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Cast Your Nets to the Other Side


It's my strong opinion that the Bible has been closed to far too many for far too long. That’s not to say it hasn’t been undertaken. It’s to suggest it hasn’t been understood.


From that idyllic Garden of Oneness with its Adam and its Eve (neither Adam nor Eve being proper names in Hebrew, you understand) through Moses and his trip up that mountain to reveal or to realize those so-called 10-commandments, through Noah and his giant boat (a retelling of a tale predating Moses by some centuries and found in virtually every culture including both north and south Americas) we have established something of the Jewish foundation upon which the Christian scriptures reside. And this is necessary, for what would come to be known as the Christian tradition started as what might be described as a Jewish cult, numbering maybe 7,500 people by the end of the first century.


There is no real pursuit of Christian understanding without a real pursuit of its Jewish context.


And so it is that we turn to one such Christian teaching. The story goes something like this: The disciples had been fishing throughout the night without catching anything when Jesus appeared in and said, “Tell you what: try again, but this time, throw your nets over the right side.”


Now, if I were a predictable interpreter of such tales of wisdom, I could say that to arbitrarily lean in the direction of the masses — to acquiesce to the edicts of a status quo, to concede to the currents of a race consciousness, to defer to the dictates of a mindless society, to arbitrarily lean to the starboard side of life’s dingy — is to assure a watery future for the whole lot of us. I could suggest that no evolutionary leap has occurred in the absence of evolutionary thought, that no reformation of society has occurred in the absence of a reformation of consciousness. I could say that, and it would be a fair interpretation.


Or, if I were a predictable interpreter of such tales of wisdom, I could say that in this grand, creative adventure that is an earthly incarnation — in our pursuits, in our desires, in our goals, in our dreams, in our visions — it’s only in giving rise to the wisdom of that Christ — not of a person, you understand, but to the wisdom of that universal, evolutionary impulse, active within each and every one of us — that our souls will find fulfillment. I could say that, and it would be a fair interpretation.


Or, if I were a predictable interpreter of such tales of wisdom, I could say that to cast your net into the same barren waters again and again and again — to employ the same strategies, to perform the same actions, to enable the same habits — hoping for different results is nothing short of an absurdity to which that Christ effectively says, “Stop that, you! If you want a new result, try a new strategy, try a new action, try a new habit.”


Now, understanding that Unity offers the Judeo-Christian library as something of a personal spiritual/psychological owner’s manual for a human incarnation — in other words, understanding that Unity favors the metaphysical end of the spectrum of meaning — and that Unity would assign fish to represent something of idea, I could say that to pursue the same old thoughts, the same old beliefs, the same old consciousness, is to lead ourselves toward something of a spiritual starvation. I could say that, and it would be a fair interpretation.


But I’m not a predictable interpreter of such tales of wisdom because it’s my belief that if we all arrive at the same conclusion, we probably haven’t worked hard enough to excavate through the earthier layers of meaning — layers such as measurable factuality and simple morality — to the richer meanings which reside beneath. That the wisdom offered by these teachers was delivered through story must never lead us to the careless conclusion that the wisdom is elementary.


So many of the Biblical teaching tales, deeply understood, would challenge the very world in which they were told. In a sense, the Biblical collection might be thought of a giant argument against the status quo. It seems to say that where we would find ourselves stuck in mediocrity, look for a higher way.


So again, the story goes something like this: The disciples had been fishing throughout the night without catching anything when Jesus is recorded to have appeared in the story and said, “Tell you what: try again, but this time, throw your nets over the right side.”


Now, it seems reasonable to conclude that the disciples had been fishing throughout the night over the left side of the boat or Jesus wouldn’t have said, “Try again, but this time, throw your nets over the right side.” And while I could say that to arbitrarily lean to the starboard side of life’s dingy is to assure a watery future for the whole lot of us, or that it’s only in giving rise to the wisdom of that universal, evolutionary impulse, active within each and every one of us that our souls will find fulfillment, or that to cast your net in the same barren waters again and again and again hoping for different results is nothing short of absurdity; and while we could all agree on that, I’d like to suggest that we excavate through those earthy layers of meaning to consider the less obvious conclusion that the disciples had been fishing throughout the night over the left side of the boat because that’s what had always worked in the past.


Not only had the disciples been fishing throughout the night over the left side of the boat because that’s what had always worked in the past, but by clinging to what had always worked in the past, they were on their way to starvation.


