Tuesday, November 24, 2009

There is a problem

There is a realization that gnaws at me. It's in my guts, and there is no denying its existence. I, like most, attempt to avoid its ever-present stare, but in truth it just makes it worse. It has been with us since the beginning of time, or at least shortly after, when a bunch of guys got together and tried to build a tower that reached to heaven.
Now don't get caught up in the imagery, the story is just a metaphor, but one we all know too well. Mankind gets cocky, we want to be like god (same lie was told in the garden to eve. Or is it a lie?) We figure that god is "out there" so if we can build a tower big enough, high enough, beautiful enough, we just might get to where god is and maybe get to be like him. But the problem is, (and always has been) that god is not "out there" but exists in a place we dare not look.
The tower is a metaphor for our need to earn heaven, to prove to god that we are like him, but the problem is, we are not like him, we are made in his image but we are not alike at all. And we cannot even prove to ourselves that we are worthy, how many people do you know that (without being total asses) would claim to be worthy? None I bet, because even the best of us suck ass, and the truth is if we can see ourselves as worthy we will never believe that an almighty, omnipotent god would even take the time to care.
So when we build these great towers to prove ourselves to god, we end up getting the only fitting punishment, we lose our ability to communicate, we forget about people, feelings, internal truths and esoteric perceptions. The tower was our focus of delight, a physical manifestation of our reaching out for god. (Do you find it disturbing…the phallic imagery there?) We're comparing dick size with god, we want to prove to him that we are worthy, we want to be like him, so we can become him, but we fail because our dicks are too small. We focus out into space, into the world, into the void, and the void responds with only echoes of our own voices. We want to believe that the echoes of our own voice mean something, ghostly whispers from the "other side" but really it's just our own bullshit being fed back to us.
There is a problem that gnaws at me. A problem that started when I was a child, it had to do with my parents, who couldn't communicate. Now I don't mean they couldn't talk to me, or to each other, but they couldn't communicate to anyone else, because society had taught my dad that communication was weakness in men, that to tell your wife or your children how you really felt was somehow lessening your manhood. My mom couldn't communicate because society had taught women of her time that they should keep their mouths shut, and do as the men in their lives told them.
So my dad spent his entire life stuffing his hurt and staying quiet, and in the end his aorta burst because you can only hold so much. Then my mom caught in a social game of rock and a hard place lost her goddamn mind and decided to completely rebel against the system that had trained her. She drowned in booze, hid in sex, and left me at three to fend for myself with a dad who worked all the time and never talked. Because of their lack of communication skills, I got ripped off. I never had a relationship with either of my parents, never really knew who they were or what made them tick. Just think about it for yourself, do you really know your own mom and dad? Their failings, problems, deep fears, motivating beliefs, have they ever been able to communicate those things to you? If you know these things, your lucky, blessed, or whatever you want to call it, because most of us not only don't know, but also will never communicate those things to our own children.
There is a problem that is so obvious but I cannot see it. Think about the Hebrew people, before they became Jews, before they were slaughtered in Germany. These people had something right about how they saw god and life. It doesn't even matter if you believe in their god or the Christian god; people from other ancient religions can look at Judaism and see something powerful. You know its like that, people who have ascended through the spiritual ranks to achieve some deeper wisdom, they don't see barriers in religion, they see that each one, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism each one holds some part of the greater truth, so even if they practice only one form of religion they can see the usefulness and beauty of the others. If you don't think its true read any of your really great Christian thinkers…most wont waste time downing other religions like the preacher down on the corner of my street does. They either don't say anything about them, or the give credit where credit is due. Don't forget you Christians…you're the new kids on the religious block; respect your elders.
So back to Judaism; the early Hebrews wrote in only consonants. It is really strange to us here in the U.S., we don't think like that, concrete rules, vowels and consonants. We have rules for everything, you have to know where the diphthongs go, how to spell onomatopoeia and all of that. But the Hebrews chose not to make a lot of rules about language, throw the vowels in as you see fit. It speaks of a distinct way of seeing communication. In America we want you to do it our way, to speak as we speak, don't say "aint" don't say "don't", speak as we speak or you look like a fool. But the ancient Hebrews, these guys that were close to god. They spoke to him in burning bushes and such, (perhaps more metaphor?). So they created a language to speak with one another, they left out the vowels. Its really saying, here is a set of guidelines for a system of communication, but since not any one of us can really know any one of us, and none of us can really know god, lets leave some room for imaginative usage. You can pronounce things in a variety of ways to express how you experience life.
