Why are seekers so few? And why have they not found? Is it because they seek the wrong things? Or is the answer they find not the one they want?
The platitudes of my lifetime, worn gossamer thin for their exploitation and meaninglessness are paraded out as new by every new-age psychologist or self-help guru ad nauseam, not to actually help anyone but for the achievement of wealth by those who spout them and gain followings, preying on a longing and a desire so long sought, by all people so simple to achieve and paradoxically so difficult to embrace. And if it isn’t the self-help guru, it’s religion, or political party, or association with whom individuals can bond to stave off the burden of real responsibility.
Life, when stripped of self-help, mood elevators, alcohol, drugs or an abundance of other addictions that feed fear, like nationalism, patriotism, socialism, capitalism, television, entertainment, has no platitudes, passes no judgments. A virus kills indiscriminately. In winter, nature takes the life of creatures exposed to the elements. The rain, falls, the sun, shines, the wind blows, the seasons change, we are born, and we die and in between, the fleeting period, in a good deal of the United States, the people were sold a bill of goods that promised freedom from the true responsibility of living – most of it, just in the last one hundred years.
In light of the upcoming presidential election, suddenly everyone is a critic, a political scientist, or an expert at character judgment while doing little, in between elections to fulfill their responsibilities as citizens and more importantly, as people, to fulfill their responsibilities as human beings. They bandy issues on social media, post and re-post ad hominem, tu quoque arguments like they were Vladamir Pozner, at least until someone challenges their position and then quickly degenerate into vitriol, given to these violent characteristics because they form, in their minds, the notion that somehow these delegates are an extension of themselves.
In his book, “The Cost of Discipleship” Dietrich Bonhoffer distinguishes the difference between “Cheap Grace” and “Costly Grace.”
Cheap Grace is: “Let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let he/she model herself/himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from her/his old life under sin.” Costly Grace is: “…gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which we must knock. It is costly, because it costs our life and it is grace because it gives us the only true life.”
Rising above the revisionist history of the word “Sin” and removing the judgmental element from it, “Sin” is simply the refusal to follow our truest path; no judgment, just an observation – but – choosing not to follow our truest path is the path to perdition, again, not in a judgmental way but in the same way that to choose to wade through the mud to get to the other side will bring with it ills that would not be present were we to use the bridge. But to use the bridge, requires a conscious choice and throughout the short history of humanity, consciousness has been the path chosen by the few.
Most choose unconsciousness and through this choice, insist that someone, or something else is the cause of their pain and they are ready to strike out at anything that they perceive to be a direct or indirect cause of their pain – everything and everyone except themselves.
However, once we are enlightened, as Plato observed in his Allegory of the Cave, we can no longer turn back. We know – better – again, not judgmentally; we become conscious and once conscious, we understand that the original notions of baptism are as much about those standing with us, taking an oath to protect us from our unconsciousness as it is being – reborn.
In the movie, “Bridge of Spies” the character, James Donavan makes a moving speech before the Supreme Court, defending a suspected, and likely Russian spy. The tenor of the movie was, as Spielberg often does, to expose our unconsciousness, the collective madness that is opinion, judgment, bigotry, sexism and other prejudices. In his address, he says:
Mister Chief Justice, and may it please the court, the Cold War is not just a phrase. It’s not just a figure of speech. Truly, a battle is being fought between two competing views of the world. I contend that Rudolf Ivanovich Abel, Colonel Abel, as he was called even by the men who arrested him, is our foe in that battle. He was treated as a combatant in that war until it no longer suited our government to so treat him. Accordingly, he was not given the protections we give our own citizens. He was subjected to treatment that, however appropriate for a suspected enemy, was not appropriate for a suspected criminal. I know this man. If the charge is true, he serves a foreign power, but he serves it faithfully. If he is a soldier in the opposing army, he is a good soldier. He has not fled the field of battle to save himself. He has refused to serve his captor. He has refused to betray his cause. He has refused to take the coward’s way out. The coward must abandon his dignity before he abandons the field of battle. That, Rudolf Abel will never do. Shouldn’t we, by giving him the full benefit of the rights of the system that define our government, show this man what we are? Who we are? Is that not the greatest weapon we have in this Cold War? Will we stand by our cause less resolutely than he stands by his?”
These are words of consciousness and there are acts of consciousness that go with words that do not abandon dignity.
As Bonhoffer observes, we must seek, we must ask, we must knock – and not just once – but again and again sometimes, as Brian Tracey observed of taking responsibility, we must ask through gritted teeth.
The original sin is our propensity for laziness or, to say it another way, unconsciousness, the path of compulsive thinking, of thinking with no responsibility. But once baptized, we are dedicated and while we will always be subject to the whimsy of and the appeal of the path of complacency and inactivity, all those who have traveled that course, including myself, find out that it leads to nothing or worse, the dis-ease that inflicts us and everyone around us.
As people, we are no greater or lesser than we have ever been, no more conscious or unconscious than we have ever been, only the set circumstances differ, but in that – lies the key for now, unconsciousness, cheap grace bears the consequence of real annihilation, from contaminated water, to corrupt government, from environmental genocide to starvation of mass numbers of silent beings whose suffering is ignored.
The Golden Age thinking that looks to make America “Great again” insults the intelligence of anyone living here who struggles to make ends meet and should sicken anyone who busts their ass everyday, who helps others, who are involved in their communities, who bring up their children to respect others and who do their damnedest to wake up each day and do better than they did the day before with the struggle to remain conscious, responsible and alert when it can feel like no one else is – the people who live their lives by Costly Grace.
Nobody said it was going to be easy; they didn’t even say it would be worth it. They just said it’s what you have to do. No blame, no excuses – just do the work.