Approaching the Cross

The Christian faith, properly understood, is not a faith in Jesus Christ, but the faith of Jesus Christ. This faith is the willingness to act on the basis of trust that the submission of the Self to the greater good, the sacrifice of the Self for the well-being of others, the extension of one’s Self for the growth of other people, that is Love, is the highest purpose of life and that it is connected to a greater order in the universe than what is readily perceptible at this basic level of carbon-based biological existence. It is the willingness to act on the basis of the trust that deep in the laws of the universe, the math works out in the end if one lives this way. That it is not the squandering of one’s life, but the fulfilling of one’s eternal purpose, disconnected from the temptations of the Ego in the here and now, the illusion that the Self must be elevated in order to survive.

What the Christ taught, and moreover lived, was this humility–“and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

We are called to place our faith in this example, in the hopeful imitation of this divine person, who embodied all of the traits we would ascribe to godliness. All we must do is take up our own Crosses and follow in his path.

But we must first approach the Cross in order to take it up. Good Friday invites us to approach the Cross in all earnestness, to look upon it and contemplate its significance in our own individual journey of purification and deification. What we see when we look upon the Cross first is the Christ’s body draped across its beams, his pierced side, the crown of thorns upon his head. If we stop there, we might miss the point. If we stop there, if we merely marvel at his sacrifice, we might indeed be completely astray in our understanding of why he is there.

Instead, we must imagine ourselves in his place. What kind of heart would I have to have to put myself there? What kind of intentions would need to emanate from my soul to voluntarily go up myself, to endure all of that pain, to feel that separation from everyone and everything, to endure betrayal by my friends, to wonder at the last moment if I had made a massive mistake that I couldn’t undo, and in all of that, find the grace to forgive my executioners and the cheering masses?

It is difficult to imagine that I would do the same. I would want to do the same, but would I? If I’m truly honest with myself, I don’t think I would. But I want my soul converted into the type of soul that would. This is what Kierkegaard understood as the Christian vocation–that is, the call to become Christian. This is what Orthodox Christianity means by theosis or divinization, the process of the Man becoming Divine by following the way of the Cross.

But as I make my approach to the Cross, I wonder, “if I did the same thing, would I really gain as much as Christ did?” If I could be so remembered, then it would be easy, wouldn’t it? My Ego clings to the allure of the lasting memory. Yet when Christ made this sacrifice, he had no such guarantee, no precedent. Only faith. This is the faith of Christ.

Consequently, there is no clear and literal instruction about how this ultimate act of self-effacement is supposed to play out in each of our individual lives. We are not necessarily called to a literal physical death as the sacrifice, though that may be the case for some. But death is not the worst fate, depending on who you are. And so the example must be taken viscerally. What is there in my life that if I were asked to give it all up for the sake of other people, that the request would make me recoil? This is where the Christian faith must take me. This is where the process of becoming Christian leads.

It is terrifying. The horrific, violent, bloody symbol of the Cross is the only proper representation of the faith of Christ, because the process of becoming Christian is a painful, lifelong endeavor that is never completed. It is a difficult process of stripping away every remaining low desire until only that which is Holy is wanted. This means the complete and total death of the Self and the Ego.


With St Paul, may we ever meditate “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Rend Your Heart

“Rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and relenting from evil.” (Joel 2:13)

As we approach the beginning of Holy Week and the end of Lent, I have been reflecting on this passage, one of the Lenten prefaces of Morning Prayer in the Anglican prayer book. The commandment to rend our hearts and not our garments is, I believe, the operative part of the verse, and is critical to a deeper understanding of repentance and forgiveness in Christian life. Consistently throughout the scriptures, old and new, the preoccupation of the prophets, the apostles, and Christ himself, is with the interior life of the child of God over and above the exterior life.

This admonition is part of this consistent theme. When we sin–that is, when we fall short of our potential to walk the way of the Cross in imitation of the Archetype–and when we feel remorse for it, it is much easier to make an external show of repentance than to internally repent. It is easier to make a scene, so to speak.

