I am having yet another go at the idea that one should “give all to all” – the Holy Spirit’s first lesson according to A Course in Miracles (T-6.V.A.5:13). Like a lot of the course, it sounds nice but gets awfully gnarly when you try putting into application. It radically upends the egoic (read: my) world view: what can I get for myself at the lowest price (be it material or emotional or whatever) possible? I want inner peace, I want a big beautiful farm, I want to eat Doritos and caramels without feeling sick and bloated, I want lots of people to praise my writing, and also? I want a horse.
You buy, okay?
Some two thousand years ago, Jesus said to his disciples, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Later, Saint Paul testified to it personally.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.
A Course in Miracles is somewhat more subtle, I think, without actually relinquishing the point. Nowhere does it outright state that we shouldn’t live on farms, eat bags of Doritos and ride around on well-trained horses (funded by our fan base). It doesn’t preach about manifesting abundance and neither does it advocate sackcloth and ashes. Its focus is consistent and unrelenting: change your mind and don’t worry about the externals.
If that is true, then what is it that we are to give?
It is perhaps more helpful to start by asking what we are giving up – and that is our preference for specialness, explicit in the concept that what I get is always at someone’s expense. As that concept is undone, we find in its place a capacity for sharing, a desire to hold in common. What could we possibly want that we would not give to everyone? It’s probably not a fish tank or a brand new car or a coupon for all the salty snacks you can eat in a day. By definition, those things are cannot belong to or be used by everyone.
Really, we are talking about giving – about extending – love. And even more specifically, we are talking about love in terms of content, not form. The form that love takes is beside the point – it might be a hug, might be a kind word, might be a respectful silence. When what we want to share is the love, the form will assume itself without our input. It really is entirely beside the point.
You cannot really give anything but love to anyone or anything, nor can you really receive anything but love from them (T.12.VII.9:4).
It strikes me as helpful – indeed, important – to contemplate this and practice it. Nor do I think it will be either simple or obvious. If we are attentive to the way our minds work, we are going to notice how fluidly they orient towards getting, how the premise of almost every thought is scarcity, against which we are called to mount mighty defenses in the form of attack. From the world’s perspective, it cannot really be otherwise. The whole point is to be in conflict.
Conflict ends when we give up judgment – indeed, when we are simply willing to give up judgment. Sometimes our willingness to change – to be open to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and teaching – is a beautiful dance. But sometimes – perhaps more often – it has more in common with a drunken stagger, a face plant in the mud, a half-assed crawl. It doesn’t matter. Can we look at one another not as competitors in a vicious, winner-take-all scramble for a few scraps of illusory love but as bound souls beholden to God? Can we at least try, over and over?
More and more I believe that we are called to grapple with that question both in terms of the world in which we think we live as well as – indeed, at the same time as – the abstraction advanced by the course. We need to hold the metaphysics in mind and get on with our lives in a way that is consonant with the age old – and yet somehow incredibly radically new – idea that there is nothing to gain but love and the only way to have it is to give it. All of it.