Ideals are a form of violence in that they obscure truth and thus sustain misperception. They are fantasies whose impressive pedigrees – world peace! The end of hunger! – serve only to reinforce the illusion that what we are in truth and what God is are not only separate but are separated by a divide that is unbridgeable. The only way to change the world is to change our mind about the world, and this is easy to say but hard to do because – see it happen – it is only another ideal.
The other day I walked with a friend along a dirt road I had not traveled in almost a decade. At one point, we turned into the forest and climbed a rocky hill to see the sun set. How cold it was! And how lovely all that light, the gold and violet falling into darkness! I pointed to the blue tree line a mile or more away and said to J., “that ridge is what composes this valley.”
And he said in reply – he is much quicker than me – “or does this valley create that ridge?” And on the one hand it was just a clever and funny word game, and on the other it was the lovely but unfamiliar realization that definitions don’t matter because it is all one thing – one divine flux – folding and unfolding. You see it that way for a moment and it changes something. It is like you traveled a thousand miles in an instant – gave a thousand lifetimes to worship – and came back here, confused but grateful, inclined ever deeper to reverence.
It is helpful to see our ideals clearly: solitude, inner peace, communities based on shared resources, dialogue, tantric sex, the end of time, food security, living to one hundred, the end of violence. All our lists are different and all are apparently impeccable – that is why they are ideals. By holding them we validate our goodness. By advocating for them, we broadcast that goodness to others. Ideals are always about the egoic self because the ego can’t make anything that isn’t (T-4.I.8:1).
Fantasy is a distorted form of vision. Fantasies of any kind are distortions, because they always involve twisting perception into unreality . . . Fantasy is an attempt to control reality according to false needs (T-1.VII.3:1-2, 4).
Ideals are ego constructs – made by what was made by fear to keep the engines of fear going. As attractive as they are, they are simply distractions from the real work. Indeed, it is their value as attractions that makes them so useful to the ego. So long as I am thinking about making the world a better place, I am not questioning the source which informs me that the world is real and in need of improvement.
But it is critical that we question the ego (T-4.II.1:1-2) and – this is important – that we not presuppose the answers or insights. Raise the ego to light and then trust God. Any answer that we can imagine – any ideal result we compose – is simply the work of the ego because it has to come from the past. Raise the ego to light and let God speak. Let God be.
Communication, unambiguous and plan as day, remains unlimited for all eternity. And God Himself speaks to His Son, as His Son speaks to Him. Their language has no words, for what They say cannot be symbolized. Their knowledge is direct and wholly shared and wholly one. How far away from this are you who stay bound to this world (W-pI.129.4:1-5).
We long to conclude. We long to know but cannot separate this longing from the terms and conditions of the world. Thus valleys, thus ridges, thus so many light-filled expanses. Our certainty that we know what peace looks like and what God will say remains a veil to the clear truth beyond. Our ideals are merely another wall we make to defend against the Love that would save us. The ego is altogether without answers and without solutions. Yet we are scared to let it go because we don’t know what will happen after we do. It is like the old saying – the devil you know is better than the one you don’t.
Yet suffering is not our reality, and we are delivered from it by a strength beyond our own (W-pI.130.8:1). This is all that is required: the willingness to set aside what does not work and wait – patiently, cheerfully, willingly – to be taught what takes its place. Nor will we wait for long: God’s joy is our joy, and nothing is that isn’t God.