Imagine somebody being confronted with a grave wrongdoing going into hysterics and ripping their shirt from their body. Uninitiated bystanders might be amazed and such behavior, perhaps even thinking that it indicated some profound spiritual realization. But it would seem, by Joel’s instructions, to be a counter-indication of genuine repentance. It might be an indication of genuine remorse, but remorse and repentance are different things.

I recall as a child being told that repentance was not just feeling sorry, but feeling sorry enough not to do it again. In all of the theology I have read, there seems to be little way to improve this simple understanding. The Anglican prayers of confession petition for “true repentance” and “amendment of life,” and the two certainly go hand-in-hand. There is no true repentance without amendment of life.

And this is why Joel admonishes us to rend our hearts–the breaking down of ourselves, our core, our ego attachments and identity, at the very root, this is what is necessary for the amendment of life. Otherwise it is just a spectacle for the viewing of others, an ego-enhancing response to sin, rather than an ego-denying one.

Moreover, the rending of garments, while it may carry a minor economic cost, bears no personal cost–no physical or spiritual suffering. The kind of legitimate suffering required for personal growth is absent from the mere rending of garments. It’s an attempt to acquire what Scott Peck describes as “cheap grace.” There may be some superficial catharsis in the rending of garments, but if it does not sting, if it does not dig deep into the flesh, it will be of fleeting result.

The Way of the Cross, on the other hand, must eventually pierce one’s side. All that is flowing inside of the natural man must be purged to make way for the Resurrection of the Spirit. The rending of garments falsely pretends to remake the man from the outside-in. But the heart must be rent asunder in order for mercy and grace to fill and repair it and make us new from the inside-out.

It is a difficult saying, indeed.

Music and Life

From my journal this morning:

Turning on classical music transports me to another realm–a land of beauty and possibility. Music is timeless because it is an aesthetic derived from mathematics itself. It is a harmony deeply embedded in the nature of Nature. The operations of chemistry and biology, even physics are less pure than music. Only mathematics is perhaps more pure, but music is superior. It can be appreciated not only by all humans, but by plants and animals too. It is not necessary to understand music in order for it to inspire awe and wonder.

For this reason, it is the most Divine of all sensory experiences. It does not fail us by familiarity, as tastes or sights. It remains ever youthful, ever fresh. It yields an endless spring of joy and a limitless fountain of peace. The wonders of modern technology reached their apex in the ability to deliver at near zero cost what was previously only accessible to Royals and the exceedingly wealthy.

Should I be forced to choose between sight and hearing, I should at once surrender my sight if but for the chance to hear Biebl’s Ave Maria in the hour of my death. I should wish for my last moments of consciousness to be flooded of this immeasurable beauty.

In music nothing of perfection lacks, and so our whole lives should be modeled after it. Truly great music knows when to be loud, and when to be soft. It keeps silence when needed. It is forceful and shy, dramatic and humorous, serious and playful. Music celebrates and mourns. It dances, laughs, as well as weeps. It magnifies and expresses every emotion, every state of mind. It animates every dream and consoles every disappointment.

And what is music if not motion?

All that music does is motion. Symphonies and concertos are divided into “movements.” What if we so described the periods of our lives? What if we saw our life so beautifully changing as to not get caught lingering on the last note or too eagerly anticipating a future one? The beauty and fullness of the resolution requires the preceding dissonance.

What would we think of the pianist who merely rushed to the conclusion of the phrase because the dissonance caused discomfort? What would we think of the conductor who cut the symphony short because the dissonance was just too much to bear?

Imagine the scene!

The whole orchestra in the conflict of their notes and the conductor shouts “I can’t take it!” and runs off the stage. Or worse, sets fire to the whole stage because he says the players have caused him such pain in playing their notes!

