The Little Things

When I was about thirteen years old I bought a stereo which had – as stereo systems in those days were wont to have – an eight track deck. I didn’t actually have any tapes but somebody gave me shopping bag full one day. Most of them were a bust but Tom Petty’s Hard Promises was in there. I still remember the first time I heard “A Woman in Love.” It was perhaps the first song I ever heard that made me think there was something else to music besides Kiss and AC/DC.

That song includes this great line about the woman in question: “she could understand a problem/she let the little things go.” Who doesn’t want someone like that in their life?

I am remembering that these days. I said to someone recently, I can’t figure out what’s a real problem and what’s not. What are the little things? What are the big things? Everyone who studies A Course in Miracles for more than fifteen minutes knows that the world is not real and gets real good at saying it out loud. But we are still here for most intents and purposes. What are we supposed to do?

I live in a small town and last year a woman my age lost her son in an accident. He died. Chrisoula and I know this woman well and we knew her son a bit, too. It was scary and heart-breaking. And lately, I have been unable to shake the fear of what I will do if one of my kids dies. They can’t die before me, you know? It’s like me saying to Jesus, that’s not going to happen, got it? You just figure out a different atonement path for me. Yet we all know how those deals work out.

Losing your child is big. It’s real big. It’s like I-feel-like-checking-out-myself big.

I keep thinking about it: worrying, trying to talk about it, then wishing I hadn’t talked about it . . . you know the drill when the egoic mind kicks in.

On the other hand, I have these students in my class who don’t do the assigned reading. I get worked up about that too. It’s not fair to the students who do do the reading, it’s an affront to me as a teacher and so forth. But lately I’ve been wondering . . . who cares? Most students read, most students participate. I’m not in their shoes. Maybe they’ve got better things happening. Or harder things. I think to myself, this is tiny. Let it go.

You see those two extremes? Fear of a child dying vs. students taking a pass on reading Shakespeare?

In this world, where differences matter, those two things are of a different scale. And in this world, they can never be resolved the same way. So long as I see them in worldly terms – here’s my beloved fragile child, there’s a lazy college student – they’re going to appear as problems of vastly different scale requiring radically different approaches to solve or get over.

This is where the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles become helpful and important. You can’t solve the problems of the world in the world. Atonement is something that happens in your mind – it’s a decision to be whole so that the mind making the decision can be healed. It’s got nothing to do with the world whatsoever. The miracle is that shift – that decision for wholeness. In the mind, the only problem is that we believe we are separated from God. When we accept that we’re not, then we see that we aren’t and never were.

The world – this dream – is just that. The healing doesn’t happen here.

That sort of thing can drive you nuts but only to the degree that you think your problems in the world are real. That first principle of miracles – that no one is harder or bigger than another – is true at the level of the mind. Here in the world, it’s emphatically not true. It’s not helpful to run around saying that my fear of my daughter dying is the same as my annoyance at my students who don’t read Macbeth. Here in the world, those are two different problems.

It is a bit like the way Jesus talks about frames and pictures (eg, T-17.IV.7 and 8). This world is a frame and too often it obscures the picture. We really have to learn how to see – and thus resolve – our problems where they are, which is in our shared mind. That’s a big leap – and kind of a scary one to be honest with you. Over and over we have to let go of what’s happening here – the good, the bad and the middling – so that we can be the Holy Spirit in our healing (and increasingly healed) mind.

There aren’t little things and big things. There are no things. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we get to that space – that internal condition – where real healing becomes possible.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Resurgam October 13, 2012, 3:52 pm

    Please forgive me sir, but do you think you could tell me exactly what this “Course in Miracles” is all about? I’m not making the connection between the reality of the fragility of life and your college students who don’t read Macbeth. The forgivenss being manifested in ones behavior I could grasp (in my own way of course), but I see no connection between what you speak of here.

    • Sean Reagan October 14, 2012, 11:28 am

      Hi Resurgam,

      A Course in Miracles is a text, workbook and manual for teachers that was scribed in the late sixties/early seventies by a woman named Helen Schucman and a man named Bill Thetford. Both were psychologists and teachers in New York City, affiliated with Columbia University. Helen identified the source of the material as Jesus – an identification that has been somewhat contentious in the ACIM community. There are students who believe this Jesus is literally the historical Jesus speaking through Dr. Schucman; others – myself included – believe that “Jesus” in this instance symbolized that part of Dr. Schucman’s mind that was wholly healed and wholly loving. Using language that is ostensibly Christian as well as Freudian, the course helps its students to “forgive” the projections of their egoic mind – basically, the entire world, including our bodies and the effluva of our brains. This forgiveness is a kind of “right seeing,” which is to say that we slowly learn that we are not separated creatures inhabitating a cruel/indifferent/hostile/whatever world, but healed children of a loving God. We are still one with God – everything else is an illusion. We’ve forgotten that – and we are deeply resistant to remembering it. The Course is a way to remember.

      A far better explanation of what the course teaches can be found here.

      As I said in our earlier exchange, A Course in Miracles is not for everyone. It states quite clearly that there are many many paths to God, no one of which is better than the other. They all work sooner or later. This is just one way, no more and no less. Although it used Christian imagery and ideology it does so in ways that are quite radical. ACIM and Christianity have a lot less in common than most of us – including me, sometimes – think.

      My point in the post was that there is no such thing as big worries and little worries. I get annoyed at my students who don’t read Macbeth; I am terrified that my children will die. In the eyes of the world, these are different problems. It’s obvious, right? But in truth, they are simply the same – they are symptoms of the perceived separation from God. Believing I am separated from God leads to all sorts of guilt and fear and anger and even pride – rather than deal with those issues where they are (in my mind), I project them outward. I’m not guilty – my students are guilty (because they don’t read the play I assign). I’m not vulnerable to the whims of an angry judgmental God – my kids are. And so forth.

      The point is, these problems cannot be solved on their own terms or on worldly terms. They must be solved at point of origin, if you will – the belief that I am separated from God. That is the only problem that needs to be solved because it is the only problem I truly have. Turning this belief (separation from God) over to Jesus – a symbol of the healed and loving mind – is a way of undoing it. It is a way of learning that this is all just a dream and I remain as I have always been – a wholly loving thought in the wholly loving mind of a wholly loving God.

      So . . . in terms of my own practice, that’s where I am at. I am slowly learning and bringing into application this idea that the world is not real in any way, shape or form and so all I can do is interact with the content of my mind (the fear, the guilt, the anger, the pride, the sturdy insistence that I am unique and special in both my sinfulness and my glory) in my mind, which I do through the course’s vision of forgiveness – a right seeing that gives our errors to the Holy Spirit that they might be dissolved.

      It has been quite powerful and effective and liberating for me.

      Thank you again for reading and for taking the time to reach out with your questions and thoughts. It is much appreciated.


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