Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Thursday, April 11, 2019

the path of descent

All great spirituality is about letting go. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection show us how to win by losing. In fact, this “Path of Descent” could be called the metanarrative of the Bible. It is so obvious, consistent, and constant that it’s hidden in plain sight. Christianity has overlooked this overwhelmingly obvious message by focusing on other things. Why did that happen? How is it that we were capable of missing what appears to be the major point? I think it has to do with the Spirit patiently working in time and growing us historically. I think it has to do with human maturity and readiness. And I think it has a lot to do with the ego and its tactics of resistance.

Author Philip Simmons (1957–2002) shared what it took to awaken him to this wisdom:

We’re stubborn creatures, and it takes a shock to make us see our lives afresh. In my case the shock was the news, when I was just thirty-five years old, that I had the fatal condition known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and would probably be dead within a few years. . . . At some point we all confront the fact that each of us, each individual soul is, as the poet William Butler Yeats says, “fastened to a dying animal.” [1] We’re all engaged in the business of dying, whether consciously or not, slowly or not. For me, knowing that my days are numbered has meant the chance to ask with new urgency the sorts of questions most of us avoid: everything from “What’s my life’s true purpose?” to “Should I reorganize my closets?” What I’ve learned from asking them is that a fuller consciousness of my own mortality has been my best guide to being more fully alive. . . .
                                                                                            Richard Rohr

most of the time, we have things backwards
inflicted it would appear
with chronic cases

of cranial-anal inversion

sometimes in our more egotistical moments
we suggest that Jesus, when he came, turned the world upside down
when in reality he turned the world right side up

it is not that his way of descending and emptying
and his teachings about
sacrifice and service were radical an new

it is that they were simply God reminding us of how we were intended to be
revealing the original design for Sacred children

If God is love
and we are created in God’s image
that would mean that we were designed to love
designed to feel empathy
designed to have compassion, offer forgiveness, and act kindly

and the problem is that we can’t do any of that very well
if we are focused too intently on ourselves
on our need for power
our desire for wealth
our need to win, and dominate

if we are, to use the old language from the scriptures
focused on the “things of the flesh”

it is not the things of the flesh are unimportant
the Sacred is woven into all thing corporeal
the mountains, the trees, and yes
our bodies

we need to eat, and to take care of ourselves
we need clothes and housing

any quick glimpse at the words of Jesus reveals
that he did not discount the reality of the body
and its needs

but it is how we use that body, that mind,
as we move through life that is important

and Jesus suggests that we use our resources
including our body
the way he used his

not just to protect and promote the self
but to serve others

there is this thread in Jesus teachings
hinted at in the Old Testament,
but clarified by Jesus,
that insists we are to be people for others

not abandoning our self
but seeing our self in the context of others
seeing ourselves as bound together by sacred bonds
by the breath of God itself
to one another, to all others

and thus what happens to one happens to all
when one is lifted up, all are lifted up
when one is crushed, we are all crushed

when one children is thrown into a pen
we all suffer
when one person can’t get healthcare, we are all wounded
when one person is lifted out of poverty or addiction
we all rise

but we cannot find this radical unity
this way of healing and reconciliation
if we are not willing to watch the path of descent

we can see the “Path of Ascent” in full force
playing out each day
we can see the damage it causes

a ruined planet
damaged children
people mired in poverty
we can see it in the anger and the hate
we can see it in the addiction and in the suicides (which abound)

we are called to walk the path of descent
as best we can
and this means we must let go
of ego, of power, of the need to have more than we need
(most of us are guilty of holding on to these things, I know I am)

and even at some level, we must let go of our fear of mortality
for losing our life is the ultimate sacrifice
the ultimate loss
the ultimate letting go

we are indeed “fastened to a dying animal”

it is not that we seek death or even “misery”
there is nothing more irritating than a spiritual person who sees it as their
call to be afflicted

but if we are mired in a fear of death and loss
we find it hard to give
we find it hard to not to be aggressive and violent
and greedy
and find it difficult to have empathy

it is simply that we need to see our walk through life
not as a path of ascent, where we climb to the heights
to a place, perhaps where we can touch heaven (Tower of Babel)

but as a path of descent, where we enter into the
struggle and pain, the joy and love
that is inherent with our messy life on this planet

and in that place
where we join all others
do the work of love

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