And so it is with life. The story of existence has moments of dissonance–which we call problems or pain–followed by resolution. We lose tho whole plot of the thing when we think the moments of dissonance are the totality of the symphony. The notes are already written, in some sense. The Godhead, or the Universe, or whatever you want to call it, is imagining all the possible combinations of notes in an infinite symphony unfolding all around us. We are living out one such possible combination, a combination which includes every free choice and decision we make–it’s all included in these notes. The trill, the bravado, the breathing, the accent–all up to us.

Almost all of the things that make a musical performance beautiful are up to the performer. The score is just the basis on which everything plays out. But how it is played out is up to the performer. Why complain about the score, then? Why wish it were written differently? Does it get us another score?

Should I be like the petulant critic who once asked to Mozart if he thought there were just a few too many notes?

The whole symphony is written out, and we are playing it as we choose. But we should see that some people are supposed to be repeating the inventions on the theme from the first part of the movement while others are to foreshadow the new themes of the next movement, and not see each other as enemies. The violinist shouldn’t get angry at the oboe for playing a conflicting note if that’s what’s written to be played. Maybe it’s not, maybe in rehearsal we have to talk about it.

But we should never forget we’re all playing the same symphony.

Don’t try to be the composer. You aren’t up for that job. I’m not up for that job. How can I think to rewrite the measure I’m playing now when I don’t know what measure comes next? So I must play what’s there, measure by measure, as beautifully as I can muster.

So there are just two roles for us mere mortals: conductor and player. We must practice both roles with diligence, for at times life calls us to be one and not the other.

When you find yourself as conductor, lead your orchestra through the moments of dissonance with calm confidence–show them you know it will resolve. And when you are playing, don’t focus so hard on the black ink on the page that you fail to hear the beauty you are creating with every breath.

On History and its Symbols

History is a long and tortured story of hatred, violence, racism, starvation, and misery. There are no exceptions. There are few good guys. Gandhi molested young girls. Thomas Jefferson slept with [probably raped] his slaves. Martin Luther was an anti-semite. There might have been three celibate popes in 2,000 years of church history. Name a hero, and I’ll show you a flawed person. Show me a “great nation,” and I’ll show you a group of hateful bigots.

“A celebrated people lose dignity upon closer inspection.” -Napoleon

That’s because we are all hateful, bigoted people inside. We have inherited our bigotry from thousands and thousands of years. If there is anything that truly approximates “original sin,” it is this: the lack of compassion we have for other people.

Open-minded progressive types are bigoted against people of conservative religious views. They often seethe in their anger and frustration with the ignorant. The Russians hate the gays. The Polish hate the Russians. The Muslims hate the Americans–and the Americans hate them back. The Greeks hate the Germans, the Germans hate themselves, and everybody hates the French.

The world is full of hate. Every human symbol has been used as a symbol of hatred for somebody, somewhere, sometime. Every one of them. From the Cross to every national flag. Because people do heinous things in the name of symbols. They want salvation at other people’s expense. They think that if there is a heaven, there must be a hell, and it’s their job to send somebody to it–just to keep the universe balanced. Whether that hell is here on earth or somewhere after death is an irrelevant detail. Some want their enemies to live in both. Some express their hell-lust with insidious language of “love.”

In the Genesis narrative, the story that is told after Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden is of Cain killing his brother out of envy–a grand metaphor for understanding our native impulse to react with violence against our fellow human–against our brothers and sisters for disgustingly trivial reasons.

I think envy is deeply misunderstood. It is simplistically conceived of wanting something somebody else has, but I think envy is more complex. I think envy also includes a desire to see somebody else involuntarily deprived of something they have–it may not even be a thing desired by the envious.

Historically lots of gods were involved in such envy. Some people had a god, other people wanted to take that god away. “No, no, ours is better.” Such attitudes are derived from a form of envy. People envy others’ freedom. They say “you can’t be free to be left alone to do something I won’t do because it makes me look stupid or wrong or I actually want to do it and am angry that I have imposed on myself arbitrary restrictions. So now you have to convert to my way of thinking–OR ELSE!”

