Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

Glenda Harty’s message on acceptance, with my thoughts appended

Glenda Harty is a dear friend, a marvelous teacher, and a powerful healer. She owns and operates the Sol Centre in Carmel, Indiana. If you require spiritual guidance or physical/mental/spiritual healing, please have a look at her website and see if she might be the right choice for you.

The other day, Glenda sent out by email a message that greatly resonated with me:

A Key to Peace is found in Acceptance

Accept who you are. Accept everything about who you are. Accept those things that you love about yourself and honor them. Accept those things you dislike about yourself and honor yourself for your honesty.

Accept who you perceive others to be. Accept everything about them. Accepting another simply means you recognize that they are who they are and you have no power to change them.  Release all attachment to another taking your advice or changing their behavior.  As long as you struggle to change someone else, you will not know peace.  Recognize if you are choosing not to know peace by your insistence on trying to change another and honor yourself for your honesty.

Accept all as it is–then ask your Self this question:

Is there a way I can change myself or my behavior to bring more peace and light to my world?

If yes, accept the truth of what you must do to accomplish this change. Do you choose to take the necessary action?  Whether or not you choose to take the necessary action at this time, accept your decision with clarity, responsibility, and love for yourself.

If no, accept and honor the opportunity to discover and explore any lessons brought forth in learning to accept all as it is.

Glenda did not come up with the idea of complete acceptance, but she has expressed it better than I have seen anywhere else, and that’s quite an accomplishment.

Toward the beginning of 2009, I had what I called my “Acceptance Revolution.” In 2008 I went through one of the most difficult things I have yet experienced in my life: finding the person of my dreams and having her leave. I tried my best to “get over” this relationship, but I found myself unable to do so. Thoughts and feelings are different than behaviors: we can push them outside of consciousness a bit, but they never go very far and often return without an invitation. In my little revolution, I found it easier just to accept that I had no real control over my thoughts and feelings about her. If I still loved her, I still loved her. I accepted it. I also made the effort to accept everything about myself and my life. Doing so made life much easier.

In trying to accept everything about everyone, we run into a core conflict of human existence: we are social animals, and, except for the rare hermit living completely without assistance from others, our existence and happiness is dependent on our cooperating with others.

It’s also a fact of life that we must act upon others. Bosses motivate. Salespersons sell. Parents reward and punish. We negotiate and argue with each other. We are constantly trying to Win Friends and Influence People.

How do we square the necessity of accepting others with the necessity of acting upon others?

First, I don’t think that we can completely square the two. I believe that the evolution of the individual and the evolution of the human species requires different, more advanced behavior than that in which we have heretofore engaged. We need to accept more and influence less.

Adjusting the ratio of acceptance to influence, however, does not obviate the need to influence others. What we need to do is make our influencing based as much as possible on love, compassion, and acceptance of people for who they are.

In the above-mentioned book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie suggests that one effective way to “win other people to your way of thinking” is to “let the other person feel the idea is his/hers.”

This may be psychologically effective, but the question remains whether that “idea” is beneficial to the person and in concordance with his or her being. If we are loving, compassionate, and accepting, we will not try to “win over” a person. Instead, we will offer something of true value and see if he or she accepts what we have to offer. This is the type of influence that is fair and untainted.

I will be painting too simplistic a picture if I say that this is the only type of influence in which we can ever engage. Life is messy and dangerous, people don’t always desire the right things, and people’s needs conflict. For example, if we know that someone is going to commit suicide, we don’t just let them do it. If we see that someone is about to hurt someone else, we try to prevent it.

It is working through the tough cases in life that allows us to grow spiritually. As Jesus said in Luke 6: 32-33,

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.

Likewise, it is easy to be loving, compassionate, and accepting to people who are like us and have similar needs. It is difficult to be loving, compassionate, and accepting to people who are different from us and have different needs. It is especially difficult to do right by people who seem not to value love, compassion, and acceptance! Yet it is how we behave in such cases that is a big part of our advancing spiritually.

There is no neat formula for how to be loving, compassionate, and accepting in life. And that’s just another fact that we need to accept.

  • Share/Bookmark

Want Iran not to have nukes? Then get rid of our own.

To understand my basic philosophy that underpins what I’m about to say, please read my post on love of neighbor.

Here’s something more:

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

–Mark 9:35

We Americans commonly think of ourselves as being first in the world. We are the sole remaining “superpower.” We are the richest country. Our workers are the most productive. God loves us the most. And so on. Regardless of our distorted self-image, America does possess great power, prestige, and wealth. Other countries look up to us as the big kid on the block.

