the people along the sand all turn and look one way;
they turn their back on the land, they look at the sea all day.

as long as it takes to pass a ship keeps raising its hull;
the wetter ground like glass reflects a standing gull.

the land may vary more, but wherever the truth may be -
the water comes ashore and people look at the sea.

they cannot look out far, they cannot see in deep -
but when was that ever a bar for any watch they keep.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Eternal Now

An old friend of mine recently wrote a blog about keeping an eternal perspective in the here and now. It got me to thinking in a big way...what is an eternal perspective?

Obviously, for Christians, it is Heaven...being in the presence of God eternally, not being punished for sins on earth in eternal torment, enjoying whatever bliss God may have planned for that infinite space.

But - I think - an eternal perspective on that simply means making sure you meet the qualifications to enter Heaven upon your death. Which means acceptance of Christ as Savior. In the evangelical Christian belief system, good works don't matter - "all of our righteous deeds are filthy rags." Good works only have value as they help other people make the right decision about Christ, and therefore go to Heaven when they die.

Even as a devout conservative evangelical believer, I had doubts about this view. Certainly eternal reality meant more than just getting to Heaven. And is death the only things that demarcates the reality of eternity from our here and now? Are good works only a form of proselytyzing, trying to "bribe" others into belief because you are caring for their needs? That always bothered me, and often made me feel hypocritical when I was "doing good works."

Nowadays, I have a much different view of "eternal." I do believe in some type of consciousness beyond death - but that is only belief, I have no proof. I do not believe that eternal equals infinite in time. Eternal means - to me - different, other, above me, bigger than me. It means mystery. It means something that is so big, so vast, so incomprehensible that it brings a certain type of definition to my life.

Eternal reminds me that I am not...eternal, that is. Even if my consciousness survives my death, it won't be eternal...because it does not extend to the infinite beginning or infinite end. At some point, in this life, I will cease to be. Eternal reality helps me to understand that, embrace that, and seek to live a life that matters.

For me, eternal means now. In fact, I believe that eternal has no value at all if it does mean now. Because my time is limited, and because there is something bigger and perhaps more real than me, I am motivated to understand and live my life now with every ounce of energy I have. And there are so many ways to do that - another gift of eternal. Loving others, helping others, experiencing joy, acquiring wisdom, forgiving, trying new things, watching the glow of the sky during the sunset...and on and on.

Last summer, my family and I walked a rigourous mountain trail and came to a beautiful, isolated waterfall. I stripped off my shirt and jumped in the pool at the base before I had time to think about it...and nearly imploded with cold! I couldn't catch my breath for a few seconds; but, after that initial shock, the pristine crystal clear water, the remote location, the beautiful mountains and the perfect sky above my head brought a sense of renewal and life that I can still feel to this day. It seemed as if years poured off of my body, and pure light and life poured into my soul. I got out of the pool minutes later, but years younger.

That is eternal, and that is now.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The UnDecision Decision

"There are no neutral decisions in life. Every choice either does or does not get us closer to our goals."

I saw this posted recently on facebook. Wow! I had to comment - "whew - that's alot of pressure."

Welcome to the purpose-DRIVEN life, emphasis on DRIVEN. Being all about purpose is the latest trend in human development. It sells books and makes celebrities out of people who preach it.

But, I got off that train a while ago. I do not want to be DRIVEN. I want to flow. Being purpose-driven stirs up the image of a slave being driven by a harsh task master with a whip in its hand. I would rather jump in a river and let it take me where it wants me to go, while I lay back and bask in the hot sun and the cool water.

Life in our culture is driven to the point of despair. Sadly, most people I know live life under the incredible pressure of every decision being crucial to something - their success, their failure, their joy, their wealth, their health. Yes, I realize that actions are important, and have consequences...but not every decision is either a "make it or break it" fulcrum.

Some decisions can be meaningless, fun, irrelevant - and should be.

I don't think life is about reaching a goal or arriving somewhere. I think life is about living - about being the flow, enjoying the ride, and learning as you go. I had no idea I would end up here, and I have no idea where I will be in ten years. I had goals and plans, but none of those happened the way I envisioned.

The river had other ideas.

Recently, I was trying to decide where to place some landscaping stones in my back yard (yeh, a big decision that is really going to impact the direction and purpose of my life!). I thought and thought, and could not decide. Finally, I asked my son. He laughed and said "it doesn't matter; you know and I know that whatever decision you make, it will the wrong one."

So - here's to making a decision that is wrong! An undecision. I choose not to choose. I don't have a purpose. Or, better yet, I have a purpose, and that purpose is to UnPurpose, to let go and let God, to go with the flow.