Now we like to mix it up a bit. You don’t want to adopt my political views? To hell with you! [Literally]. We don’t like which piece of cloth you fly over your government buildings–you must die! You don’t eat vegan–eternal suffering to you! Your people have old symbols and remnants of something we despise–we destroy them! We have a dark spot in our history that you keep reminding us of–sanctions against you!

The thing is that the way I’ve written the foregoing paragraph, I could be writing about ISIS destroying the Palmyra shrines, the Confederate Flag controversy, the Armenian Genocide, or a whole host of other recent news headlines. Today, if you go to Washington D.C.’s Dulles International Airport, you can see the Enola Gay on display–a symbol of the worst single instance mass murder in all of human history.

If all of our symbols are so full of hatred and violent past, what do we do–destroy them all?

This has been the view of every radical project of Modernity–from the French Revolution to Fascism to Communism to ISIS. Destroy every reminder of the past. Replace everything with new language and new symbols. [It is ironic to see American Christians today bemoaning ISIS’s destruction of the Palmyra shrines, which were built to none other than the Old Testament idol Ba’al.]

This doesn’t seem to be a positive way forward. The cultural heritage of the past–regardless of what it represents–should be preserved in some way as a reminder of where we have come from, and why we don’t want to go back. There was no golden age in the past where people were virtuous and life was idyllic. None.

The Coliseum represents slavery too, and a brutality anathema to modern sensibilities, yet [I hope] nobody is calling for it to be torn down as an offensive symbol.

Here we arrive at our problem. Should we display the Enola Gay, but not the Confederate Flag? Should we tear down the Palmyra shrines and the Coliseum?

There appear to be no clear or easy answers.

If it were up to me, the Confederate Flag would come down, and the Enola Gay would be displayed with photos and stories of the evil perpetrated by the American government against thousands upon thousands of Japanese civilians. The Coliseum and the shrines, and the Buddhas in Afghanistan would all be preserved because we have so few old things left in this world, evidence and reminder that we humans have been doing things for a little while–a very short while admittedly–that we have been coping with this thing called existence in different ways, and we still haven’t figured it out.

Maybe I’m wrong though. Maybe I’ve arbitrarily drawn the line in the wrong place. That’s the thing–it’s not simple to draw the line. There’s no right place to draw it. So wherever we draw it, we have to do so with humility and respect–especially respect for people we vehemently disagree with. Respect for precisely those people who in our genuinely honest moments we would say “the world would be better off without them.” Because we have to inhabit this planet with each other, and we aren’t doing a terribly good job of it.

But what we shouldn’t do is look at any of these past symbols of violence and bigotry and say “look how far we’ve come.”

We haven’t really. We are still so hateful to each other. So bigoted. So cruel.

I literally weep almost every day, scrolling through my Facebook feed because of this cruelty. From ISIS drowning people in cages to Baptist preachers lustfully envisioning the lake of fire for gay people to Donald Trump spewing filth about Latin American immigrants to the way people interact with one another in the comments to all of these things. I weep at the fact that I myself spent so much of my life with these same cruel intentions and feelings toward so many of my fellow humans. I weep at the fact that all too often I react with unthinking cruelty to perceived offenses.

There is a difference of scale between these things, but essentially they are the same, with the same roots, and can lead only to the same outcome–poisoning ourselves and each other.

“A man is not called wise because he talks and talks again; but if he is peaceful, loving and fearless then he is in truth called wise.” –Gautama Buddha

“A great nation is like a great man: When he makes a mistake, he realizes it. Having realized it, he admits it. Having admitted it, he corrects it. He considers those who point out his faults as his most benevolent teachers. He thinks of his enemy as the shadow that he himself casts.” –Lao Tzu

“O Almighty! May there be Peace! Peace! Everywhere!” –Ishawashya Upanishad

“Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged.” –Rumi

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” –Jesus of Nazareth

My final thought is this: whatever we do with our symbols of hate from the past, let us strive to cease creating new ones in the present.

Time, the Rolling Stream

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

-Isaac Watts

A year is not a year.