For the past several decades, however, we have not been acting enough out of love of neighbor; instead, our motivation has been love of self. We have not been the servant of all; instead, we have expected service and obedience. We have not set the best example possible for other countries. Whether we are better or worse than they is irrelevant. We have not loved enough; we have not served enough. We have not lived up to our potential.

We may find countries like Iran distasteful in many ways; we may find them to be our juniors in wealth, achievement, and sophistication. If we practiced love of neighbor, however, we would deal with such countries by serving as an impeccable example of beneficence and rectitude. If we were good and right, however, we would not possess nuclear weapons.

There is no moral way to possess, much less use, a weapon that could annihilate a city. To kill and destroy on that scale is  an abomination; it’s unthinkable. Yet we possess thousands of nuclear-tipped missiles and even keep them targeted on cities, ready to go should the president so order.

Merely by possessing such weapons, we create fear in the world. If I may switch from Western spirituality to Eastern, that’s bad karma. One cannot create fear without paying a price. Moreover, since other countries look up to us as the big kid on the block, if we have nukes, then they want them, too.

I’m not a pacifist. Just as there needs to be a police force to take care of people doing bad stuff on a small scale, there needs to be a military–not necessarily our military–to stop people from doing bad stuff on a larger scale. But nukes can’t be used to do that; they can only be used to threaten other countries with complete destruction.

Oh, I know how a certain breed of right-winger feels about the matter. We’ve got to be tough! Have a huge military, carry a big stick–we’ve got to be number one! And God is on our side, so it’s all going to work out. If we don’t do that, the colors of the flag will run, and we’ll be–you know, like France or Sweden or something–not number one!

Again, I must return to the Bible quote. If we want to be a true number one, we must be last. We must serve. And just about the greatest thing we could do for the world right now is give up our nukes. That’s right. Dismantle them and use the fissile material in nuclear reactors (I’m not saying nuclear power is great, but we’ve got the plants…).

What would happen if we did this? Would Russia launch a strike against us and take us over? No. Would any other country start a war with us now if eschewed the awesome might of nuclear arms? No.

Would terrorists be more likely to attack us? No, less likely. It’s probably the single greatest thing we could do to prevent a “suitcase nuke” attack on American soil. If there’s anything the terrorists respect, it’s symbols, and it would be a big symbolic mismatch to set off the first terrorist nuke in a country without nuclear weapons (not that I wish this to happen to any country in our place).

Would we lose respect in the world? No, we would gain respect. Would our enemies fear our military less? No, inasmuch as they know we can’t use nukes anyway.

What would happen, however, is that the prestige of becoming a nuclear power would go down the toilet. If the hipster US doesn’t need nukes, then who really does?

At the end of the day, our species needs to evolve to the point where countries are not going to attack each other and kill large numbers of people in the process. The planet won’t permit that any more. We must choose now, collectively, as a species, to embrace love of neighbor as our MO. If the United States is really what it thinks it is–what it would like to be–then it should lead by giving up its dangerous toys.

  • Share/Bookmark

The changes in Iran are changes in the world

I pray for as little suffering as possible in Iran as great changes unfold there.

The energy coming out of that country is truly amazing. In the United States, owing to the lens of the MSM through which we have seen the country for the past several decades, we have grown used to images of crowds chanting in favor of the regime and against the US and the West. Now, however, connected to the people there by Twitter, cell phone cameras, and other technologies, we see that the people there not only look like us and act like us, they are us. We are one people in the world, and nowhere can we tolerate injustice and violence.

I don’t feel the government there can last another two months. Put another way, I feel that something good and positive and as magnitudinous as the fall of the Berlin Wall is about to happen. It has started in Iran, but it will not end there. The changes in Iran are changes in the world.

  • Share/Bookmark

Dropping the L-bomb

Under what circumstances do you say, “I love you,” also known as “dropping the L-bomb,” when you enter a new romantic relationship?

In considering the matter, one digs into a veritable sundae of sociological, psychological, and spiritual issues:

  • What is the vision of romantic love in the society?
  • What phrases, if any, in the society indicate a person’s belief that he or she is feeling romantic love of a particular level for someone?
  • Regardless of a particular society’s vision of romantic love, what actually is happening in “love” on various levels: sociological, psychological, physical, and spiritual?

One could write a book about how love has veen viewed through the ages and what phrases were used to indicate one’s recognition that love is present. Here, however, I’d like to talk about how things are in the US and Japan and how they jibe with my opinion of things.

