[5 minute read]
“God has a plan.”
I believe that. But what “believe” has come to mean to me – empty words when I assent only intellectually without living from my heart – is a topic for another time.
No surprise, God’s plan is probably pretty complicated. Even just God’s plan for me. A famous philosopher allegedly said, “God made us in God’s image, and we return the favor.” We tend to think God plans like we plan.
If we look at that rationally, it is of course silly. We are very different from God. And yet, we are the same, also. We tend to think of God’s computer program for creation as pretty complicated. And indeed it must be. It seems to have many purposes, and indeed it does. Many subroutines all aimed at the same goal.
What is the overarching goal that God’s plan has for all of us? What is the purpose of our own small subroutines in that grand program? They must be the same in nearly every sense – that enormous destiny, and the tiny destinies oriented toward that enormous one.
I suspect that, in one sense, the fate of the tiny is to be obliterated into the enormous. That is, the common fate is annihilation of the *comparison* itself.
Something seems to be calling us so that that something can reveal that we are not separate from God.
We may think of God as so enormous that we are not very connected to God. Well of course, I find it impossible to believe that *God* thinks that same way at all. That’s one way we are different from God, and the same as God.
We often hear, “God is love.” That’s a pretty enormous thought. But we do not doubt it. Are *we* also love? Not as enormously as God is. Or are we? Is “love” something to be compared as tiny and enormous? I think we have an extremely difficult time NOT making that comparison because our life experiences of authentic love have been mixed in, inseparably, with false and wrongheaded notions of love.
Many things which we have done, and which have been done to us, are not at all authentic love. But let’s confess how nearly impossible it is to separate those false instances from authentic instances of love. The false instances don’t negate the authentic ones. Nearly all of us have experiences of authentic love.
Many of us have experienced the love of parents, or showered onto our own children authentic love. Yet, both our parents and our children have not loved us perfectly. Nor have we loved our loved ones perfectly in every instance. That does not make the authentic love of those instances any less authentic.
We have loved our romantic partners, and been loved by them. The same with friends. But, more often than we would like to admit, sometimes what we intended to be love, or thought love was, was just an imitation. We often thought imitations were sufficient, or would lead to authentic experiences of love. If we are parents, many of our parenting practices were very wrongheaded, fueled by our own egos and comparison. We wanted to be seen as good parents, even if our practices didn’t feel entirely right to us. We succumbed to fear of judgment rather than fear of uncertainty.
We each know these things as human beings.
And we each project these things onto God.
Perhaps this is why we defer to God by, “God has a plan.” We sense that, whatever plan we might formulate, it can’t be quite right. We wish and hope that God is in control, because we are fallible.
I think the overarching purpose of God’s program is love. It is what drives all of the subroutines – us. The glitches and the bugs in that program were not created by the programmer. The artificial intelligence of the subroutines is left to sort out the authentic from the inauthentic. Because that sorting itself arises from, and progresses toward, the overarching destiny of the whole program.
It is our human destiny to make mistakes. Not a one human being avoids that. And so we optimistically believe that we “learn” from those mistakes. We learn what love is, and we learn what love is not.
Many times during that education we insist that we have loved better than others. But that insistence of the ego is rooted in comparison. We judge ourselves by how well we have imitated acts of love. But those are acts.
We have often been actors.
And the Greek word for actor?
I do not believe for one second that God wishes us to figure out God’s plan. I think God has made it much simpler than that: “Love, like I, the Lord your God, love.”
That boundless love is enormous because it has no conditions. It is unconditional. It has no need for notions of comparison, of judgment, of guilt, shame, of fear. It needs no conditions. It is God’s nature – not only a trait, characteristic, or attribute of God. If we say, “God is love,” that is all God is. It is we who add on other things, like King and Judge.
The exclusive basis – EXCLUSIVE, no other – for God’s being, and all which God brings into being, is love, and nothing else.
God is love. It is God’s fundamental mode of being. And, as God’s children, it is ours also. We feel most natural when our loving is authentic. For it is our fundamental nature to love.
Neil D. 2022-01-27, inspired by “Allie” who shares her story, which is Beauty
[80 second read]
My re-solution? My again-solution.
How have I arrived at this moment of resolve? Of overwhelm? How have I surrendered to all the evidence for believing that I am authentically and genuinely loved so deeply by others? What impossible combination of choices have I made to deserve and earn that? None. Or, one? The most impossible one?
Want to know my secret to success?
I tried to be someone I am not, for a long time. And now, I choose to be Neil. The Neil I am. The Neil I have always been. That’s what I have chosen, and choose now. Huh?
You’ve heard the same thing. Why can’t you choose to be who you are, instead of who you might wish to be? Or who others wish you were?
How do you get the freedom to choose to be you, in your fullness? How do you summon from inside yourself the freedom to choose to be you? I don’t think you do.