-Venkatesh Rao

No question vexes me more each day of my life than the question of time and our mortal relationship to it. I last wrote about this issue three years ago to the day, which was my 29th birthday. That day could be said to be the most critical turning point in my life, the day that I decided–to borrow Emerson’s words–not to postpone my life, but live it already. I decided not to wait until circumstances were ideal to begin what I have long thought of as my life’s real mission. I decided not to wait until I had enough money, the right people, the right support. I decided not to straddle the fence of my calling anymore, but do what I couldn’t imagine myself not doing.

As Andrew Marvell wrote to coy mistress, I heard “Time’s winged chariot hurrying near,” and was determined to outrun it, even if for a short while. If I had known then the events that would unfold as a consequence of that truly fateful decision, I would have flinched–I would have hesitated. One of the blessings of human finitude is that we cannot peer into the future–we can barely peer into the past. We have only about three seconds at a time that we can live in the present and everything else is warped recollection or speculative fantasy. Thus, I did not have the opportunity to flinch. 

Primitive man, fleeing into the forest from a larger predator likewise could not foresee the snake or the spider in front of him due to the feeling of the warm breath of the lion behind. Likewise I ran away from the specter of death’s pursuit and into a forest riddled with snakes and spiders. The lion intends to eat us all–the snake bite merely needs urgent attention when it occurs. When we fully embrace the reality that time, like that ever rolling stream will bear us away too, we must resolve to act, to do something in the world, to make something of ourselves. 

Three years ago I was angry with myself for all of the time I had lost, all of the time I had wasted chasing things I didn’t care about in order to be thought highly of by people I didn’t respect and prove myself to people whose standards were not my own. Even as I had had the courage to strike out on my own and do my own thing from the time I finished university, I was merely taking a personalized path to someone else’s finish line. This may be the singularly most pernicious unacknowledged disease in entrepreneurial culture today. At the end, too many entrepreneurs are vying to win the same phallic measurement competition as the rest of the world, and are sacrificing their calling–and often their principles–in the process.

I was angry with myself for another reason, too–for all of the years I had lost not pursuing the kind of deep personal relationships and connections that can only be forged in and through the process of building real community. A life full of only fractured relationships, with no sources of healing, no mutual commitment to reconciliation is nothing more than a torture, and yet, we accept it as normal. So normal in fact that we fear the alternative–we look upon relationships characterized by honesty and acceptance with some degree of suspicion–even “too good to be true.”

I realized that most existential suffering in life is derived from these two phenomena–doing work that is out of alignment with our calling and broken relationships with other people. From within this personal hell and its attendant pain I determined to set out to do something about it, both for myself and for others. Such deep and fundamental pain can only be resolved by addressing the human spirit. It cannot be purchased or bartered for. It cannot be taught or even described. It can only be experienced–and if it is to become a new reality–practiced over and over each day. It must also be accompanied by an acceptance of a mystery, namely the mystery of the deep compatibility, even fraternity, between Self-Reliance and Community.

Only when we live truly to ourselves, embracing and loving ourselves and our uniqueness, accepting ourselves in our shortcomings and yet never losing the resolve to grow and change; only when we are clear about our individual callings and the sacrifices we have to make to pursue them–only then can we accept others for theirs. Only then can we relate to each other genuinely, without pretension or expectation or judgment. But the mystery flows in both directions, for our individual callings require the support of others to be realized fully. We need the ongoing support and influence of other people to become what we have the potential to become.

Here I do not mean superficial or two-dimensional “moral support” when we are depressed or encounter some obstacle, but a deeper, more committed form of support. We need the friction that authentic relationships engender in order to be dedicated to truth. We need to be constantly comparing our maps of reality if our understandings of the world around us are to be accurate enough to pursue and achieve our goals. We must be challenged every day by other people to maintain rigor in our lives–both in our beliefs about the world and in our interactions with it. To be open to challenge is to be open to growth–to be vigorously challenged is to grow vigorously.

