Desire—“I want“—is a crouching she-tiger I should never have let inside the door because now I can’t extricate myself from her. All I know is frustration and anger while the pleasure of God descends on others in other lands.
A Fisherman pulls fish out of the sea by both his skill and his inspiration. Without skill there is no fisherman. Without inspiration there is no man. In the same way, the artist incarnates heaven by drawing attention to it as separate from the veil--he pulls it up from the depths of the ocean.
In a real sense, heaven erupts out of him and draws attention to itself.
Life is not my job. It is my work.
A job is skill alone, without inspiration. A job you do because you have to— for the promises of lesser gods: be they blessings or curses. For money—which is nothing more than paper and nothing less than symbol. And the great danger lying within this symbol of culture’s promise is that society will fail you as a faithful bargaining partner at the shaky-legged table where sacrifices are exchanged for pleasure and hopes and dreams. A table whose only possible location is inside temple grounds since it is also an alter to the gods. A job is just a means to an end—a blind, unwitting hammering of nails into a coffin-lid from the inside.
But work...work is something else. To destroy kingdoms, skilled craftsmen and artisans were always included with the kings, priests, and the prophets taken into captivity. To make new kingdoms they had to be there, for a Kingdom must be made if it is to be lived in; if it is to be enjoyed.
We are called to be skilled craftsmen incarnating inspiration into joy—pulling men, by hook or by net, out of a sea in which they don’t even realize they swim—incarnating the kingdom of heaven on earth.
How bad one’s future looks has no bearing on how afraid he should be in the present. Death comes for us all. So what?
So it comes down to this question about life.
The thing wins: Yes or no?
At some point one must decide the answer is yes.
Otherwise he will always be like a strong man pale in the face and moaning in labor pains over a baby that never shows up.
Jeremiah 29:8 ff
“Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have.
They are prophesying lies to you in my name.”
We who are in exile, hear what we want to hear...and then call that a message sent from God. But it’s not God’s message, it’s ours. The case is exactly this:
We mail a letter addressed to ourselves, then open it and are so amazed it says exactly what we were thinking that we say it must be from God.
But this is a lie.
God says, “I didn’t send that letter. You did."
Here is my message:
“Learn to live where you are now, in your exile, not the promised land where you think you should be. It is by always looking towards what you want instead of what is at your feet that you lost the promised land in the first place. When you shift what you should have into what you already have, you discover that any plans for the future do not do much for the man with no capacity for enjoying life right now, because when his tree finally bears fruit, he is unable to see it, eat it, or taste it. He can't even enjoy the fruit of his own labor. Because although he is there, he is no￼ longer there. He is already worrying about what to eat as his fruit rots on the ground around his feet.
If you really want to find me, I will be found.
The only way to find your way home is by accepting that you’ve lost it, because otherwise you won’t listen. It is the first step in discovering that the home of your imagination—the home your ego experiences (yes, even that actual address on the mailbox) is just a concept and not really home at all. It can be a hell-hole, a heaven, a haven, just one more frustration to bear, a way-station, a limbo, a hidey-hole...anything. If you can accept you have somehow lost your way home as you stand at your own mailbox, you begin to see finding your way back home is the point—that seeking your destination IS your destiny. In the same way, you can find me only when you accept you’ve lost me. Because then there is no more wasted energy on what you think is going on and what should be done about it. You will seek me with all your heart; in every nook and cranny; under every bush and behind every blade of grass; in every corner of the house; in every human face. And maybe you will discover along the way where it is you actually lost me.
Live first, plan second. Choose life—not your plan for life. You are not the plan maker. I am. I am the only one who understands how plans work and I know the plans I have for you.”
Sincere doesn’t mean there are no mistakes. It only means the mistakes are not covered up.
All knowledge is memory.
Rather, and even more disturbing, all knowing what one experiences is memory. Sorry to say, but it has to be. Why? Because the river of experienced reality is too swift. As soon as the man stuck on the bank reaches out to grasp what passes by, it’s already gone. Even managing a small handful of reality is a slippery business.
Which is to say there is a great difference and much that happens between smelling a rose and knowing you’re smelling a rose. And the devil is in the details.