I think it has to be shown to you. I think you have to be slapped in the face with it so many times that you fall far, far down. To rock bottom. To the depth of a soul. To the darkest of darkness. And when you look up, you see no one postured above you to assault you. Instead, what you see, is nothing but loving faces. They haven’t walked away; the ‘act’ isn’t over. They’ve been there all along, and they will not go away. I haven’t chosen to be Neil. I have been shown who Neil is.
Didn’t need to solve anything. Re-solved, I’m solved again.
Each of us has put together a construct by which we explain why what we do is necessary and good. This is the specialty of the ego, the small or false self that wants to protect its agenda and project itself onto the public stage. We need support in unmasking our false self and in distancing ourselves from our illusions. (https://cac.org/how-difficult-it-is-to-see-clearly-2021-02-28/)
Neil D. 01-01-2022
All but the most distracted people are stopped in their tracks when encountering a sweetly contented baby.
Figurines of shepherds, animals, three magi, Joseph, and Mary… All gazing at the centerpiece.
And now imagine a time you’ve approached a group of live human beings gazing at that scene of gazing. Most eyes eventually settle on the focal point and rest there for some moments in wonder. Perhaps, in remembering.
With the power of our full being’s experience, it does not matter whether the baby is a figurine or real. Our conscious brains may be focused on that baby, but our wider soul is connecting outside of our conscious brain in a moment of communion and unity with each person gazing at that same centerpiece.
When we encounter an unsettled baby, our caregiver instinct within us longs to soothe. Sure, that involves some involuntary biological instinct to preserve and propagate our species. Psychology too can tell us that, when you behold an infant, you may be stirring your very own longing to be cared for again as a pure, innocent, dependent, as-yet-uncorrupted baby. Unto such as these belongs the kingdom…
For us to gaze upon that figurine baby lying atop manger hay requires nothing special about the figurine itself.
That baby is you.
That baby is me.
That baby is each of us.
The nativity’s context implies that this baby is divine. Now imagine any baby in *any* context. We act like every baby has some special power. They are all divine. Undistracted and oblivious of the confusions we accumulate and endure as we age. Infants are contented – and quite fearless – to be dependent on loving caregivers.
That baby is you.
That baby is divine.
You are divine.
Isn’t that the central message of Christmas?
Incarnation is another of innumerable signs from our ever-patient Origin about the divine goodness of human beings like you and me – an Original Goodness remains mixed in with our complex reality as human beings. It remains, because it’s incorruptible. The biological parents from whom we originate cannot be changed; that truth is incorruptible. Same for our Origin and our nature.
Pick your babyself up in your divine arms and pour your loving care out – your divine care – on your babyself. It needs it. Because that’s how we’re made. Our nature. O, holy night… he appeared – the same way you and I appear in this world – and the soul felt its worth.
You are an originall. Your ego – fundamentally good – tells you this. You are an independent and autonomous individual in creation, 100% unique. And, you also “know” you are a part of something much larger.
In-divi-dual = not di-visible. You are not visible as a “di-” (two-part) being. That you are both – an original as well part of something larger – cannot be actually seen as separate. To imagine those trees is to lose awareness of the forest. The ‘parts’ of you are not real being. They’re conceptual illusions for the sake of discussion that informs us they are not real. A human being is the indivisible individual.
In-divi–dual. You have a dual nature that cannot be divided.
The conceptual ‘part’ of you which senses your participation in some larger whole is your soul. It is that suchness and thisness which bestows your individual being. Your existence. You can’t doubt it. It’s impossible. To exist is to “know” you have a soul – knowing involuntarily, with no action of will.
When you, in the company of others, stand before a nativity scene, and you experience communion with that figurine baby and onlookers, your ego senses your separate originality while your soul senses connection with those of other 100% origin-al human beings. Our common Origin, in carne. In the very flesh of our being.
“God is in us
God is with us.”
God is in, for, with…
“Love is raining down on the world tonight
There’s a presence here I can tell
God is in us,
God is for us,
God is with us,
[God Is With Us – Casting Crowns]
This beautiful song is one of a dozen in this 12-video playlist assembled by a daughter of God named Beth. She often sits atop a stool strumming her six-string, and a dozen of us wait to be moved by her courage and faithful confidence in us, then join. She is a being larger than herself and us, and our souls fall into connection with one another because our egos remember they don’t have to dominate our being to be part of the celebration in, for, and with us. She unfolds creation by doing what she seems to love irresistibly; we cannot resist what she unfolds also in us.
Neil D. 2021-12-22
Whether you’ve ever heard any songs in the playlist or listened for the first time, if something moves you, please share it with all of us in a Reply below.
Share your feelings about any Christmas songs; here’s a series with Neil’s.
Another Christmas playlist – all one song “Do you hear what I hear” – best online versions. Preface: Awesome Dad
What’s your story?
Formulate it. Narrate it. Compose your personal narrative.