We do not have these conversations very much in every day life. Questions of the “spirit” are almost taboo or off-limits, conjuring up ideas of religion or new age woo woo silliness. But the spirit need not be connoted with metaphysical claims. The spirit can be discussed without the need for heaven or God or gods or doctrine or anything else of the sort. The spirit, the mind, the psyche, whatever term one prefers to use, is the non-physical part of our existence. That part of our identity that we might not be able to easily define or explain, but we seem to know it’s there. The thing that makes me uniquely me and you uniquely you–the only truly private part of life to which only we ourselves have direct access.

You may ascribe it further, higher metaphysical qualities or merely see it as the collection of our thoughts, perceptions, and desires–it matters not your particular definition. We do not have to have the same one. Indeed, we certainly and almost by necessity cannot have the same one. We cannot even understand each other’s definitions of it fully or accurately. It is central to our existence and experience of life. And yet, we have no place where we can discuss such questions openly or honestly.

All of our institutions demand of us some sort of orthodoxy. We must believe certain things or deny certain things. We cannot wonder too openly about certain questions in intellectual circles without being deemed anti-rational. We cannot question too openly certain doctrines in religious circles without being deemed heretics. Our institutions purport to love truth, but they are less in love with its pursuit.

This is what rankles me about the movements to have “church for atheists.” It really is church. Certain ideas are ok and others are not. Just like religion.

But I also think I’m not alone in seeing that exclusive attention to the spirit and spiritual growth neglects the fact that we are not spirit and body as separate entities, but our minds exist in the context of our physical bodies in a physical reality that puts certain demands on us in order to survive. We have to eat, wear clothes, have shelter, and so on–the rubber eventually does have to meet the road.

It is easy to pursue a life of the mind in abject poverty. It is easy to pursue a life of wealth and pleasure in abject poverty of mind. But the full experience of life is only achieved with a complex and nuanced understanding of the deep interplay between the physical and the spiritual. 

Everybody understands this at some level, whether they acknowledge it or not. Everybody feels impoverished by the inadequacies of one or two dimensional living–the ignored calling, the broken relationships, the lack of contemplation, the dearth of action.

Even in the most ideal of circumstances it is difficult to pursue all of these things. It is nearly impossible to do alone. Ultimately this is why I founded Exosphere–to have a place to pursue these things with other people. I wake up every morning dedicated to the work to make it become a force for social change the world over. The world has had too many small ideas in recent years. It is time for a big one.

That brings me to my other thought on Time. While it is certainly the case that death comes to all, and Time is its agent, the most important development in thought I have had in the last three years, is that we have a lot of control over how Time comes to collect its due. I am forever indebted to Venkatesh Rao for his book Tempo, and for his insights on time in general and in particular that “a year is not a year.”

All of my anguish over lost years, my own Proustian search for lost time has fallen away by understanding the power of narrative time. Indeed, the last year of my life has felt longer (in a good way) than the other 10+ years of my adult life combined. I have experienced more, achieved more, and seen more facets of my work grow organically and unaided by me in 12 months than in the previous 120, far more than I thought possible. We can indeed make up for lost time. We can reclaim those “wasted” years, but we have to think about time differently. 

We have to understand our experience of time and reality with new intentionality to maximize whatever literal units of time we have left to live. Since few of us know that number, we can construct for ourselves new narratives that will allow us to experience more, achieve more, and most importantly, enjoy more life than we may even have left. 

We can cheat death, even if we cannot escape it. 

We cannot reverse the flow of the ever-rolling stream, but we can row against its current. 

For all of you who are rowing with me at Exosphere, thank you for your support, for helping me grow, and strengthening me to be more than I could ever have been on my own. We have countless not-years ahead of us to keep disturbing the universe, and I know I couldn’t possibly be in better company.

A Sad Song

The heart understands not its void
Incessant seeking
Expecting deliverance
Dangerous assumption.

Soaring hope near-touches the moon
Misses by a thread
And the longed-for embrace
Is grasping for shadows.