It seems to me that that which is useful at one level of growth, development and unfoldment (you see, there’s nothing inherently wrong with fishing from the left side of the boat – it worked for as long as it worked) eventually loses its usefulness. And by clinging to that which has lost its usefulness, we suffer.


I’ve told you this before and the details aren’t important. Suffice it to say that I lived alone during a significant portion of my high school experience. Now, how this happens without questions from agencies and services and administrations is a question I didn’t recognize as being conspicuously absent. I like to think that a child living alone nowadays would be noticed. And to this day, I have no answer.


Now, my high school experience wasn’t particularly stellar. Neither was it particularly disastrous. Honestly, I was pretty bored academically speaking and I meandered through in what I might call a reasonably-above-average fashion, employing as little effort as possible.


Nonetheless, while meandering through in what I might call a reasonably-above-average fashion, I kept the bills paid, I kept the house clean, I kept the pets fed, I kept the car running. I learned about adult matters such as property taxes and college applications and child support and Pell grants.


It’s fair to say that, as a teenager, I developed the capacity to manage a wide variety of things pretty well with a fierce independence. And I think it’s fair to say that the capacity to manage a wide variety of things pretty well with a fierce independence was useful to that teenager. It worked for as long as it worked.


At the same time, for this 57-year-old leader to cling to that adolescent’s capacity to manage a wide variety of things pretty well with a fierce independence, has, at least at times, proven problematic. It has, at least at times, been wildly disempowering.


That which was useful at one level of growth, development and unfoldment eventually loses its usefulness. And by clinging to that which has lost its usefulness, we suffer.


We see this in dying. Unity would offer (and this is by no means unique to Unity, by the way) Unity would offer that the real you isn’t that flesh and bone – that gendered mass of carbon and atoms you utilize between a date that appears on your birth certificate and a date that will appear on your death certificate. Unity would offer that the real you is something of eternal soul stuff, pressing into form and pressing out of form on its endless adventure of growth, development and unfoldment.


And yet don’t we all know those who would cling to that flesh and bone, even after that flesh and bone have lost their ability to support that growth, development, and unfoldment? Even after that flesh and bone have lost their ability to support the work of the real self? I wonder if we might seek to approach that universal doorway we call death with a grace born of understanding instead of a suffering born of clinging.


We see this in education. Thank God, we are realizing that we can no longer educate children in cookie-cutter ways for cookie-cutter jobs when the unique brilliance of each child is so very necessary to an emerging world in which the next generation of jobs hasn’t even been imagined yet.


We see this in relations. Information is now instantaneously available at any point on the globe. Every dollar you spend touches the lives of hundreds if not thousands of people. Pollution in the east is pollution in the west. Unlike your great grandparents who knew little if anything of a world beyond their immediate communities, you yourself can be at any point on the globe within a day. We can no longer imagine ourselves to be independent and isolated beings in an interdependent and global community.


We see this in churches. The world is changing and shifting and evolving and in their clinging to what has worked in the past, as many as 10,000 churches are closing every year.

I would say the same thing applies to us as an intentional spiritual community. All that has brought us to this beautiful point in our evolution will eventually lose its usefulness. So, may we continue to do what we’ve done so beautifully for so long. May we continue to pull our nets from the waters of yesterday and courageously toss them into those waters brimming with new ways, new understandings, new ideas, new approaches – may we courageously toss them into those waters brimming with abundant new possibilities in great love, in firm faith, in unwavering support.


That which was useful at one level of growth, development and unfoldment eventually loses its usefulness. And by clinging to that which has lost its usefulness, we suffer.


And yet, don’t we all know those who would cling to that relationship, to that behavior, to that expectation, to that strategy, to that assumption? What is it in your life that you assume could never be different? Because I’m here to tell you that you that eventually it will be.


We all know those who would cling to that fear, to that comfort, to that illusion, to that conformity, to that mediocrity. What is it in your life that you arbitrarily accept as good enough? Because I’m here to tell you that eventually – it won’t be.


We all know those who would cling to that tactic, to that rule, to that pattern, to that memory, to that thing. What is that thing in your life that you absolutely cannot live without? Because I’m here to tell you that eventually you will.


We all know those who would throw their nets over the left side again and again and again, even as their souls starve for the resources which simply await a new choice.

So maybe this story suggests that the sweetest of graces might not be found in old comforts but in new vulnerabilities; that if you want new a new destination, you might have to walk a new path.


Maybe this story suggests that we evolve beyond praying, “Dear God, give us some fish on the left side of the boat,” to “Dear God, give us the wisdom to recognize that the fish have moved to new waters.”