Saved in this mind, like a box of crucifixion nails, are hundreds of shards of spiritual encouragement. Their context is mostly lost, but their bright, effective sharpness remains. Once I saved them as a means of creating support and 'wisdom,' stuff to 'understand' and find 'meaning' in ... cozy buttressing systems like those found in temples or august texts.
But now there are only remnants -- sharp as scalpels floating lazily in some balloon that lacks gravity ... floating, floating, floating. Should any one of them touch the edges of this universe, the entire universe would explode in the subsequent crucifixion.
This morning, for example, two encouragements (or was it one?) written centuries apart floated up out of the box of crucifixion nails. One appeared in the 20th century in a book called "The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment" by Thaddeus Golas.
"When you learn to love hell, you will be in heaven."
A nifty fortune cookie. "Sage" and so forth. A book-seller. A belief-maker. And as such, about as useful as a fart in a wind storm. But when taken as a personal matter ... the nail is sharp.
The other -- a mere fragment -- was written in the 12th century by the Zen teacher Ta Hui. The phrase was part of a letter to a lay student: "... Stop praying for relief."
Stop praying for relief? Which among us has ever come to spiritual endeavor without a fervent, sometimes blood-curdling, prayer for relief? Buddhism, Christianity, Islam ... is any one of them exempt? Everyone wants heaven. No one wants hell. Everyone wants relief.
Of course it is easy to write off Ta Hui's observation as more tough-guy Zen wisdom. You know ... all those Zen teachers were hard as nails, unremitting, never giving an inch ... they were tougher than I'll ever be so I can store their nails in the back room and put 'understanding' and 'meaning' out front like Teddy bears.
And then one day the willingness evolves ... bring on the crucifixion nails because it's the only thing that makes any honest sense. This isn't masochism. This is something like determination -- a recognition that there is no escape.
"Stop praying for relief."
Get over yourself with your heavens and hells.
Really -- stop praying for relief and see what happens.