Enigmatic, impenetrable
The Soul resists capture
Though enemies besiege
Though lovers assail.

The rib may be shared,
But an eternal flame
Burns not from two wicks–
A Soul in captivity perishes

Like a Lion once caged
Roars in despair,
Not deadly but dead,
Living, but no longer alive.

Infinite consciousness
Bound in finite shackles:
Fear, envy, the self-awareness
Of Adam; shame in nakedness.

Sing me a melody, a song
Of a Soul enthroned in flesh
Abiding deeply in gentle repose
Finding nothing, already found.

Sing me with harmony, a song
Of that Soul’s light
Emanating in every direction
Finding everything, renewed.

Bolted gate and shuttered door
Open not easily
With grievous knocking,
The pathetic love-song


Of a half-souled beggar
Though adorned with silver
Thinks himself poor, in need.
He wails in the streets.

Bolt and shutter fall away
When hawkish observance abates
As the fairies of the wood dance
When watchers avert their gaze.

The Soul’s programmed disease
Is psychosomatic–
A phantom emptiness
Though nothing was amputated.

The tiniest threads ensnare
Until She arrives for dinner–
Venomous desires,
Deadliest appetizers.

Stones lie restless in a river bed
Mountain boulders look down

Particle Kings reigning over
Dry stones and fossil hearts:
Slumbering Souls,
Suicide victims.

Pursuing and Relinquishing

The pursuit of one’s calling in life requires a constant process of letting go. Many of life’s possibilities are incompatible with my calling, and others are incompatible with yours. The ongoing effort of discernment is the way in which we discover these incompatibilities, and the work of depression is the labor required to let go of them. 

But each time we let go of such an incompatibility, even though there is first pain, it is followed by intense relief, for it is a realization that we no longer have to worry about it. It no longer needs to cloud our judgment or figure into our already difficult calculations about how to allocate our time and mental energy.

To achieve our full potential in life, to do what only we can do, we must let go of so many things. We must mourn their loss over and over, without lingering in our mourning. Then we must rejoice in the clarity and freshness that follows the dark cloud of the work of depression. For who I am and who I am to become is made perfect by shedding anything that is who I am not, and which makes me into what I am not meant to become.

You are the embodiment of the qualities required to produce a Mozart or an Einstein, but are held down by the attempt to retain or gain qualities that are not. Mozart was not Mozart because he was special. Mozart was Mozart because he was nothing else than Mozart. He did not endeavor to be Caesar or Da Vinci, but removed all of the half-formed qualities of Caesar and Da Vinci which prevented him from being fully and only Mozart!

What we could be, in the minds of others, is a fixed idea based on an only partial and incomplete perception of our talent, a dim peek into the cavernous depths of our soul which reveals little true and honest insight to the observer.

Yet how much stock do we put in the opinions of the observer? How much do we judge ourselves against such alien measures? How much do we injure ourselves with the broken shards handed to us by other imperfect, struggling beings who can barely manage themselves? If we do not let go of these expectations, if we do not drop these jagged shards, we bleed ourselves to death trying to please one and all.

Let go of all that is outside of you. Far from the vanity of solipsism, the search inside of your own soul is the antidote to vanity, for it is the ultimate repudiation of any concern for how you appear to others or what they might think of you. Only when we succeed in such a repudiation can we truly also be present to others as a healing force for their lives and their pain.

It is not, however, a permanent state of affairs, for our nature is inconstant and indiscreet. The cheap reward of external approval is always in the offing, and it lures us away from the deep reward of what springs eternally from within.

If we hide within ourselves, we will be robbed of everything human. If we seek outside ourselves, we lose our identity, that ungraspable quality that makes us unique in all the ages of man.

Let go of the need to please others, and you shall be gracefully pleasing at all times and in all places. Let go of the need to imitate others, and you shall imitate the greatest souls who have ever lived. Let go of the need for perfection and you shall help to perfect the world.

