I like how thought includes thou . . .
In time we have a practice, which is in the nature of attending to a relationship where the relationship is with all that is. In order to fully realize this relationship, we have to learn how to give attention to it, and then give attention to it.
Since it is such an intimate and personal relationship, we can only ever talk about our own experience. It is like saying that I can’t experience or live your marriage for you, nor you for me, but we can talk with one another about what being married means, and sometimes it helps to illuminate our own experience of that essential relationship.
Most students of A Course in Miracles have an intellectual component to their practice. This is helpful in order to unpack or unfold the course’s sometimes overly poetic and Christianized language. I know that is an offensive sentence for some of you and I apologize! I simply mean that awakening has nothing to do with Jesus and nothing to do with Christ. In fact, it doesn’t even have much to do with God, because God is just another idea that we have that interferes with our perception of reality, of life has it is. Even God has to go.
This is not to deny the helpfulness of A Course in Miracles, or of Christian language and imagery, or of metaphysical poetics. I would not have entered into relationship with ACIM had it not been for its semantic tenor and flavor. However, in the course of that relationship, we have to be sensitive to when we are becoming invested in its form rather than its content – snuggling where a bold walk in windy darkness is what is called for.
In a sense, A Course in Miracles is a kind of spiritual proxy, standing in for God until we are ready to let it go and fully realize the wholeness of life on our own. For me, that has involved a very specific undoing of concepts and images – a whole language, really – evolving out of the Jesus tradition. This has been troubling at times, and fucking hard sometimes, but the peace and clarity that subsequently attends is worth it. I can say with complete confidence that there is no idea you presently hold that you will not be happier releasing.
One studies and travels a long time looking for a certain hill to climb. And then they find it, and they sit at its base for years – interviewing those going up, interviewing those coming down. Sometimes gazing at the summit in wonder and fear; sometimes walking far away only to come back.
I have been writing about the experience of looking for the hill, and finding the hill, and not climbing the hill for a long time. But last summer I began to climb it, and the higher I go, the less there is to say. And it is a relief, let me tell you. For one who long substituted wordiness for wisdom, wordlessness is a blessing. I would sleep in its arms forever. Some day I will.
This is a metaphor, of course. There is no hill. There is only the idea that we constitute a self separate from reality, from all that is, and undoing that erroneous idea is simply to look closely at it – to give attention to it – and see what happens. Over and over. Day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute. What else can we do?
It doesn’t matter what else is going on. I am still baking bread, still stumbling around in the pre-dawn darkness with an old dog, still reading over my head, still writing a ridiculous amount of words every day, still parenting, still feeling happy about this and scared about that. I am still being an all around half-assed idiot. Life goes on; our job is just to notice, which is to say, to let it be through the gift of attention.
When I wrote recently that it was possible to see the face of God and live, I was thinking of Bob Dylan’s amazing song I and I.
I and I
In creation where one’s nature
neither honors nor forgives
I and I
One says to the other,
no man sees my face and lives
He is riffing off Exodus 33:20 – “And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live” – and John 1:18 – “No one has seen God at any time” – and 1 Timothy 6:15-16 – “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see . . . ”
Biblical counter-examples abound; I am simply observing a persistent theme of God as an object (with agency) that is distant and incapable of being known. I am asking – as you are asking in your way, and as Dylan asked – what does it mean to be in the world in an attentive way when one is bent only a relationship that seems evasive to the point of impossible?
There is no answer! Or rather, the answer is our awareness of the question itself without rushing to answer it. It is being itself, which is what you are right now, without effort or analysis. You can talk about the hill all you want but your words will never be the hill. They will never be the walk itself. You can get obsessed about maps to the hill – A Course in Miracles, Zoroastrianism, past life regression therapy, Tarot, whatever – but as the saying so helpfully goes, the map is not the territory. Sooner or later you have to face what it means for you to climb the hill and then climb it.
Right now you are looking at the Face of God, which is a fancy and metaphorical way of saying that you are looking at life itself. And you are okay. You are not dead, you are alive. You are meaning looking itself, life reflecting on itself. This is not a mystery. It is not a secret shared only with the worthy. Your natural intelligence and devotion and common sense are perfectly sufficient. You don’t need to learn anything else. You don’t need to buy anything. You don’t have to crawl a thousand miles across cut glass on your hands and knees.
I am saying all this because part of being is me saying it and you reading it, where writing and reading are one fluid movement. Do you see it? How could it be otherwise? Can you find the end of life? Not your personal subjective experience of it, which will end naturally enough, but the end of life itself? Did you invent attention? Or awareness?
We are each of us held by life in the way the chickadees are, and the birch trees, and twelve-string guitars, and the Oxford English dictionary, and the southern coast of Ireland, and moonlight. Stop pretending you can stand back from it all – stop falling for the old lie that you are life’s sole perceptive center. If that makes no sense, or if it makes intellectual sense but isn’t a felt experience, then just give attention to it. Just look at what you are – what you are feeling, thinking, believing, seeing, sharing. In the welter you call the self there is a single light, like a star in the far reaches of a dark and tumultuous sky, and it will literally answer every question you have. It will be you.
And that is me slipping into the sugar of poetry, which means it is time for me to shut up. Thank you for reading; keep in touch, please. I need you.
How I love you!