The Many Ways We Get Home

Often when I am especially grateful for A Course in Miracles, I write about it in what I hope are helpful ways. I try to focus on the mechanics as I understand them, and not to overdo the spiritual drama. Being happy is not a race so we’re all experts and beginners at once but it’s easy to forget that. I really do want you to love me.

The thing is, the language of A Course in Miracles is not broad. It doesn’t – to borrow a course term – generalize well. Half the key phrases, like forgiveness and atonement, have meanings that are bound up in Christian Science, German transcendental philosophy and a version of Freud that so far as I can tell nobody has taken seriously since the late fifties.

None of that means the course can’t be helpful; it manifestly can. But it does mean that after a certain juncture, one sort of finds their self  longing for a more inclusive dance.

Or not! Ken Wapnick’s apparently stubborn insistence that the course means what it means and that we shouldn’t be looping in Buddhism and Lacan and so forth are understandable from that perspective. When you’re home, you don’t burn down the building. It’s your home!

But one woman’s home can be another woman’s way station. I sometimes feel as if the “celestial speedup” – a delicious phrase and concept – doesn’t obligate some of us to aim for a vocabulary and practice that is less formally onerous. The goal is to be happy (in a deep and sustainable way) and not right about this or that spiritual path. Does it matter?

Well, yes. Clearly. But also: what’s right is what works. And so it’s important to be rigorously honest about what works and what doesn’t. A Course in Miracles is comforting to me, but I don’t always trust that. I’ve been good over the years at hiding what hurts beneath a veneer of respectability.

Sometimes when I write posts like this one or this one, I wake up in the middle of the night thinking: be careful of pretending that you’re more committed than you are. Be careful of coveting some esteem you haven’t merited. And I get up and walk out back to the horses, who are very calm and beautiful in the moonlight, and let things sift and settle and simmer, which they always do.

In general, I think it’s important to divest from overly theistic belief systems. Assertions with respect to absolutes or unconditionals or objectives feel altogether unsustainable to me. There is always this: this this, and it never doesn’t reflect love and lawfulness, and it’s never not sufficiently responsive. Also, it doesn’t depend on posturing with respect to what causes it.

In general, I think it’s important to observe the Golden Rule – to basically act in ways that are clear that what’s good for A is good for B, and also generally increase the possibilities for our shared living. As Ken used to say (here paraphrased): a good way to live is to make everything about other people

In general, I think that “love” means allowing others to exist without defending themselves. Love assumes radical equality. You don’t have to prove your value or worth to me, and I don’t have to understand your value or worth. Your value and worth are established.

In general, I think explanations are less effective than descriptions, and “how” questions are more helpful and creative than “why” questions. Very little appears to be forbidden (although how would we know?), but it’s also clear that some of our actions are more functional and expansive than others. Why ignore this?

All of those observations make for a kind of living that is basically uncertain and slow. In a lot of ways, my life is shifting into a mode that most people find at best boring and at worst emblematic of the very problem they’re trying to fix.

But more and more I don’t observe any problem other than the various faulty lenses (or interpretations) that I bring to my observing. A lot is given – is just here – and my contributions are sort of beside the point. It’s when I get confused about this and start bopping around like the hyperactive love child of Julie McCoy (cruise director) and Merrill Stubing (ship captain) that things begin to grind and grate unhelpfully.

For a long time I used to think that what Bill Thetford said to Helen was “there must be a better way.” But at least in the text, what he actually said was, “there must be another way.”

Well, there is always another way. Which may or may not work – we have to find out by giving attention. And if it doesn’t work for us, it still might work for others so we have to give it space. And others, too.

To this day I miss some of my college professors and  certain courses because they changed my life. They taught me how to think better, how to evaluate texts and belief systems, all with an eye toward being a healthy happy man who isn’t making things worse. But I wouldn’t go back there, because other learning projects came, and anyway, we have to get on with living.

Is it this way with A Course in Miracles? Time to move on/time to get going, as brother Tom Petty sang? I am always wondering that myself, especially when I find myself being fairly orthodox with respect to it (as the last two most recent posts indicate). Yet what can we do but flag our concerns – notice what’s there to be noticed – and then keep going?

11 thoughts on “The Many Ways We Get Home”

  1. Good Morning Sean,

    I am just now seeing — or perhaps seeing in a way I can express — that the Course offers itself up to me in two ways (which I recognize are the two lenses through which I choose to view it).

    The first is twofold and pretty much via the ego and within the “dream:” What are the words saying, both literally and symbolically, and how can I practice the messages I receive to more lovingly and peacefully co-exist on this “peopled” plane?

    The other is more difficult to describe, but it is — I am struggling here to say what I wish to say — it is a way of both opening and holding the space of “I don’t know what I don’t know” so that whatever chooses to arise bumps up against fewer obstacles on its way into the light of awareness.

    This paragraph made me pause while at the same time both opening and filling a little of that space:

    “For a long time I used to think that what Bill Thetford said to Helen was “there must be a better way.” But at least in the text, what he actually said was, “there must be another way.”