See you wherever we end up. Or not.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

An Efficient Life

Recently, I watched the movie "A Serious Man." Being a typical Coen brothers movie, it was glib, dark and comic in a side-ways sort of way. At least no one was brutally murdered...a change from their most recent flicks, like "No Country For Old Men."

However, the central theme of "A Serious Man" was a brutally beautiful one...and that is, a life lived seriously is in danger of losing its meaning in a heartbeat. The protagonist in "A Serious Man" is a man who tried to build the meaning of his life on his possessions, his position, and the perceptions of others.

And, as the movie shows, that is a bubble that is perilously easy to pop. And once popped, what becomes the meaning of that life?

Our culture - and sadly, religious culture may be the most guilty of doing this - puts pressure on us to be "serious" and "efficient." We are given this view of adult life that is filled with discipline, control, and accomplishment. We need to look good, act good, and make sure there is no dust in the corners. We are expected to be efficient...budgeted and balanced.

The reality is, however, that life is not like that at all. There is dust out there, and mold, and dirt, and rot, and imperfection. Try as we may, we cannot keep clean. We cannot stay balanced - life demands inbalance and chaos. And it will get it whether we like it or prepare for it or not.

The concept of impermanence, which lies at the heart of Buddhist thought, teaches that nothing lasts. Nothing. A chaotic impermanence is at the heart of existence and reality, and struggling against that (by denying it, or putting more trust in rules than chaos) is what leads to suffering.

I don't know about suffering (still working that one out) but I know it certainly leads to confusion and exhaustion. The more we struggle to be efficient, the more frustrated and tired we become, because the universe just is not commited to efficiency.

In fact, the universe is commited to lavishness - and I think lavishness is the only way to live life. The universe does not seek to preserve energy, but to expend it. Thus, novae and nebulae and laws of inertia (which states that an object in motion remains in motion unless acted upon by an outside force).

I know this sounds alot like carpe diem - "eat, drink, for tomorrow you die" - and it is! And yes, even in a reckless way.

There is an old saying - nobody says on their death bed, "I wish I had spent more time at the office." I would embellish that - nobody says on their death bed, "I wish had been more serious and efficient."

A good friend once told me - "if something is worth doing, its worth doing wrong." I agree! Too many times, we wait until we have attained what we think is some level of readiness, or worthiness, or perfection before we launch out and live. But let me ask - were you perfectly ready when you had your first child? I wasn't - and yet it turned out to be the most amazing, beautiful, transforming and joyful experience of my life.

One of my favorite verses in the bible is from the book of Proverbs - "Where no ox is, the manger is clean. But, much increase comes from the strength of the ox." Yep - dirt, messiness, inbalance and inefficiency are all signs of a life well lived!


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Above Us, Only Sky

There are a few places one can stand where the heavens seems to open above you and you are overwhelmed with feelings of...exposure, vulnerability, belonging, eternity.

For me, most of those places happen to be on mountain tops. Reaching a summit - a "peak" if you will - is an inspiring moment, whether if it is attained on a short hike-up, or a climbing expedition.

Peaks are important places to me, and I think to all of us. From the peak, we can see the world around us in all its beauty, glory, expansiveness...and untouchableness. Yes, untouchable...the world we see from a peak may include the world in which we live, but we cannot touch it, control it, own it. It is too big for us, and we are too small. When I stand on a mountain peak, I am amazed at how small all the mountains and hills and roads I see below me really are...and I get a sobering idea about how small I really am.

And - I get a momentary glimpse of how big, how eternal, how majestic and beyond me the world truly is.

Most of all, I like to look at the sky. Standing on a peak, there is nothing above me, only sky. I am at the place of pure exposure to the heavens, and the heavens are also made vulnerable to me.

I like to lay on my back on a mountain peak, and gaze up into the emptiness and infinity of the sky. Yes, there are stars...but each one is billions and billions of miles from the other thousands of stars I can see...and from me. It is an empty and infinite sky.

And there is nothing between me and it. At the peak, I am at the point where there is no roof, no canopy, nothing blocking my way. The sky is mine...all I have to do is figure out how to get up and in to it.

Plane passes overhead, reminds me that I still have alot to understand.

But I know this: peak states, those "states" where people experience a peak moment of consciousness, of life, of those moments, there is nothing between you and the eternity of sky. Peak states - whether they come through meditation, or prayer, or running, or fasting, or having one of those moments with your children or a loved one...that peak state is a reminder to you that there is a mountaintop with your name on it. And that mountaintop - that peak - is the one place for you where nothing, nothing, nothing stands between you and the heavens...and all heaven means to you.

Let us find our peak states. Let us seek, strive, work and dream for our peak states. For when we find them, there will be nothing above us, only sky.