Lesson 21 of A Course in Miracles truly stands out to me for a couple of reasons, the one probably related to the other. First, it asks to specifically deal with anger – and that has always been my emotion of choice when it comes to reflecting the separation in my life. And second, it is a clear reminder of the importance of actually being specific.
I’ve written about anger before. It’s not the big deal that it once was, but anger is – has been – deeply familiar to me. When someone says get in touch with anger, I don’t have to go fishing around for examples. I can tap it right away – even if it’s cold anger, like looking at it in a museum, I know how to find it.
Most of the anger in my life was directed against myself – or rather, I believed it was caused by external people and situations, but I almost always took it out on myself. In my early twenties I engaged in a lot of self-destructive behavior, some quite dangerous. All of them reflected the anger that swirled through my life, apparently uncontrollable.
Even though those difficult days are gone, the anger – or, more specifically, what lies beyond it, giving root to it, which is this idea that there is a self that can be harmed – is still with me. So I’m grateful that this lesson clearly addresses the problem. The first time I saw it, I felt as if it had been written just for me. And as I have said before, that is not a bad way to approach the Course.
Anger to the side, that specificity is important in and of itself. A Course in Miracles is deeply abstract – sometimes to the point where it can be hard to know just what the hell Jesus is talking about. Forgiveness, mercy, perception, fear . . . okay okay, but what do you want me to do about it?
This lesson is the model. Lesson 20 is the essence – the abstract ideal. In Lesson 21, Jesus is showing us that we need to bring that essence down to the nitty gritty of which are lives appear to be composed. It does not take a spiritual genius to see that we can also vow to look differently at situations that make us sad. Or fearful. Or guilty. Or lonely. Or happy. Whatever our struggles are in these bodies in this world, we can see past them – past the form they assume – to the content beyond. This is another way of insisting on waking up, on bringing Jesus into our lives every minute of the day until we fully and utterly recall our identity in and with and of God and there is no longer any need for either teachers or lessons.
The abstraction of the lessons and text can easily become a way of skipping the difficult work of forgiving the material of our lives. You know how it goes. We are vowing to wake up, to truly see – but we are still harboring grudges against our co-workers, our family, our friends, whomever. The reality is that healing in this regard – correction, if you will – requires that we get our hands dirty. There is no other way. Correction begins at the bottom up – looking at what we’ve got, right here and now, and then making a firm decision to change our minds about it. That this takes a miracle – that this invokes the assistance of Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, or Buddha, or whatever symbol of love and freedom works for you – is a given. That’s okay. That help is there whenever we ask.
Thus, the sooner that we ask for help – and the sooner we bring that help into the day-to-day details of our lives – the sooner we are going to become right-minded, miracle-minded. And from there, the decision to wake up is both simple and inevitable.
And I like that. I can get behind that.