This post but another way:
Heinz von Foerster said “If you want to see, learn how to act.”
“Learn how to act” is an instruction for living. It is a direction given to a body in a world. For example, somebody is yelling at us or we want to yell at somebody. What is the right thing to do in this or any other given situation? What matters above all else?
My best answer to these and similar questions is service, because it is the most effective counter to the world’s answer, which is survival. Survival breeds conflict, frequently brutal. Service slows thing down. It opens a door for reflection and dialogue. Service is forgiving. In the zero-sum conflict engendered by survival, everybody loses eventually.
When the game is survival, then we are taught to live a certain way – mostly defensive but, when tactically optimal, offensively. We have a plan for what to do with the yellers; we have rules about when we get to yell. This is the way we live. But there is no denying that the world it brings forth includes pain and suffering, and it would be better if this were not so.
And if yelling feels too easy an example, change it to “launching nuclear weapons.” The principle is the same.
When we live defensively, as we must when the goal is to survive, we perceive differences, evaluate them according to our perception of our survival needs, and then respond in ways which maximize our interests at the expense of others. That’s how the game of survival is played.
Service seeks outcomes in which all win. The easiest way to do this is try to be sure that other has more than you. There are many formal ways to do this – service, potlach, voluntary poverty. We resist this way of living because survival demands we resist it. But if we were all working as hard as possible to take care of others – broadly defined to include sunflowers, rivers and the surface of Mars – if we were putting all those before us – then we’d all be a lot happier. As it is, we ignore our innocence and thus forget the innocence of others.
In a sense, we must be like Bill Thetford who stated clearly “there must be another way,” inaugurating the work that would become A Course in Miracles. He steadied Helen as she brought for the material. Our work, like his, is to be patient, supportive and inobtrusive as The Way is given. We midwife our own peace or we will not know peace, and the way we midwife peace is we set aside conflict. We become nonviolent.
The answer to Bill’s question, by the way, is there is another way. It’s to understand that our perception of differences is not how God thinks or sees. We can never say of what we perceive, “this is the truth” or “this is the light” because that declaration belongs to God. In the hellscape of separation, it’s better we don’t assume the divine prerogative. Rather, let what is given be given.
So the the action we are learning (a la von Foerster) is surrender: we are letting What Is be. We are no longer insisting that our interpretation is the right or the only or the best or even a viable way.
When we no longer defend our perspective – when we do not insist that what we see and experience is reality itself – when we change the way we act – what do we see?
Experience is always relative to an observer – Sean in mid-November in New England in 2022 doing morning chores, say. Jack, our blind Appaloosa to whom I toss hay, experiences a different world. As does the bald eagle hunting along the river beyond the pasture. As does a mouse twitching in a feral cat’s jaws.
Asking whose perspective – whose world or reality – is right or wrong is silly. Me, the horse, the eagle, the mouse and the cat? Believing that our perspective is right – is correct to the exclusion of all other perspectives – is an error.
When we stop insisting on our way, a new way of being emeges, one that opens and allows the other – be it a horse, an eagle or a stranger – to be our equal. We see them that way, because that is the way God sees them. And we see our own self in them. The eagle’s grandeur is our grandeur; the blind horse’s intuition is our intuition; the feral cat’s murderousness and hunger is our murderousness and hunger.
We don’t have enemies anymore when this happens. We become servants when this happens, joyous servants. We become partners with the Holy Spirit establishing a happy dream for all life, the necessary pre-condition to remembering Heaven.
Therefore it is said, become interested – deeply interested – in the other.
Forsake not your brother. For you who are the same will not decide alone nor differently. Either you give each other life or death; either you are each other’s savior or his judge, offering him sanctuary or condemnation (T-22.II.7:1-3).
Anyway, that is one way to think about and practice A Course in Miracles: to accept, nurture and extend a way of living that brings forth the other as fully as possible, as our equal, as the one who saves us and who we would save, forever.