First, you must perceive. You must see. For how can you experience something you don’t perceive? To experience a tree falling in a forest you must first hear it with your ears or see it with your eyes. To smell the rose you must first of all have a nose. It is the same with real life, what Christ calls the kingdom of heaven. To experience it you must first have an apparatus to perceive it. This is the soul of man. The gemstone. The rejected cornerstone. That broken stone which temples of itself; is a temple in itself. That small, hidden stone in the rubble that births the temple upon it, from it, and because of it. The self-organizing principle calls to the soul of man from under a heap like a magnet to iron, “Temple!”
But a great and marvelous and tragic thing happens after perception of reality: Cognition, or thinking, or consciousness. Reality is realized just as insects are fossilized. Through a process, reality is made real.
Experienced reality speaks as it passes by. We perceive its voice. Then the sound becomes an echo. With cognition, the original experience bounces around our brain from parietal lobe to frontal lobe and back again and all around. It reflects on itself. Momentary experience “makes an impression” on the clay of our mind as a foot leaves a print on sand—sometimes deeper, sometimes shallower—depending on the softness of the clay and the heaviness of the experience. But—and here is the great danger—the footprints are not the foot that made it and the echo is not the voice. Both the imprint of reality’s foot and the echo of her voice fade as we wander deeper through our forest. We become more and more lost, walking closer and closer to a trap.
In the story of Narcissus and Echo, Narcissus represents the ego and Echo represents reality:
Reality, once a small, pure and bright voice, becomes only an echo. Narcissus can’t see or hear her anymore—she is too small with too small a voice. He ignores her too long, though she seeks, follows, and loves him. Because he spurned her love, Narcissus was fated to be trapped by an image reflected on the surface of a lake. It is essential to understand he was trapped forever precisely because he didn’t know the reflected image was himself. Unbeknownst to him all reality had become selfish—just as all colors under a rose colored glass are reddish—and it was a beautiful, inescapable red to him.
Reality became only a reflection. And a reflection of a reflection. For Narcissus, there was no difference and no reality outside himself in the labyrinthine hall of mirrors found at the water’s edge. There was only "I" and he was mesmerized and blinded by the trick. He crossed the energy beams upon himself and slowly burned, wasting away at the water’s edge.
This parallels the journey from perception into memory: Each experience travels from parietal cortex (the land of perception, or initial conscious awareness of experience--the homunculus) to frontal cortex (thinking about the experience) to pre-frontal cortex (thinking about and manipulating thinking about experience) and back again.
But which comes first? We forget. Which is transcendent? Which is outside of you and which is the reality you made? Where is the origin of the sound before the echo?
Where is the voice?
Because that is the only thing that is truly separate—the rest is an echo chamber. The voice is the only thing that is truly holy. Therefore, if it is the only thing that is truly separate from you, then it is the only thing you can truly seek to unify with. It is the only thing that can reveal your location in existence—your coordinates. It draws a map from the fading echo of “Where I think I am” to the origin of where you actually are.
It is the voice of Moses’ bush—all else was Moses’ wilderness. It is Job’s lone redeemer—all else is Job’s dust.
Without spiritual freedom one is forever enslaved, no matter how loose the cords on earth; with spiritual freedom one is always free, no matter how tight.
“So I will throw you out of this land into a land neither you or your ancestors have known, and there you will serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.”
This is what happens to the Israelites when they “forsook the Lord.”
To be cast into the unknown as a terrible place both of “I don’t know where I am” and “nobody else has ever been where I am” is the lonely fate of every man when he loses and forgets the proper relationship between himself and God—or rather, the proper relationship between his own knowledge and the knowledge of God. Just as himself and God are not the same thing; so is man’s own knowledge and the knowledge of God. He turns toward his own knowing, which is a “holding on” and a dead thing, rather than a knowing of God: which is the acceptance and favor of Abel—a letting go of what one knows, which enables the ability to turn and embrace, in a kind of love, what one can’t possibly know. (“You believe in God, believe also in me.”)
And because the man who has forgotten the Lord has the improper attitude toward knowing, he is unprepared for the constant and gradual overtaking of the complexity of life and the negative aspect the unknown brings with it; which is simply common to all man as it is the nature of reality.
And instead of learning to love the unknown, he learns to hate it. He learns to hate its complexity. He tries to avoid its punishments, but he can’t. He is a slave to it. He is thrown fully into the unknown’s inevitable clutches. If he could only turn and see. If he could only lift his eyes to the hills, he would see where his help comes from. And it also lies in the unknown.