    Of course our first inclination — mine, too — is to read into this the word “better.” Isn’t that the ego way? Seeing it as the truth of “another” changes the way I hold, not only that thought, but this “journey,” which is another word I have grown w(e)ary of.

    Thank you for your recent Course writing. It resonates and for that — and for your presence here — I am grateful.

    Love,
    Cheryl

    1. Thanks for reading & sharing, Cheryl.

      Yes. The shift from “better” to “another” is a subtle move away from egoic thinking to something humbler and more inclusive and thus more creative and loving. I think this is a learned shift in the sense that we need to be taught to remember what we already know. So it’s okay to ask what works and then to work what works.

      Part of the challenge here is that talking or writing about this sort of thing always recreates the original error, or leaves it intact anyway. It takes a lot of patience to learn to read/hear a word like “miracle” or “God” or “Jesus” and not lose the rest of the cosmos accordingly.

      More and more I suspect the closest we get to “an answer” in the absolute sense is realizing there is no answer in the absolute sense, transforming the question from one of grand spiritual drama (starring Sean Reagan as the Special Interlocutor) to the blander question of how to live in and with and through uncertainty. Somebody’s gotta bake the bread, sweep the stairs, sit with the old ones while they die.

      Anyway. Those of us who write about this stuff, or try to, have chosen an especially gnarly forgiveness project, and it’s not always clear to me that the formal unraveling/clarifying the project professes to desire is even allowed. I seem always to end up in the same knots. It’s trefoil knots all the way down.

      You start to wonder if living well with knots – i.e., relaxing the impulse to undo them – is maybe a more helpful path. Sometimes I think writing projects like this are better suited, but of course, what do I know?

      ❤️

      1. Clicked on the link but was denied access to “writing projects like this.” Would very much like to read your sentences if you are still so inclined. (The way you gather and weave your 20 sentences together for some inexplicable reason pulls me deeper into my own inner muse.) Perhaps the issue is my email address. My Google account is sisiwriter14@gmail.com. (Noted with this comment.0

        (And your baking bread comment made me smile, as I have my very first jar of sourdough starter sitting on my kitchen counter. I am (im)patiently waiting for it to bubble and ripen so I can get my hands on some dough. Wish me luck.)

        1. Hmmm . . . . does it work now?

          Yeah, sourdough starter . . . ours gets used mainly for pizza these days, but sometimes rolls & sometimes cinnamon-raisin bread. Are we talking about a gluten-free starter? I thought you didn’t do gluten at all . . .

          1. Ah. . . yes. Thank you, Sean, for opening the door and letting me wander back in. The space feels both familiar and new, a wide smile of recognition followed by a startle of seeing something from a fresh angle. Bowling alleys ARE lonely. Is it the sounds or the smoke or the ridiculous repetitiveness? Outside of the greedy grip of mind, it is always enough. And that is because it is always about the looking, maybe only about the looking . . or so I keep trying to convince myself.

            (OK, OK, I will cut to the chase. I freaking love your 20 sentences, Sean. And I do not have the words to tell you why.)

            As for the sourdough, a young baker at a Phoenix farmer’s market told me that many non-celiac, gluten-intolerant folks can eat traditional sourdough without ill effect. He then gave me bread. I discovered I was one of the many. I had been gluten free for eight years.

            I kid you not, sourdough is manna from heaven . . . ❤️❤️❤️

          2. Sourdough is gut-friendly for our family, too. I’m glad it works for you; bread is one of the stable joys in my life.

            Thanks for the kind words re: twenty sentences. It’s been a staple of my writing for a long time, sort of coming and going but never quite gone. It’s shifted a bit recently, the sentences & paragraphs extending into longer essays – and also trying some expository writing about writing – but hopefully it still resonates.

            I really appreciate that you like it, Cheryl. Thank you for sharing that.

            Love,
            Sean

  2. Let me add here generally that we moderns often approach living as if we are statues-in-waiting – trying to find the right posture, right place and then bam! We can be still and silent and right forever. But we should really engage living as if it were an improvisational dance – lots of different partners with different skill sets, varying rhythms & steps, plenty of mistakes & awkwardnesses, surprising moments of flow and grace, rinse and repeat, et cetera.

    It’s a helpful analogy, especially if I don’t try to extend it to formal models like ballet or Greek folk dancing. The emphasis is on improvisational.

    1. A dance, yes. The other day this thought came to me: I will be a crazy old lady. I felt it bone deep and it brought a strange sort of comfort. It was as though I saw clearly for the first time that this was an option, a choice. And then I saw that by making that choice I would never be crazy . . . or old. Which just this moment made me think of the line from the Killers song: Are we human or are we dancer?

      Anyway, Sean, I came back here to say I revisited your “sentences” this morning and stumbled into this: “We don’t owe the world our creations, but we do owe our creations our gratitude.” Words such as these bid me pause long enough to let a little more light in. Thank you, my friend.

      1. Great song . . . And yes, “you” is what you say it is . . .

        So much depends on how we frame our experience – change as an expression of free will, living as a dance, God as love. We who are wordy are like fireflies, lighting up the dark together . . .

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