Whereas in the past love and marriage were viewed in a more (but not necessarily exclusively) sociological context (i.e., marriage was more for practical and economic purposes, such as procreation and bringing families and even countries together), in the US we see marriage as existing for personal fulfillment: i.e., we want to find the person who complements us and experience love with him or her. The experience of love is primary; procreation and other aspects of the partnership are definitely secondary.

The following seem to me to be the basic principles of feeling love and using the phrase “I love you” in the US:

  • People in a loved-based partnership or relationship (e.g., marriage, living together, girl/boyfriend) ought to be feeling love for one another. Contrariwise, people who don’t have such feelings ought not be in such a partnership. For, there is a general belief that married people that don’t “really love each other” should get divorced and find partners they “really love.”
  • People who feel love for each other ought to express those feelings verbally (“I love you”), and something is wrong if they don’t, either with the relationship or with the partner or partners who won’t say the magic words.
  • Mutually saying “I love you” is a major milestone in the development of a relationship.
  • One ought not say “I love you” without really meaning it (whatever “really meaning it” means).

How about in Japan? The vision of romantic love in that country is not tremendously different from our own, and the way people approach dating is roughly the same as well. Furthermore, the phrase “ai shite iru” (literally, “I am loving [you], with the object of the verb usually left implied, as is common in Japanese grammar) has approximately the same sociological import as “I love you.” Once people are in a relationship, however, there seems to be much less of an expectation for verbal reinforcement.

So, according to the unspoken rules, we need to feel love for someone before we say “I love you.” We know as individuals what it’s like to feel romantic love for someone, but what is really going on? What neurological patterns are at work? What is happening in the spiritual dimension? We must confess our ignorance.

Furthermore, we cannot assume that a person who says “I love you” is necessarily feeling the same things that we are. We may try to judge through our five senses and even through senses beyond these whether the person is sincere in his or her words, but I have yet to see anywhere a table or chart that tells us what what degree of love goes with what facial expression or amount of light shining from the fourth chakra.

No, here we are definitely working in a world of fuzzy logic, in which a person must self-assess his or her feelings of love to decide whether to release the three-word trope, and we must in turn assess through uncertain signs whether that trope has been released appropriately. To complicate matters further, people drop the L-bomb even when they do not “really feel” love. For example, they may drop it in hopes of placating their partner now and “really feeling” love later. Or they may, like myself, be willing to say it under a rather lax standard, in which romantic love is conflated with altruistic love.

It’s true: I drop the L-bomb rather easily and retract it rather cautiously, as I try to “love everyone,” and hey–even if my romantic feelings for you are deceased, still “I love you,” right? I need to ponder more whether it is proper for me to use these words in this way.

All that said, there are of course times when the feeling of love is so strong on both sides and the energy working between and emanating from the persons in combination so great that only a fool would say, “We don’t know what’s really happening here in the hidden dimension; therefore we cannot say if they are really in love.” I would even venture to say that most of the time, when people say, “I love you,” they are expressing something sure and true, an apt symbol of something important and mysterious. Although I may be lax in dropping the L-bomb myself, I am no cynic when it comes to this most important of things.

  • Share/Bookmark

Depression is power and wisdom within you and for you

Chapter 7 of Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore is entitled “Gifts of Depression.” Moore writes,

The soul presents itself in a variety of colors, including all the shades of blue, gray, and black. To care for the soul, we must observe the full range of all its colorings, and resist the temptation to approve only of white, red, and orange–the brilliant colors.

As the chapter title and the quote imply, Moore goes on to teach us how depression can be of great use to us. I highly recommend the book and praise the wisdom of Moore’s view of depression.

Here are a few ideas of my own. First is my take on the difference between sadness and depression: sadness is the painful mental state that occurs when one desires something that one does not have but can imagine having. One may be sad, for example, at the death of a close relative; the return of the relative is impossible, but one can at least imagine it. One key aspect of sadness is that it could instantly be eliminated were the object of desire made available.

In my experience, depression has something of the “flavor” of sadness but differs in that there is no particular object of desire missing and no apparent path to resolution. Depression may feel as though it was caused by, say, the death of a close relative, yet at the same time one does not intuit that the darkness would lift should the relative return. Moreover, despite whatever causes may seem to pertain, depression ultimately feels like a dissatisfaction with existence itself, with the very nature of the universe.

