Wanting things to be other than they are is a form of not looking at things – it is a way of not giving attention to what is – and so it is a form of violence because it denies the very existence of that which gives rise to it.
Here is life, the very way it is given to us, and rather than lean into it through attention – which is a form of devotion – we deny it in favor of an idealized future, thus wielding time as a cudgel against the very thing that can bring us joy and peace: the ordinary world as it is ordinarily given.
Donald Hoffman argues that consciousness and its contents are all that exist, and argues further that this does not obviate a useful scientific method and corresponding mathematics. He is not opposed to a spiritual life, or a spiritual mode of living, but insists that it must incorporate math and science. Life must – in Eliezer Yudkowsky’s memorable phrase – “add up to normal.”
In the end, this is how A Course in Miracles appears in my life: as a spiritual self-study program that aims to teach me to give attention to the very life I am living as the way to learn that God and love are the means to sustainable peace, and that I am mistaken when I believe otherwise.
You will note that in the preceding paragraph I executed a semantic sleight-of-hand that would probably make Hoffman wince: I equated “consciousness” with “God and love.”
I can say that if the understanding is that I am using language to make a point that may also be made with other language forms. That is, if I am not subtly arguing that God is better than consciousness, or different from consciousness, and so forth.
But it is hard to be clear about this, to know for a fact that when we say “God” we are not unconsciously evoking that patriarchal deity whose intentions and actions control the terms and circumstances of our living.
I suggest the course is not asking us to “believe” in God, so much as to behave in particular ways with respect to giving attention to the world of our living and then seeing what happens as a result.
I further suggest that “what happens” is normal and ordinary. Nothing happens like Jesus parting the skies and appearing to us or other ascended masters appearing in our living rooms or anything else.
Rather, what happens is that we settle into our lives in quiet and nondramatic ways, and bring forth love in and through our bodies and the lives they lead which is, it turns out, all we have to do to experience the grace of God’s deep and abiding peace.
The yellow maple leaf stranded in my bedroom window is simply a yellow maple leaf – no more and no less – and yet once I am clear about this, and no longer insisting it be symbol of God’s love, or even God’s love itself, then its beauty becomes almost overwhelming. It is, unto itself and the one observing, amazing. As is everything else.
Thus, gratitude and reverence become second nature. When are they not merited? When it seems they are not merited, it is only because I am confused about what to do with attention, and the solution to my confusion is always to simply give attention, which is to consent to be directed, which direction is always available and always loving.
Now, for a time, this “direction” appears in terms of the world – specifically, in terms of the world as I experience it. So it might be a directive about bringing a relationship to a close, or adopting a certain curriculum for class, or taking a new route home from work. My job is just to do it – just to follow it – without getting especially worked up about it.
Right now I am writing by the bedroom window where a startlingly holy and gorgeous maple leaf hovers directly in my ken, like a God-given searchlight illuminating my whole life. Yet in a few minutes, I’ll be on my back on the back porch stairs, trying to repair the railing broken by falling ice last week, a task that will be difficult and frustrating and will not feel especially “God-given.”
Unless, that is, I am willing to go slowly and accept it as God-given. For that is the bottom line here: nothing is that isn’t God, and there is nothing – no idea, practice, action, behavior, object, or other – that will not restore to my awareness the utterly precious and unconditional nature of God’s Love for His Child who is not separate from Him.
“Fake it ’till you make it,” my brothers and sisters used to say, many forms of healing ago. Look for Love. If you can’t see it, give it. If you can’t give it, at least don’t give pain and suffering. And if you do end up in pain and suffering, remember it will pass. Pain and suffering passes; that is how we know it’s not the gift of God.
Joy and peace – quiet, enduring, unassailable, forever offering itself to us by extending itself through us to others – does not pass. It’s there waiting. It lives us as we live it, aware or otherwise. Its unconditional nature – its forever existence – is our home and salvation, for exactly as long as we think we are lost and forsaken.