This is often too difficult, for various reasons. So therapists use methods that more gently approach it, like trauma eggs and vision boards.
I believe we find it difficult because we crave simplicity, and abide mystery discomforted, with unanswered questions, craving validation from persons who will never give it. Maybe because they themselves haven’t composed their own narrative either. What’s interesting is how ready we are to simplify *their* narrative, while, at the same time, avoiding our own.
So, instead of writing our story, we just *pray* for it: For serenity about the things we can’t change. For courage. And for wisdom.
We celebrate examples of courage among ourselves, Though I wonder how much courage uninformed by wisdom is true courage.
We seek serenity by lambasting our transgressors as examples of “things we cannot change.”
“They’ve always been addicts, weak, manipulators, narcissists, cheaters…”
Sometimes we do turn that mirror on ourselves. “We always did what *they* wanted, like we were doormats.” Yet, there is no serenity in accepting that we cannot change our victim status.
In relationship crisis, we face outrageously complex and mysterious failures. Every impulse to simplify ourselves or our adversaries stems from what psychology calls cognitive distortions and biases (more in Part 2). We therefore should be cautious about identifying “things we cannot change.” Without deeply exploring your own distortions and biases, wisdom remains distant.
Authentic wisdom is outrageously difficult to come by. It is never fully achieved, nor is it static. Not authentic wisdom. It is not a holy grail you can possess and keep in your possession. It is as fleeting and ephemeral as all things authentic, like authentic love, compassion, the different mode by which divinity is known – Sophia, the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, your narrative should not be static. And that makes it difficult. So we oversimplify our failure, and share platitudes as substitutes for on-boarded wisdom, because authentically internalized wisdom is too elusive for us amidst our suffering. The gentler approach to the runway of wisdom is less abrupt and sharp in our tender, wounded state.
We seem to often lack enough courage to pursue wisdom wholeheartedly, which conterproducrively keeps serenity at bay. That’s what a victim mentality is. That’s where, why, and how blaming our transgressors keeps us stuck.
Enter: Vision boards.
Vision boards come with two indispensable instructions. Neither is optional. Both are required. It must be something you want for yourself, and it must be possible. Now, recite the serenity prayer in your mind, and think about those two requirements.
You will not accidentally get the courage to change the things you can. You have to want the change, and believe the change is possible. Both. You can’t just want it accidentally, like mana falling from heaven. But you also don’t have to chase it rabidly, like a possessed madman.
I am convinced that if you can internalize these two motives harmoniously – aspiration, and imagined possibility – you are already on a wisdom path.
But in the wake of relationship failure, it’s hard to believe in the possibility of harmony between possibility and desire. They are seen as the ground from which our current suffering was born.
In many senses, vision boards turn out to be trauma eggs also. The things we imagine as possible tend to reflect the wounds we have suffered. But not entirely.
For example, say you’ve always wanted a dog. But an ex-partner forbade it, explicitly or implicitly. Now you can imagine the possibility of having one.
There’s a twofold effect in the story you tell about that board.  You are imagining something that is possible – and remember, you don’t have to chase it doggedly:-)  You are telling your narrative as an imprisoned victim. Notice how that is a gentler approach to what you can’t change, and it lowers the challenging steepnesss of a directly honest personal narrative.
An approach to wisdom – gentle or not – is only an approach. It does not put you on the path of wisdom. You’ll have to do the hard inner work – to look at your failed relationship with eyes that do not divert blame elsewhere. That’s hard.
Because wisdom is ever dynamic, you need a draft to reread periodically as you tread the dissonance of the Serenity Prayer applied to you. Successive editions narrate less about your transgressor and your victimization, and more about your shortcomings and contributions to the failure. You cannot get to the final, happy chapter about wisdom, without first writing an earlier chapter about hypocrisy.
The tango took two. Even if you don’t repeat that dance with a different partner, there is always that other partner you cannot escape. Inside. Your ego and your soul are custom-tailored partners in the ever-dynamic dance of wisdom. Your glee as a witness to the wisdom dance is only as large as the eyes that can first imagine the boundless possibilities of your soul, and see how that divine dancer can embrace its ego partner and sweep it off its illusory terra firma.
(“Terra firma” is my fanciful reference to the “firm ground” on which an ego thinks it stands. Part 2 explains how unconscious you likely are about the illusions of this fantastical firm ground. There is NOTHING firm about the wisdom path. Authentic wisdom is the opposite of the certainty that’s nothing short of passionately misdirected LUST. Authentic wisdom is never situated in any belief system that values the simplicity and fundamentalism comfortable to the ego; it is instead the realm where complexity – aka mystery – is the supreme value. Part 2 expands on several of these steps toward the self honesty which can be sideshows on your wisdom journey that fortify your passion to remain on your path for your own sake, all else be damned.)
Neil D. 2021-12-16