We live in a paradigm in which our longings represent something to be acquired from the without. And I don’t imagine this comes as a surprise to anyone.
Starting with birth, our learning of this paradigm begins. Even as babies, we are imagined to be blank slates, empty vessels, whose fundamental need is to acquire, to the point that we devised entire institutional structures whose purposes include the supposed filling of these blank slates, these empty vessels, with the ways and wisdom of the world, a paradigm in which they all-too-often spew forth eighteen years later not as free thinkers but as homogeneous automatons, prepared to preserve and protect the comforts of those who created them.
And we celebrate this filling of these blank slates, these empty vessels, by calling it education. Thank God we’re evolving in this arena.
Maybe in our developing years it can be said that we learn to acquire people. Adolescents can be dangerously tribal little snots for whom the acquisition of authority, power, belonging through the acquisition of people is common. More friends. More allies. More comrades. We assign each other as pawns in complex games played for selfish victories, each move having a victim who is relegated to the side of the board.
If you haven’t yet reached out to that kid who sat alone in the corner of the lunchroom, today might be your day. Even then, you knew something was wrong.
We clamor to sit at the right table with the right kids, exchanging doughnuts for dollars, exchanging gummies for grades. But lunch tables have a way of becoming board tables and still we clamor to sit at the right table with the right kids, exchanging authenticity for acceptance, exchanging character for comfort, exchanging soul for solvency, exchanging a life for a living.
And as adults, this paradigm of acquisition expands to include all manner of stuff and things – not only a socially acceptable paradigm, but a socially celebrated paradigm in which more stuff is better. A celebrated paradigm in which more money is better. A celebrated paradigm in which more status is better.
“The one who dies with the most toys wins,” is the sad slogan of this paradigm in which entire lives are spent (and I mean spent, as if they were currency) a paradigm in which entire lives are spent in the pursuit of something without.
And the problem with this paradigm from a spiritual perspective is that it’s ego-driven and materially bound, even though we know the ego is never satisfied, even though we know there will always be a new iPhone next year. There will always be a nicer Cadillac. There will always be a bigger house.
We live in a paradigm in which longings represent something to be acquired from the without. Wisdom, people, stuff, even esteem. The world ever reminds us of how we could be a little bit thinner, a little bit richer, a little bit smarter, a little bit younger, a little bit better than we currently are.
Now, let me pause to clarify: I’m not suggesting that the spiritual life is one free from the stuff and things of this world. I’m suggesting that the spiritual life is one in right relationship with the stuff and things of this world. I invite you to consider registering for the fall Prosperity class with Rev. Nina and me starting in August. It speaks to this right relationship with the stuff and things of this world.
From an essay I wrote in 2006: “You arrived without stuff. You will leave without stuff. So, any belief in ownership is really just an illusion. We are all renters here.
“So, if we spiritually relinquish this belief in ownership, the question becomes, what is our right relationship with the stuff of this world? Are we intended to live in a remote mountain village with only a dented drinking cup and a loincloth? Of course not.
“Our new view of life becomes one of an ongoing process of circulation – entering and exiting, giving and receiving, beginning and ending, expending and renewing. Spring follows winter, your blood flows through your veins, the earth spins on its axis and revolves around the sun and Elton John goes on tour.
“We come to see our role as simply positioning ourselves correctly in this process of circulation – receiving freely and without attachment; giving freely and without attachment – both necessary to experience the full potential of this life experience.”
We live in a paradigm in which longings represent something to be acquired from the without. Wisdom, people, stuff, even esteem. But what if, like so many things spiritual, we have this backward from time to time?
What if you came screaming into your incarnation, not as a blank slate, not as an empty vessel, eager for the world to fill you with its ways and its wisdom but as a wise, experienced, evolutionary, limitless soul – essence fully intact and purpose decidedly clear. (And maybe that’s an affirmation for you this week: my essence is fully intact and my purpose is decidedly clear.) What if the world doesn’t so much start pouring its stuff into you as it starts layering its stuff upon you? What if the normative ways of the world aren’t so much the filling of something lacking as they are the obscuring of something divine?
If that idea resonates with you, maybe your work isn’t so much the acquisition of something new as it’s the removal of something old. Maybe your work isn’t so much the putting in of something as it is the taking off of something
We think we’re here to learn the principles of divine addition when it’s the principles of divine subtraction which often serve better.
Unity would suggest that you have twelve core capacities or powers. It’s a teaching that didn’t originate with Unity Co-founder Charles Fillmore, but a teaching which he developed quite dynamically. And among these capacities or powers of love and faith and wisdom and order and zeal and so forth is my favorite of all, and that’s the power of renunciation or elimination.
Maybe your work isn’t so much the putting in of something as it is the taking off of something. What false belief, what limiting suggestion, what longstanding assumption holds sway over you today? What might the world have layered onto you that you would leave in this room today?
Think back on your earliest memories. Now, you might not have been a cowboy or a cat or a detective, but I imagine you will discover a parallel memory of your own. Conjure that creative, passionate, imaginative child and ask yourself – not what was the form of that creativity, passion or imagination (not what the child did) – but what did that child value? What did that child love? What motivated that child? What was that child about? How did that child view the world and its people?
These questions speak to the essence of you, the essence which you brought with you, screaming into your incarnation; the evolutionary, unlimited essence which may or may not have become obscured by the ways and wisdom of the world. And I say “may or may not” even though I can spot ten ways you’re living in the world’s assumptions just by looking at you right now.
I am no longer the cowboy, cat or a cop I pretended to be as a child. In this sense, it might be said that I didn’t get what I wanted. On the other hand, I would suggest that there’s an essential self of me that still longs to foster justice. There’s an essential self of me that still longs to express creatively. There’s an essential self of me that still longs to encourage accountability.
So, in this sense, it might be said that I got exactly what I wanted. For, even today, I get to encourage just thinking. Even today, I get to express creative possibility. Even today, I get to suggest accountable choice.
This is the challenge before us today. This is the challenge before you today. For at the moment you begin to entertain that your longings don’t so much point to something to be acquired from without as they point to something to be unfolded from with within, you begin to free yourself from that ego-driven existence. From the moment you begin to entertain that your longings don’t so much call for something to be gotten for worldly emptiness as they call for something to be given from divine fullness, you begin to free yourself from that materially bound existence.
You think you want to be a cowboy? Turn to that essential self of you who’s been all about justice since before the day you were born and be that.
You think you want to be a detective? Turn to that essential self of you who’s been all about accountability since before the day you were born and be that.
It’s common in my world for people to want to be ministers. My response is, “Are you absolutely, positively, completely, unconditionally sure?” Well, I say turn to that essential self of you who’s been all about waking up since before the day you were born and be that. Right where you are. In the post office. In the bakery. In the cubicle. On the highway.
Longings are universal. You have them. I have them.
In the end, longings are not about getting. Longings are about remembering the essential truths of our being and walking them into our world.
Robert Thurman said the same thing, “Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
I don’t know about you, but I get tired of obsessing over how I can fix those people, how I can fix those conditions, how I can fix those situations. Longings say, “Yeah, I get it. But what might I
The question of today is, “Who am I?”
And the challenge of today is, “How might I give that today?”