“Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come” – Carl Sandburg, The People, Yes
“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” – Philip K. Dick, I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon
These two quotes are inextricably linked in my imagination; I cannot think of one without the other coming to mind. Together, they remind me to ask questions.
Each of us is born with free will, but similarly gifted with a craving, a homesickness for Truth. Life is the story of how we use the former to satisfy the latter. That story can be a comedy or a tragedy; the difference is consciousness.
When you know that Truth is what you really want, and when you know that you have a say in where and how you look for it, things change. A great many things in life are based on shared delusions. We agree on daylight savings time, for example, and magically it’s an hour later. Think about how many things that seem important and vital are really just propped up from the inside; they get their power not from any inherent validity, but from our shared agreement about them. Can you come up with some examples? How about racism, or bureaucracy, or David Hasselhoff?
There are things in your past that felt very real and important; so much so that they dictated action and identity. Remember being convinced that there was a monster living under your bed? Remember your first teenage heartbreak, and your conviction that life, the universe, and everything was coming to an end? Remember the first time you introduced yourself by invoking your job title?
Where are those things now?
It is possible to attain black belt levels of proficiency in delusion, but the things we really crave, meaning and connection, can’t be found along that path.
Why do you like your favorite song? If you were a computer, that would be thought of as a glitch. When I was in seminary, I remember reading about Origen of Alexandria; he said that God put stumbling stones within the narrative of Scripture so that it could not be taken on a purely literal level. The idea is that you’d be reading along, trip over one of those stones, and be thrown into deeper meaning. I think that life works like that. The strange and beautiful, indescribable and illogical moments will pull you into something profound. How much room do you have for that?
It’s great when we flow gently down life’s stream. It’s even better when there are rapids. The roughest parts of the river are where the rocks are close to the surface. Unchanging certainty, the bedrock we’re desiring, desires us, too.
Let’s start looking for those moments. Let’s engage in active stumbling. Let’s look for opportunities to step out on faith. Being thrown for a loop can be incredibly healthy. It’s Spirit trying to come out; in those moments, you can flow around the stones or be dashed on the rocks. The friction and resistance is coming from you, and you have a choice about that.
The real, vital, living part of you is in the space between certainties. Something bigger comes in, if you let it. If you’re brave.
Can you follow your dream, even if it’s not marketable? Can you love out loud? Can you dance with this?