God said the same thing to Moses; "Don't worry about a lot of rules Moses, just tell them to love me and love each other." Moses tried, but the people were not buying it, all the other countries had laws and systems established, so why not Israel? Moses goes back to god…"Sorry they want rules, they wont listen to me." God says; "Too bad, it would have really been a lot easier without them, but since you really want them, here have a shit load, then at some point in the future you will finally realize that you cant really follow them all, then you might understand. Then of course years later, god has the same argument with Israel about a King.
There is a problem we cannot speak about, because if we did we are afraid no one would ever love us again. You see the real problem with being human is, we are locked in these flesh cages, and really and truly cannot know anyone or anything else but ourselves. The problem is that ourselves are so awful, twisted and dying, that we can't stand to believe that we are all like this, each one of us failing miserably. But it is true we are all the same. We just hide it in different ways, using our various social skills or addictions, or personalities to completely contort our visible image so that others only see a distorted reality. I am almost sure this is what the Buddha meant when he proclaimed our "reality" an illusion.
You can't believe your eyes, ears or any other sense. There is too much static, no way of being sure of what is or is not exactly truth. This concept leads us into a constant state of anxiety, an anxiety that we cannot quench or remove. SK says that it is this very anxiety that leads us back to the truth, that the entire concept of our pain, suffering and insecurity is what either destroys us or forces us to push past the illusion and see the truth. But it seems that in recent times more and more people are seemingly incapable of making this journey. The reason being that there is too much distraction, too much numbness, and too much noise. Since generation X we have learned how to numb our pain, to fall into worlds of freely available drug induced catatonia, hide in blaring musical bliss, fall into the digital void of games and the internet, or hide in the deep recesses of fantastical books and movies.
We run from truth, run from reality and do all that we can to avoid "waking up'. I know these things are not real, but they taste good, look good, and feel good, and it is so much easier to fool myself into apathy rather than drag myself into blazing painful reality. We need to quit practicing mental masturbation and start facing the hard reality of life or we will never make the leap across this chasm of dysfunction into a brighter truth.
Communication, understanding, adaptability, and risk, these four traits make up the new human. As people we are led around by constant cravings that are so intrinsic to our nature, so infected in our genetics that we cannot see them for what they truly are, the cardinal sins. Our word "sin" derives from the old English "Synn" which simply meant "it is true", as in a judgment of action. This concept is interesting when understanding the nature of man.
Lets look at this thing practically; each one of us knows that we are sinners. We understand the cravings of the human condition and from time to time (some more, some less) we give in to those cravings. Whether we are 8 or 80, male or female, of any race, creed, or religion, we cannot escape sin. It is our very nature to sin, to be led by our natural tendencies and instincts. We all know this of ourselves, and so we all know this of one another. So then to say "sin" …"it is true" is only to lay claim to the very nature that I have and cannot be rid of. It is confession at its most basic level.
To paraphrase the Apostle Paul in the letter to the Romans, "Let us remember our sinful nature, that we cannot deny it for it is in all of us, it is our very nature. But Jesus came to show a new way of life, and passed for us into eternity that we might not have to live shackled to this sinful nature forever." Paul continues from this point forward (chronologically) to speak of the "old man" and "new man" as metaphors related to our sinful nature and that nature which Christ called us towards. It is this "new man" that we must strive to become, but it is not an easy task. All throughout Jesus' ministry he spoke in dichotomy to make this very point. To sin is simply to follow your nature. If a man strikes you on the cheek, smash him on his. That is nature, but Jesus says "instead of striking back, turn to him your other cheek." Almost as if to say, "laugh in the face of your nature, do exactly the opposite of what you instinctually want to do.
Look at the cardinal sins, anger, pride, envy, avarice, gluttony, lust, sloth (and Father Rohr would add deceit and fear.) These "sins" are simply our natures, to strike back, to puff ourselves up, to want what others have, to be selfish, to consume as much as we like, to have power over others, to avoid conflict, they are nothing more than defense mechanisms built up to focus towards our own survival. The "old man" thinks nothing of others, but serves himself only. But Jesus points towards a different birth, a new thought, a maturity that reaches beyond our instincts and says…"if you truly wish to live (survive), then you must die. If a man steals your shirt (your protection) then give him also your coat." Jesus says to us through his ministry…it is high time you quit acting like animals and accepted your humanity…you are called to so much more…give up your petty concerns for survival…come and take up your cross (your unnature) and die with me so that you may truly live.
The "new human" speaks the truth (Communicates openly), accepts and understands (learns and teaches tolerance), adapts to an ever-changing life (seeks not to change others but only himself), and risks everything to have one glimpse at the perfect union of spirit and human. It is hard to turn against what we hold so dear, but perhaps what we see as our survival is really our death, and the path to life lies along an unnatural path behind a young man from Nazareth.

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