Friday, September 14, 2012

A Testimony to Imperfection

Because the relief of pain is built into its perception, I search within and remember when:
     I did not use my power;
     I did not see;
     I resisted change;
     I was afraid of excitement;
By these admissions I ask for the help that I long for, the cure that I need, and the insight to change.

Life is fluid. When we put up barriers to its native motion, life tends to overflow, to flood, to destroy. Maybe it is human nature to hoard life, to try and imprison it so we do not face loss. In the same way we tend to hoard love, to erect safe houses to contain love, to build structures around our hearts to keep love in - and sometimes to wall love out. By confining the flow, we rob life and love of their inherent power. We become misers, clinging to what we feel we cannot live without; people, memories, behaviors, feelings. Because we are unwilling to spend or share what we hoard we cannot benefit from it. We cannot enjoy it. The very thing that we love builds up in turbulent weight behind whatever dam we've created to hold it back, until the barrier breaks and we are washed away.

We are left standing on a flood-plain of devastation, picking through mud-slick ruins and searching for what we once treasured. But the truth is that we placed value in externals - we laid up our treasures in the wrong places. We gave away our own sense of worth - we placed value in others and forgot to value ourselves. We are taught that we should always put ourselves last but we fail to recognize that when we devalue ourselves, we are devaluing the image of God that we carry at our core. Christ admonished us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We forget the second part of that commandment and buy into the idea that if we devalue ourselves we are somehow doing God's will. Christ's words call for a balance within us - a healthy amount of self-love from which we can recognize that our neighbors share our humanity and so are worthy of respect and kindness. If we cannot value our own humanity, how then shall we value that of another? We violate our own worth and because this creates emptiness, we struggle to fill that emptiness - with love, life, work, or excitement; with sex, food, drugs, or alcohol; we lay up the treasures that these things bring us until our walls are finally broken and we are drowned by the deluge of what we could not release.

We violate that which is Eternal when we violate ourselves; for our failures of truth we ask for honesty and courage:
     For acting out of fear of looking at ourselves deeply and honestly;
     And for using honest self-examination as a substitute for changing ourselves.
     For paralyzing ourselves by thinking we could not change;
     And for using these prayers as a substitute for real change.

There comes a time when we awaken to ourselves and realize that there is no substitute for change. We discover what it is we must release because it is the thing without which we cannot imagine life. For some of us it may be an addiction, for others, a person - a belief - a behavior. We struggle with the knowledge that we must let go. We grieve while we still possess whatever it is that owns us. We try to imagine living without it and we can't, or if we can, that future life seems pale and purposeless. But here we are, crushed by the weight of that which we once treasured, in a desolate landscape overrun with what we once loved. We must change, lest we die.

We go through the process of excision; we separate ourselves from what we believe sustains us. We find a new sustenance within ourselves, a well of strength from which we draw. We go about the work of restoring and repairing our lives. We bring order from the chaos. In the wreck we often find sparkling bits of treasure that remind us of what it was we loved. We rescue these from the mud, clean them carefully and place them on a shelf. These relics of the past form a crooked road-map that helps us know exactly where we are today.

We evade that which is Eternal when we evade ourselves; for our failures of truth we ask clear vision:
     For those times I turned a deaf ear on the cries of children;
     And for those times I turned a deaf ear to the small child within me.
     For those times when I believed that I was alone and there was no point in reaching out to others;
     And for those times when I believed that my temporary helplessness was permanent.
     In recalling this pain I experience it, I heal it, and I commit myself to replacing it with joy in the coming year.
We learn to be present in the now - the past is worth an occasional glance, and the future is a place of hopes that are yet unborn. This moment we are in is what we have; this body we own is where we live. We accept that confining life does not allow us to live abundantly. We understand that only by releasing that which we love can we ever truly have it. We learn that truth is worth more than illusions of happiness and that those who cannot love us when we are true cannot love us at all. We accept; we understand; we let go. Life becomes too big to contain behind walls. Our hearts - our souls - grow proportionately. We live.

(Words in italics are taken from Appetites: On the Search for True Nourishment, by Geneen Roth - they are listed by the author as being taken from the Al-Chayt, which is a testimony to human imperfection.)