It is this existential nature of depression that makes it such an important tool for our development: it takes us to the very heart of things and lets us abide there for an extended period of time. Certainly, depression is the pathway to the “Dark Side” of the heart of things, but once we are in the heart we can learn more about both the Dark and the Light.

In our society at present the typical view of depression is that it always weakens and reduces, never strengthens or augments–but is that really the case? Depression, of course, used to be known as “melancholy,” which state of mind has spurred deep reflections into the human condition and produced great art in all media. Before you push your depression away, despising it, see what gifts it has to offer you within its black inner sanctum. It truly can be power for your use in many areas of life.

There is both a mundane side to depression and a spiritual. Of course, there is no firm dividing line between the mundane and the spiritual; they are completely mixed together, and the smallest things in life can have great meaning: that’s why we’re here. Too often, however, depression is merely treated as a mundane matter, a chemical imbalance, a nuisance to be rid of as quickly and conveniently as possible. Take a pill and feel better.

To those in extreme mental anguish, I certainly recommend getting the necessary help, whether from a therapist or a psychiatrist, whether through talking it out or taking medication. There is no shame in that; doing so doesn’t make you any less spiritual of a person. Indeed, I highly recommend working with depression on both the mundane level (this is a nuisance making my life worse) and the spiritual level (what can this teach me about myself and about Reality?).

I just got over the second-worst depression of my life (and I have only really had two big ones). It was a time, I feel, of great development for me. Indeed, both my commercial and creative writing work continued to go better than ever, I made tough deadlines, and in general my life was orderly and productive. I was able to listen to classical music, to read poetry, and to appreciate both of these at a deep level. At the same time, I was in deep pain, pain which could not be divided from the lessons I was learning and the power I was accessing.

Depression is a teacher, but eventually the student must graduate. After I felt I had learned all the lessons this particular depression had to offer, I requested help from a Higher Power to leave the darkness. Within two days, the depression had lifted. About a week later, I had what might be termed a relapse, but this time I felt that a different approach was being requested of me: I was not supposed to push the depression away but go through it, into it, and out the other side.

I prayed the prayer, or mantra as I call it here, that you see below. In this mantra, we empathize with depression, seeing it not just as the source of the bad but the victim of the bad–while at the same time recognizing our complicity in the bad. We also see our Sat-cit-ananda (being-consciousness-bliss) nature as the ultimate remedy to the Pain-darkness-destruction of depression.

This prayer had for me an immediate and lasting effect. I invite you to try it and see if it doesn’t work for you, too. Of course, it is not really the words that have power but the concepts behind them, which are the wisdom of many teachers and many times.

If you are in pain, I wish you healing and love.



Source of Pain, I bless you and succor you; I have caused pain. Order of Darkness, I bless you and succor you; I have done the work of darkness. Power of Destruction, I bless you and succor you; I have caused destruction.

With being I free you from destruction, who destroy all. With the light of consciousness I free you from darkness, who bring darkness to all. With bliss I free you from pain, who bring pain to all.

Source of Pain, I bless you and succor you; I have caused pain. Order of Darkness, I bless you and succor you; I have done the work of darkness. Power of Destruction, I bless you and succor you; I have caused destruction.

  • Share/Bookmark

Love of neighbor

A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him, and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?
And he said, He that shewed mercy on him.
Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

Luke 10: 30-37

I believe that 95% of what we need to know about morality or ethics is contained in the above story and a little background information. Jesus, of course, had a purpose in making the neighbor of the story a Samaritan: the Samaritans and the Jews of Jesus’ time did not get along very well, and yet it is the Samaritan, the outsider, who shows compassion, and not the priest or the Levite, men of social standing who ostensibly had a duty to serve the unfortunate.

It is hard to thinking of anything I’ve done wrong in my life that is in harmony with the spirit of this parable. Indeed, if one follows this spirit, about the worst one can do is err on the side of kindness and generosity.

Love of neighbor is my personal big takeaway from the New Testament. Jesus certainly puts a good deal of emphasis on it:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Matthew 22: 37-40

So why am I talking about love of neighbor in this post today? One, I do so as a personal reminder that love of neighbor is what I need to be thinking about in my interactions with others.

Two, as this blog is in part about spirituality, I wanted to point out that, in my experience, New Agers like myself revere Jesus and his teachings. Further, sometimes the most important spiritual lessons are the simplest. A lot has been said and written about morality and ethics over the millennia, but I doubt that anyone will ever improve upon this short and simple but deep story (I recognize that the Old Testament contained these teachings as well, but Jesus conveyed them in a new and maximally effective way). We New Agers may meditate, mind our chakras, and engage in all manner of spiritual thises and thats, but if we forget love of neighbor we are not being true to our principles, and our practice is for naught.

Three, I don’t often get political or negative in this blog, but I need to comment on an aspect of the Culture War and certain Christians’ role in it.

I do not see love of neighbor in the hatred expressed by these Christians toward Muslims and people in the Mideast. I don’t see love of neighbor in their calling Obama a Muslim and thinking that being a Muslim disqualifies one from being president of the United States. I don’t see love of neighbor in the jingoistic, Christianist worldview in which the United States is inherently righteous and tasked by God with smiting those who don’t think and act as our “Judeo-Christian” country would like. I don’t see much love of neighbor in the way these Christians denigrate gays and fight against their equality in marriage.

In general, the political right in the United States calls itself Christian, and George Bush calls himself born again, but in the Bush administration I have not observed much love of neighbor. (Need I go into details?) In the ugly McCain-Palin campaign and in the unhinged right of radio and TV, I am not observing much love of neighbor. Instead, I am seeing something harsh, hectoring, inflammatory, and invalidating. It is not a worldview that wishes things were right, even by its own standards; rather, it takes delight in things being wrong so that there is plenty of butt to kick and excuses to grab more power. Its adherents don’t succor the outsider, pouring wine and oil in his wounds. They kick his ass.

Lest I be unclear, Christians in this mode are in a very small minority, but over the past 30 years they have raised an increasingly loud ruckus. I don’t mean to search for a mote with a plank in my own eye, but this is no mote: it’s a complete disconnect with the core of Jesus’ teachings–an ocular telephone pole, if you will. I would request that those who call themselves “Christian” while engaging in the above-mentioned behaviors reread the parable of the Good Samaritan and ask themselves if they are being a neighbor or passing on the other side.

At the same time, we who are disturbed by the Christianist right must ourselves practice love of neighbor, resisting the temptation to make them an enemy by which to feel good about ourselves or an “other” through which to build our own unity.

  • Share/Bookmark

Dear Future Soul Mate

Dear Future Soul Mate,

This being the fallow time, I have difficulty in finding you out there in the ether. Since you and I are two persons with a connection that defies normalcy, you are probably going through a similar period. But there is hope: I am here, waiting for you and sending you love, and the day is not so far when we will be together.

Like me, in the past year you have probably had a glimpse of what it will be like for us to be together: a glimpse of light that gave hope, followed by darkness that sought to end all hope. But you and I are strong: we accept the lessons that both the light and the darkness have to offer. Hope now lies not in what the world chooses to give us, but in ourselves as individuals and in our future unity.

I am preparing for our meeting. I am taking care of business. I am working hard. I am making improvements. I am letting go of that portion of the past that requires my letting go.

I am curious as to how we will discover one another on the physical plane; I’m thrilled to know that it must happen, and soon. Although this post will not likely be your first experience of me, I write it for you knowing that, somehow, it will reach you before that physical discovery.

Until that day, be strong, Great Spirit!

In care, respect, and love,


  • Share/Bookmark

Darts can teach you a lot about yourself and reality

The dart board of Matt RougeI first really played darts in 1999 when I was interning at Schering-Plough and spending a lot of time in Brooklyn with my best friend Tom. Thereafter, I didn’t play until 2006, when I joined the Columbia Club in Indianapolis. That got me back into it. I bought a dart board in early 2007, which entertained me a bit when I was snowed in, but I lost interest and didn’t play again until late August of this year, when I drove to New York to hang out with Tom, who now has very cool pad in Manhattan.

I think I’m hooked on darts for good this time.

Darts is a great way to meditate. It’s all about you, your mental state, your skill, and your relationship to physical reality. In other words, it’s just “you” and “not-you.” Whether “you” and “not-you” are in harmony or disharmony is up to you–and not-you.

Why did you let yourself hit the target this time and not that other time? Does “zoning out” allow you to hit the target better? Or are you just aimlessly firing and taking what comes? Do concentration and careful, conscious aiming help you hit the target? Or does focusing too much produce the opposite result? Why does a certain mental state help you sometimes and not others?

These are the questions you might ask yourself, and often answers come to you.

One thing I have explored through playing darts is how the self allows the self to succeed or not succeed. Practice certainly has the effect of honing actual skills like aiming and throwing, but the negotiation the self engages in with reality (not-self) while practicing is extremely interesting to observe.

Self: “Is it okay for me to hit the bullseye this time?”

