Certain movies and other texts can help one relate to and better understand the metaphysics and even the process of awakening described in A Course in Miracles. They can bring us into contact with the narrative I – the central actor and director of our story – and see how that self can be undone, simply by seeing there is nothing to undo.
I had an example of this a couple of weeks ago with Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.
Specifically, I found myself utterly entranced with both the film-making and the story-telling. The movie felt exquisite to me. Where a lot of movies bludgeon us with CGI effects, violence, graphic sex and language, Tarantino (at least in Basterds – not so much in earlier films) employs a scalpel. He’s inside your experience before you know he’s inside it; he’s working from the inside out.
And it hit me – a little more than halfway through the movie – that this obsession with telling an artful story, a transformative story, a gripping story, a forget-everything-and-keep-your-eyes-on-the-screen story had a spiritual correlative.
It is how the ego crafts and gives meaning to the story of its own existence. It is how and why it feels nigh on impossible to let go of our own narrative, our own personality in favor of waking up to something that is simpler, clearer and more natural. Something that is impersonal and all-inclusive.
We fall easily into the lure of our personal stories and their private meanings. I’m Irish-Catholic, a poet, a recovering drunk, a student of A Course in Miracles. I’m from the Northeastern United States, not the South and not the West. Leonard Cohen and Emily Dickinson are instructive. I struggle with caring about making money. On and on it goes. You’ve got one, too. Several, in fact.
Who is the “you” that Jesus addresses in A Course in Miracles? Is it Helen Schucman? Ken Wapnick? Gary Renard? You? Me?
We can bypass those individuals and say instead that the text addresses the observing mind which has chosen – regrettably and unnecessarily – to attach itself to the ego and its wily story. It is like an enormous gorgeous quilt confusing itself for a single fraying thread. And the thread is very good at convincing the quilt to keep on with its confusion.
So while I go crashing and stumbling through the world – healing myself, getting better, making mistakes, coming to terms, discovering new obligations, making new friends, pining for old ones – the observing mind, the Christ mind, the source mind – all of which are thoughts thought by God – simply is. No sweat, no worries. Nothing happened, so nothing to fix.
So much of what I believe I have to do – from writing this blog post to loving Jesus to helping feed my family – is contingent in some way on the magnetic personal story, the narrative composed by the ego. So many colors and tastes – so much exquisite detail – a cast to die for – such a dense and multi-layered narrative fabric. Stories within stories within stories.
What we are after – inner peace, sustainable and non-dramatic love – is absent from that story. Ego doesn’t do love. Oh, it’s definitely a theme. There are characters who symbolize it. It pops up as an idea. But it never delivers. It can’t. Love and peace are the one thing the ego can’t – won’t ever – give us. By definition it can’t let us see this is all just a movie, just an illusion, just a dream. If it did, we’d walk away in a second. We’d leave the theater without a second thought and go straight home.
I didn’t finish watching Inglourious Basterds. It was as if a bell had rung, and once ringing, could not be unrung. I didn’t want the inspired trance of story anymore – not Tarantino’s and certainly not the ego’s. I wanted awareness – right thinking, right mind, right now.
Whatever we call waking up, it begins with awareness. It begins with the end of casualness. We begin to sense that our lives are playing out on a screen and that they are not real, at least not as we presently perceive and understand them. That invokes some responsibility. We need to discern the true from the false. Thus, something new – not of us but in us – is triggered.
As you watch your life unfold – you who long for the promise of Heaven as I do – ask what it is that the ego drama seeks to hide from you? Could it be that there is no drama? That there is no viewer, no screen, no projector? That you are It and you always have been and right now – right now – you can settle and enjoy the unalterable peace that surpasses understanding?
We are telling ourselves a story – a good one in its way – but its sole purpose is keep us asleep, hidden, angry, guilty, estranged, lonely and unproductive.
There is another way. We can give attention to the narrative – in particular the one telling it – and allow our attentiveness to dissolve them. There is no I. When the center is everywhere, there is no center. We who never left our home are home.