We live in a time of great opportunity, a time in which each day we get to choose whether we are going to identity with our little self or our big self, a time in which we get to take our values and beliefs out for a serious spin, a time in which we can choose to be generous in the face of prevailing cultural pressures to do the opposite.
If life is a drama with the same outcome for all of us, one that ends six feet under, what a blessing to be given this time to be heroic, to be bigger than we imagined ourselves to be, to put our money where our mouths are.
I don’t think this is going to require big gestures so much as a careful choosing about all the little gestures of our every day lives. We need to let each of these small daily choices spring from the heart, not from the mind with its fear mongering and laundry list of worries.
This is going to require discipline about what we listen to, our hearts or the voices around us that want to whip us into a cocktail of frenzy and despair.
It is going to require us to slow down and clear our energy field of run away emotions, before we react in response to their murky demands.
It is going to mean wandering a bit in new territory as we learn a new way or go deeper into the voyage of selflessness that we have already embarked upon.
Now more than ever before in my lifetime, we get a tremendously meaningful opportunity to identify with our oneness not our illusions of separation.
Big tall ideas. Yeah. Yeah. I know, I am always full of them. But no matter how lofty it all sounds, the good news is that every day in our ordinary lives we will get opportunities to live out these ideals.
Recently, I watched a PBS series called Foyle’s War about a British police inspector during World War 2 who spends the war on the home front, dealing with the unethical behavior of his fellow citizens. In my usual somewhat naive way, I had always divided the battles of that war into two more black and white groups. Oddly enough, the show reveals how much more latitude there was for everyone to make small as well as big self choices in England as well as everywhere else. For most everyone, it was a big mess of opportunity going both ways, just like right now. The show gave me a renewed appreciation for the big self choices of the heroes of the war. And these heroes weren’t cut from a different clothe than the rest of us. They were ordinary people often making ordinary choices as well. They reminded me that we all have a hero within us.
Near the end of my years out on the road giving workshops, I was invited to spend time at a righteous community of ideological purists. Of course they did not bill themselves that way and it isn’t fair of me to describe them like that either. Let’s just say that my life had thrown me so much into the world of gray that I found it quite a shock to immerse myself in an isolated community maintaining all kinds of dietary, ideological, cultural, and moral extremes. I think I have mentioned this place before and how the high point of my time there was when I found one of my kid’s lollipops in my car and sulked in the back seat between my talks, enjoying its sweet and forbidden glory.
Anyways, one particular moment I recall from this time involved me getting into a raging argument with the founders of the community about the movie Shindler’s List. I argued that because Shindler began his hero’s journey from a place of moral grayness, it was possible for him to be a vehicle for much more goodness than if he had started from a place of less moral ambiguity. This outraged the leaders of the commune and there was a lot of screaming involved as they attacked my belief that his flaws were the very reason Shindler saved so many people. Well, they were having none of it and as I have mentioned before, I eventually beat a retreat from this community with a terrible cleanse headache that was only eased by a big mac and fries eaten on my way home.
So my point is?
We don’t have to count ourselves out if we don’t have the bucks of a Bill Gates, or we wanted to throw up when we looked at what happened to our retirement portfolio last year, or we have a fear reaction when we watch the news. Yeah we are all gray. But the great thing is, every day is going to give us the opportunity to make generous and heroic choices and begin again from a new place, no matter what we did or didn’t do the day before. That is one of things I like about dawn. It always marks a new beginning.
One of my challenges is going to be putting aside my own righteousness so I stop ranting about people whom I think make bad choices. That is little self behavior. I need to just get on with my own choices and let them learn what they need to learn their own way. But really…… 18 billion dollars in bonuses for Wall Street executives last year?
And another thing. A lot of people are going to tell you that you are crazy not to worry yourself sick and hold onto every last cent to keep for that rainy day. Thinking about this made me remember how many people told me how wrong I was to not reconcile with my father before he died.
As you may recall if you have been reading this blog for awhile, my father chose to endanger my life and the lives of my kids by aiding and abetting one of my siblings who wanted to kill us. When it was clear that my father was not going to switch gears and come to our aid, I cut my ties with him. It was safer for us, but I also felt that the logical consequence of his endangering us was that we would not want to be in a relationship with him. I felt it was better for his soul and mine for us to part.
I cannot tell you how many people thought I was wrong wrong wrong not to broker some deathbed scene. Phone calls, letters, people I hardly knew, people who knew the story, people who did not. Most everyone told me in no uncertain terms that I was wrong, and that was the gentle description. I had to spend a lot of time going to my heart for the strength to stay the course. It was particularly hard to hear from people who had lost a parent who told me that I would never be able to forgive myself for not reconciling before it was too late. My belief was it was never too late, that my relationship with my father would continue after his death and that it was in the best interest of both our souls for me to listen to my heart, not the voice of anyone’s personality. But this belief was untested and that sometimes left me uneasy.
When I heard he had died, I was weeding in the Rose garden. I have probably mention this before too, but it was a big moment for me because of how at peace I felt. I did not regret my decision and I knew all was well. I had my own goodbye ceremony and was graced with a visit from a white hawk. At the time, I was still so mad at my father that I would not accept this gift was from him, but now I can accept that. Our relationship has moved on.
So my point here is? I suspect these times are going to call for choices that cut across the cultural grain in big ways. And you have my support and my appreciation and my awe for every moment your heart calls you to a choice in opposition to the culture. Let her rip!