One of the more interesting – and challenging – aspects of being a Course in Miracles student is my desire to share it. It’s not an inherently bad impulse at all, but if I’m not careful in the application it can be a bit tricky.
For example, a lot of my close friends and people that I work with on a daily basis, have major issues with Jesus and Christianity. They’re happy that I’m happy but for them, the Course is just another failed branch of a tree they gave up on long ago. And when I try to talk about the Course without talking about Jesus, it doesn’t work. It’s just mushy philosophy, a cross between soft Buddhism and the Law of Attraction.
Even with friends who are perfectly happy to listen to someone talk about Jesus, I seem to stumble. It’s like I am having an interior experience – call it a bumpy transition from fear to love – that just won’t translate. Even with my wife and children I often feel an inept witness to this powerful, transformative experience.
So I have this longing then – this dream, say – for a text that is simple and clear and presents the Course in a way that isn’t too abstract, isn’t likely to alienate. I read a lot of Course material, and it’s all helpful in its way, but nothing has
A couple of weeks ago, I read The Parable Of The Stars
by John Beavin. It’s an elegant and lovely text – fourteen or fifteen pages of story and images that goes right to the heart of the Course in a way that can certainly be renewing for long-time students but is also a blessing for non-students.
First and foremost, it’s fun to read. Like the parables of Jesus, it’s short – easy to partake of in a single sitting but rich enough to yield fruit for years. Parables, Beavin suggests, “allow us to observe logical occurrences which seem external to our lives, and then, gently, when we are ready, begin to see it really is our own story.” There is playfulness here, and joy.
The crux of the story won’t be unfamiliar to those of you who have spent any time with A Course in Miracles. There’s a beautiful light – existing as beauty itself, a condition in which no lack of any kind exists – and it suddenly explodes into billions of fragments.
Each of these fragments is a star wracked with guilt over the belief that they attained their individuality at the cost of destroying the original beautiful light. This guilt and fear causes them to twinkle, to frantically try and outshine their brother and sister stars, to take the place of the original light.
That doesn’t work, of course, and as some the stars give up in exhaustion, they hear the faint strains of a song sung by the original Light. It’s a soft, peaceful song that reminds the little stars that they already are the light they are struggling to become. They can relax. They are perfect the way they are. There is nothing to fix, nothing to improve.
Beavin has neatly and accurately translated the Course into a simple story about forgiveness, about remembering our true identity in Heaven. Reading The Parable of the Stars was like a playful push – this isn’t so difficult! – and I laughed when I was finished, because I was happy, because those blocks to love had shifted a little, had dissipated a little. That’s no small gift!
I gave the book to my wife to read. While she respects and honors my spiritual practice, she finds the text too obtuse. Her spirituality is deep and inspirational to me, and I have really struggled to share the Course with her in a way that isn’t overbearing. She read “The Parable of the Stars” and immediately connected it to the ideas she so often hears me babbling about. In fact, it has facilitated a deepening of our ongoing conversation about Jesus and God and our abstract spiritual identity, because it is the text we can share in common. “It’s like when the stars start twinkling . . . ” or “it’s like when the stars hear the song . . . ”
I also asked my 12-year old daughter to read the book. She appreciated it, too. I don’t ask her to read the Course, because she’s too young. I feel grateful that there is a text I can offer her – and my other children as they grow a bit older – that sums up Course principles. It’s not that I want my family to follow the Course because I do – but I do want them to understand and appreciate the choice that I have made, and continue to make. Beavin has absolutely created a work of art that facilitates that sharing.
The book is illustrated by Jennifer Bennett. The artwork actually reminded me of this quote from the book’s dedication (to Bill Thetford and Helen Schucman): “While the Course is, itself, the height of spiritual simplicity, overcoming our addiction to futile ‘twinkling’ usually requires a lifetime of studying and practicing the unique, life-renewing principles found in ACIM.”
I say that because the illustrations are so deceptively simple. Yet the more I look at them, the more beautiful and revealing they seem. They are a perfect addition to Beavin’s words, just the right blend of color and design. I think Beavin and Bennett are both deeply intimate with the delight of creation.
I’m a good example of a Course students who can be awfully serious. You know the type. Somebody cracks a joke during a study group and this guy doesn’t laugh because there’s no time for silliness. This is about waking up, damn it! And while I know that intellectually – and, yes, I’m working on it – there are still plenty of moments where I approach A Course of Miracles in a state of solemnity and gravitas that is a poor substitute for the joyous peace and freedom we are promised.
In the end, this was perhaps was most appealed to me about reading Beavin’s book. The simplicity and playfulness was a useful counterpoint to the part of my practice that wants to be professorial, masterful. In other words, it undid some of the specialness I feel about being a Course student. Reading “The Parable of the Stars” was like being reminded that this isn’t rocket science, that any time I want I can go home in joy and rest.
You can also listen to Beavin’s book on CD – his wife, Lainie Beavin narrates, and John handles the vocals. Their friend and collaborator, Tom Sciro, plays keyboards. I’m a reader by nature, but the disc is cool, too.
Anyway, over the years I’ve acquired a big library of ACIM material, but this gets a special place. When I want to share the Course with young friends or people who don’t want to be encumbered with what they perceive as overly religious or metaphysical language, this is my goto book.