My next-door neighbor, Joe, is off to Kenya tomorrow to lend a hand with the orphans who are sometimes stricken with AIDS ... and are, even without such an illness, stricken in a stark land.
When I asked Joe how he felt about going, he said he was looking forward to it ... and a bit nervous. Utterly new surroundings, a language he doesn't speak, a poverty that does not fit comfortably into his relatively-comfortable, pink, suburban lifestyle. Joe is risking a change of mind and heart, which is not much of a big deal, perhaps, until you actually try it.
Sometimes I wonder what good spiritual endeavor is worth without the risk. True, Joe is a Christian, so that's some impetus. And Buddhists can talk about risking the ego ... or words to portray putting things pretty much on the line. But there are plenty of people, religious and otherwise, who live as if risk were not part and parcel of their lives.
In college, when I shot a lot of billiards, my favorite partner/competitor was Keith, a guy who would say to me as I would to him, "No guts, no blue chips." In poker, the blue chips are worth the most. Risking a difficult and dangerous shot came with the territory of the game -- a game we both enjoyed and therefore played.
Spiritual endeavor -- a game many may enjoy and some may play. But at what level and to what end? Accolades from others, spiffy vestments, awards on occasion, virtue heaping up like sawdust at the mill, compromises on behalf of what is "good?" People play as they may, but ....
No guts, no blue chips.