothing more than an illogical knowing, an undeniable pull, an irresistible inspiration, a next idea,
Having something to lose is the problem because, again and again and again, our audacity is sacrificed on the altar of our attachment. Again and again and again, our divine genius is sacrificed on the altar of our human fear.
I have to wonder if that’s what the rabbi meant when he taught that it’s harder for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to know heaven. It makes sense to me. After all, it’s so easy to set God aside when we get the Cadillac. And it’s so easy to set God aside when we get the answer. And it’s so easy to set God aside when we get the healing.
It was a simple a train ride from Manchester to London that changed the literary world forever. After living in Manchester, she married a man in Portugal who would become the father of her daughter in a marriage that dissolved as quickly as it started. And through her single parenthood, her inability to get a job, her enrollment into the welfare system, and her battles with depression, this would-be writer’s life continued its spiral into discomfort.
“I had to fight my realistic side,” she reflected after completing that first book some five years into that spiral – a book which would be declined by the first twelve of the best names in publishing before being accepted by the thirteenth (for a meager sum, by the way) on the off chance that the world might enjoy meeting this Harry Potter character.
Now, I think it’s a fair question: Why didn’t J. K. Rowling give rise to Harry Potter before her spiral into discomfort?
Now, I don’t mean to glorify difficult times. I don’t think we have to forget before we start to remember. I don’t think we have to hit a bottom before we start to make a u-turn. And yet for some, it seems to be what it takes.
I wrote an essay many, many years ago. It offered, and I quote, “Have you ever heard of beginners luck? Of course, you have. But luck really has nothing to do with the phenomenon while an appropriate understanding of power has everything to do with it.
“You see, beginners know that they, of themselves, possess inadequate skill. They know that they, of themselves, possess inadequate knowledge and experience for the task at hand. Beginners by default have to welcome wisdom beyond their personal wisdom for their success. And anytime we welcome wisdom beyond our personal wisdom for our success, that wisdom responds.
“But as the ego tempts us to believe that the wisdom behind our success is our own, we begin to repeat the tactics of yesterday, to lower our risks, to guard our successes, ultimately to abandon the very wisdom from which our success was initially born. And we end up symbolically back on our knees which is where we should have been the entire time.
“There is no such thing as beginners luck. There is only beginners mind. There is only an understanding that an infinite and unlimited mind sources you in every moment and a willingness to surrender the ego to this mind in all affairs.”
We know from the first cave etchings that the human creature has a long history of imagining ultimate reality, if you will, in its own image. The early hunters imagined gods of stamina. The early farmers imagined gods of weather. The early pagans imagined gods of fertility (“pagan” by the way, in Latin means “villager or “rustic”). The early political states imagined gods of might and so forth. And this is to be expected, really, for the human is hardwired to project self.
And yet in our awareness that the human is hardwired to project self, we can finally free ultimate reality from our smallness. We can finally free God, if you will, from finite matters such as stamina, weather, fertility and might.
So, for us in Unity, we would say that ultimate reality (that God) is infinite mind. And quantum physicists would say the same thing—that ultimate reality functions more like a giant thought than a giant thing. So, for us in Unity, we would say that ultimate reality (that God) is infinite mind and as such, we would say that its currency is ideas.
And do understand that this is not new. It’s an ancient construct shared by civilizations predating Christianity by some centuries.
So, in a very real sense, Unity would suggest that you cannot be saintlier than when you place a total trust in infinite mind. You cannot be saintlier than when you place a total trust in nothing more than that undeniable pull, a total trust in nothing more than that irresistible inspiration, a total trust in nothing more than that next idea.
And Unity would suggest that you cannot be worldlier than when you displace that total trust to an accumulated experience.
In a more traditional setting, I might be saying that you cannot be saintlier than when you listen to God. And in a more traditional setting, I might be saying that you cannot be worldlier than when you listen to everything else.
And so the commitments become:
“I dedicate this time to entertain the undeniable pulls of infinite mind.”
“I dedicate this time to embrace the irresistible inspirations of infinite mind.”
“I dedicate this time to invite the next ideas of infinite mind today.”