Reality: “I’m not sure. You’re really quite inconsistent. You need to prove to yourself and me that you can hit it so many times in so many throws. Let’s work up to it a bit.”

Self: “But I’ve got mojo this time. I can feel a kind of electric charge on the board; it’s going to suck the dart right into the bullseye.”

Reality: “Okay, I know how that feels, and I can accept that. But on the throw after that, as a kind of recompense for success, you’re going to throw wild. Can you live with that?”

Self: “Yeah. I guess.”

Reality: “Go for it then.”

Thunk. Bullseye. So much in life works this way.

  • Share/Bookmark

How can we deserve love and caring?

In The Lost Weekend, Ray Milland plays Don Birnam, a writer who sold a short story to a prestigious magazine long ago and who has spent the last several decades in alcoholism and failure. Released in the year 1945, it is still a very uncompromising and difficult-to-watch portrayal of addiction. I’d probably put it in my top 20 favorite movies.

One affecting aspect of the movie is how much Don’s girlfriend, father, and others care about him. They support him financially, try to help him get and stay sober, and generally love and care for him. While World War II raged and millions of people died for no good reason, Billy Wilder made a movie about a drunk that continually hurt others but received love and care in return.

To me, this is interesting and piquant. I look at Darfur, I look at Iraq, I look at all the places where people suffer, and die, and see their life’s work go up in smoke and their loved ones slaughtered right in front of them; and I find it curious that here in the United States I can, in relative security, cry over my relationships and breakups and other things that seem trivial in comparison.

This is not an original thought or feeling on my part. In the acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize he gave on December 10, 1950, William Faulkner said,

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

Faulkner most likely imagined nuclear war when he spoke of the fear of being blown up, but I suspect that the average person (in the US or in the world as a whole) carries with him or her greater fear than the average person of 1950. In am not a pessimist about the time in which we live, nor do I feel that 1950 was a better year overall, but I do think there is a different kind of tension in the year 2008 that begs for resolution. If the people of the US at the present moment are not particularly afraid of being blown up by terrorists, they are still worrying about health care, job security, retirement, and a host of other things. Our country seems to be saying, collectively, “When is the breather coming, the time of rest?” My impression is that people in 1950 did not worry so much in this way, that there was a clearer path of job, family, and life in general that let them to go to bed at night feeling that tomorrow would more or less make sense.

The first half of 2008 offered me not very many such nights. In January, my self-described soul mate left me after I had invested significantly in making her life in Indy secure and comfortable, and one of my important clients was unable to pay me, putting me in a serious cash crunch. I was broke with a broken heart.

If Don Birnham could receive help, couldn’t I? Who would be my salvation?

The world came through for me. Relatives and new friends and old salved the pain of failed soulmatehood. An old client put me on retainer, and now I’m doing better than ever. It was not easy and it took a lot of thought, effort, and patience on my part, but I made it through one of the most difficult times of my life. Let me here express thanks to all who supported me.

If I may venture an answer to my question based on my experiences and studies, I do not think we deserve love and care. We do not deserve food, we do not deserve medical care, we do not deserve love, we do not deserve peace, and we do not deserve our lives. We cannot earn these things, nor can we forfeit them through our actions. Further, accepting Faulkner’s wisdom, the wars, slaughters, and other horrible things of the world cannot compel us to view the struggles of our heart as being small in scale, and we ought not let them.

I do believe in the law of karma, but I do not see our actions (which is what karma, in Sanskrit, literally means) as a kind of electrical charge upon us that must eventually be released as a negative or positive current flowing to us. Rather, building upon the wisdom of Edgar Cayce (although the following metaphor is, for better or worse my own), our actions are like threads in the cloth of our being, altering our pattern not as something that happens to us, but as something we are. To extend the metaphor, the love and care we give to others and receive from them are not threads in the cloth, they are the cotton from which the threads themselves are spun. (To be tiresomely precise, I think there are other materials in the cloth, too, some of a less pleasant nature. Such is Reality.)

My message to you, then, is this: you cannot earn the love and care of the world or other people; you can only accept them. Love is not merely an emotion that an animal feels; rather, it is something deep in the code of Reality, something that builds and supports and takes joy in doing so. It calls us to end the genocide in Darfur, to stop harming the planet, and, as Jesus taught, to love our neighbor as ourself. Moreover, your love and care of yourself, your desire and efforts to resolve the struggles of your heart, have deepest meaning: your edification is the edification of humanity, and your aligning yourself with the light does nothing less than illuminate the world.

  • Share/Bookmark