Tuesday, June 12, 2012

reaching for the stars

In the broom closet of the mind, back behind the mops and buckets and other cleaning paraphernalia, perhaps there is a slender tool, uncertain as to use, that bides its time. It seems to swing into action when something needs doing or some desire refuses to be stilled ... the hope, the wish, the prayer that no effort will be required, that somehow what is longed for will, as an expression of selfless beneficence, just come to fruition or be handed over as a mother hands her six-year-old a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch ... like magic.

In spiritual life that slender tool might be expressed as a wispy, wistful hope that if all else fails, somehow, shazzam, the core benevolence of spiritual life will settle peace and happiness around the shoulders of the petitioner.

Pundits may scoff at this slender tool: If you don't make an effort, what meaningful result could you possibly expect? Nuthin' for nuthin'. But I think it is better to treat this slender tool with affection and understanding. Laziness won't work, it's true, but look at the number of people who treat spiritual life as nothing more than a quid pro quo, constantly brushing off their epaulettes of long and devoted service, constantly nagging themselves and others: "Without effort, it's meaningless bullshit."

Quid pro quo -- do this, get that; put out the effort, win the reward. And all the time, at the back of the broom closet full of effort-stoked equipment, there stands the slender tool of all those who believe their own beliefs: Somehow the benevolence sought will magically descend ... mom will kiss it and it will be all better... since God is true, nothing is required of me... if enlightenment is inescapable, maybe I'll walk around some corner and ... Santa will have placed a bicycle under the tree because... well, just because Santa is Santa.

Just because effort is required does not mean the outcome is assured. Effort will produce some result, certainly, but what result is entirely unknown. And still, a spiritual life without effort is like a holster without a pistol.

Without effort, it's meaningless bullshit.

But then the dime begins to drop: Without effort, it's meaningless bullshit and with effort it's also meaningless bullshit. Contrary to popular opinion, bullshit does not require a meaning. It's just bullshit and there's no reason not to acknowledge it, step in it, grow daisies with it ... whatever.

The slender tool sits in the back of the broom closet ... what if I just got what I wanted without lifting a finger?

What if I was right all along and the mistakes were not mistakes at all?

If you really want to reach the stars, you have to stop reaching.

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