Let go of every fear which immobilizes you, for when you fear you are guaranteed to suffer at least once. With fear you suffer all the pain of the worst possible outcome even before it happens. With courage you suffer at most once, and only when the worst comes to pass.

The stern courage to be you, to pursue your calling to the exclusion of other callings is the wellspring of any lasting joy, any persistent peace you can hope to find in this mortal life. Find that courage and make it your chief counselor, your ultimate confessor, so that you might not falter under the weight of doubt, or be conquered by a new genesis of fear.

The soul of the world is calling, and the answer to that call is inside of you. Ready yourself within, and proclaim that answer without–every remaining day of your life.

The Truth Shall Set You Free

There is only one reality.

Whether we are dedicated to an increased, enhanced understanding of it is the chief determinant of our ability to grow and progress in life. To do so requires ultimate humility. It requires us to relinquish claims to having our own truth or our own reality. It means we must live in the same reality as everybody else around us.

It means we must subordinate our interpretations of reality to an ethic of uncertainty. Dedication to reality does not necessitate that we subordinate our dreams and desires to those of others, but it means we must craft them in a way where coexistence and community with others is possible. The ethic of uncertainty allows us to do this without doing unnecessary harm to our identities.

Whenever our identity is impermeable, however, we will do whatever it takes to preserve even the most absurd notions.

Truth sets us free from our absurdities. Truth sets us free from unrealistic expectations. Truth sets us free from all of the things that hold us back from love, peace, and self-actualization.

This is a paradox. We must first sacrifice our rigid identity in order to emerge into an authentic identity. Only when we have humbled ourselves can we actualize all of our possibilities. Like a fruit tree requires pruning, so do our egos.

We reach Truth through self-reflection, to be sure. But the more powerful and effective path to truth is friction with other people and in the cooperative sharing of our “maps” of reality with other people. Through friction and cooperation we are able to acquire better and better information about reality and our unique places in it.

Few people are truly open to this process. It is threatening. It means we must be vulnerable. It means we must disarm ourselves instead of engaging in an arms race of ego that prevent us from relating to other people and building community with them.

Don’t deprive yourself of the opportunity to see the world as it is. Don’t shrink from friction with other people. Embrace others, their differences and all.

Nobody else can do it for you.

The Suffering Matrix



The following is my proposed lens through which to view suffering. The two axes are Voluntary/Involuntary and Legitimate/Illegitimate, forming four types of suffering. I will be writing an extensive exposition of this at some point (hopefully I will get around to it somewhat soon), but I wanted to go ahead and post this to start soliciting comments and thoughts on the subject. This is a by-product of the curriculum development I am doing for Exosphere.
Suffering Matrix

A Prayer for Divine Sensitivity



O Spirit of God,

That didst hover in darkness over the waters that covered the shapeless world,
Thou Eternal Soul and Source of all life, all love, and goodness,
Quicken my heart to Thy vibrations, that I may hear without ears and see without eyes
Thy sovereign movements in and through all creation,
Thou who dost connect the alienated lives of this mortal existence through Love;
That I, one of the alienated may find rest from my travails in the feeling of unconditional compassion
Shown to us wounded men, through the sharing of wounds and the breaking of bread.
Open my being to the vulnerability of others, that I may be an instrument of healing and whole-making,
And that in so doing wouldst myself be healed and made more whole.
If Thou wouldst but grant me the sensitivity to hear the cries for help of my fellows,
And the courage to cry out in my own distress without fear of being weak.
As Thou made the void infinitely full at the foundations of the earth,
So I plead to you, O Spirit, fill full the void in my heart, and the hearts of all Thy sons and daughters,
That we would not, in our finitude, tear each other down with unreasonable expectations of fulfillment.
O Divine Fount, we all yearn to belong, to come home, to love, and be loved,
And we beseech Thee, grant us the fortitude to humble ourselves perpetually with one another
And create in each of our hearts the space for others to belong, to be at home, and to be loved
So we might ever mirror Thy eternal embrace–
Thou Fundamental Essence of All Existence.



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