Tough Love? Because most readers will find the contents of this post confronts their comfort-zone. Like happened here when I first encountered these notions. I won’t be surprised if you unfollow this blog, but I’d nonetheless love to think that you’ll take a look for yourself. For yourself. For. Yourself.
When you open your newsfeed and scroll through the week’s latest instalment of tragedy and brutality, you are observing the carnage wrought by faith and hope.
Faith and hope are two words sagely trotted out by both traditional and new age purveyors of fixes for the human condition. They feature large in the Christian Bible, and slip easily off our politicians’ tongues at times of crisis. “Only have faith!” “Defend the faith!” “Trust (have faith in) our democratic processes!” “Hope is our salvation …”
We are warned about “losing faith” or “losing hope” as though such absence will lead us to the top of a slippery slope and the inevitable descent into despair.
My teachers were strict. They demanded that every word employed be fully understood in all its implications. They would incisively question words that fed the illusion of separation, or that implied a ‘self’ solid and separate from the all-containing movement of creation. They had no time for those who counselled one to have faith, to hope, or to trust, because each of these positions betrays a desire for a self-satisfying outcome, a result that will bring relief, comfort, security or improvement in the life of the supplicant – or in the world they perceive to be faulty. They pointed out that these words, and others like time, need and want, are just more names for the illusory self, which is the root cause of all violence and suffering. They dismissed those who enthused about the merits of such attitudes with ruthless compassion: “Please come back when you want nothing but the Real.”
And I have grokked this so deeply it actually hurts my heart to hear people tell themselves they only need more faith or hope or trust (or compassion or understanding, or even time) to embody “the peace that passeth all understanding”, when it is the very abandonment of these notions that will throw them into a ‘me’-shattering, heart-melting intimacy with Life. An intimacy that makes future outcomes irrelevant, for the future is seen to be as illusory as the present (a dreaming streaming of perceptions, imagination, and ceaseless commentary); an intimacy that brings the mind unconditional peace and rest.
Let’s get the crucial questions lined up and check them out for ourselves:
Where can the one who needs to have faith (in any ideology) and hope (in any imagined outcome) be found? Be very precise. Where is the world to be found? Again – precision please. Where are disharmony, violence and tragedy to be found?
If you suggest they are all in the mind, tell me, where is one’s mind to be found?
If you can locate any of these, or anything else, outside of your fundamental awareness, you’ll be the first in the entire history of humanity to do so. And you’ll be wrong, because no matter where you stick the pin, it will still be a gesture occurring exclusively in the awareness that you are.
Gertrude Stein put it pithily: “There is no there there.”
If there is no place or time, or me or them, apart from the awareing of them, what does that do to ‘our relationship’ with the streaming shimmering dance we call world? Does it even make sense to speak of ‘relationship’ (which again implies separation), or is there only the streaming shimmering dance, dancing?
What are the implications of that mindshift?
Where is the brutality? The tragedy? The heroism? The suffering? It is nowhere but here, and it is all ours; it is all us – busily entertaining robotic thoughts and believing them to be real.
On the other side of faith and hope there’s a spaciousness that knows exactly how to respond to anything it meets with intense appropriateness. It’s a movement without a centre – without a trace of conditioning, without the burden of memory. We have all experienced it.
Let us rest in that spacious stillness, alert and awake, and see what Life will do with us. It might be something shocking, something we’d never imagine for ourselves. That will be a good indication of its authenticity.
I’ll meet you there.
In a similar vein, something I wrote in 2009 on ‘this unlit light’ blog:
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men’s hands
even at the height of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound.