Tag Archives: ego

The Rush of Insanity and Its Telltale Signs

If one is wondering how to make sense out of the patterns of violence, vengeance, venality and vanity vibrating across our planet, it will help to spot the nature of the addictive personality in operation beneath all of these patterns.  The addictive personality comes in a wide assortment of flavors, colors and disguises but is rooted in the same soil of insanity.  If it were unmasked one would see that the addictive personality always pursues self-aggrandizement and social approval from at least some group meaningful to that personality (if it cannot win approval from all people).  To the addictive personality, the rush of winning social approval overrides all other considerations, even if the social approval may be short-lived and come at a great cost.  It does not weigh costs and believes that the opportunity to win more social approval will arise should previously won social approval fade.  The addictive personality, aka Ego, moves from one rush-promising opportunity to the next without looking to either side for perspective beyond the single-minded goal of immediate gratification of its craving for the rush.

In addition to its purpose of rush-production, the addictive personality can be spotted as it outs itself in the progressive nature of its increasingly manic pursuit of the rush.  Whatever rush first hooked it into the pursuit of that species of rush, the addictive personality will not be satisfied for long by the current level of rush it experiences.  It will become dissatisfied with the current level of rush and crave more and more rush.  Whether the rush or “high” comes from an externally acquired chemical like cocaine, heroin, meth or some other legal or illegal drug or comes from an internally acquired chemical such as adrenalin, endorphins or other bodily produced high or power trip, the addiction is chemical as well as mental, emotional, social and behavioral.  It’s a package deal.  And the package of rush-production must expand to meet the addictive personality’s demand for increasingly more intense gratification.

If you’ll examine the behaviors and statements of celebrities, drug addicts, power-wielders, law-breakers, risk-takers and others whose behaviors and attitudes you have difficulty comprehending, you’ll see a pattern that helps you see what’s going on. Watch for telltale signs of failure to appreciate the consequences of words and deeds beyond their capacity to draw the instant gratification of social approval (better yet, admiration and hero-worship) from some group — however large or small.  Watch for failure to connect the dots and display the capacity for reasoned consideration of facts, contested or otherwise.  Watch for reactions rather than responses to stimuli that the addictive personality has learned will generate a rush for which he or she has acquired a taste.  Watch for signs that the person displaying addictive qualities is personally out of control while demanding that others be controlled by external means such as force or threat of force.  Watch for signs that the person is actually confessing indirectly how much he or she hopes that someone will control him or her by external means and prevent the further progression of his or her addiction and the adverse consequences he or she sees rushing towards him or her.  The addictive personality is afraid and yet cannot admit how afraid he or she has become under the influence of the addiction within which he or she is enslaved.

Don’t assume that every addictive personality has the same acquired tastes or means and manner of enslavement.  The stimuli and means of acquiring a rush may vary on the surface while beneath the surface at the root of causation it’s the same root cause: namely, fears that have grown beyond the scope of all reason and now dominate the person’s decision-making process.  Such fears are common to us all.  The fear may be of looking foolish in the eyes of others, of losing face or social status, of failure to achieve an outcome especially desired by the person or of the unknown or strange in life.  Because the addictive personality has lost the ability to be honest about his or her emotions, he or she has also lost connection with his or her own heartfelt capacity for empathy and marches relentlessly onward towards the brink of self-destruction and destruction of others.  He or she no longer is free to see and admit to the fears that drive him or her.  He or she no longer trusts that others with whom he or she fails to see eye to eye can be reasoned with and included in the realm of trustworthy associates.  He does not trust anyone to accept the confusion that has overtaken him or her and help resolve the inner turmoil that besets him or her.  If he or she still has intimate life companions, they are likely to feel powerless to help.  He or she is more concerned about maintaining an image of success than about the reality of self-exposure as a loser of his or her grip on sanity.  Even while poised on the brink of ruin, he or she will claim the opposite is true.

Trust has broken down and the world as seen by the addictive personality is a shattered mirror reflecting back in fragments the confusion inherent in the addiction to which the person has succumbed.  Most often he or she has succumbed to some type of addiction (or dependency including codependency) unwittingly but nevertheless relentlessly one step at a time until the slippery slope of addiction/dependency has taken over and substituted itself for the person’s power of well-reasoned choices.  The addictive personality no longer even trusts himself or herself because he or she can no longer hold himself or herself accountable for being honest and is willing to use any means, no matter how dishonest, to gain the next rush to which he or she is addicted.  He or she will steal from a beloved grandmother to gain the money needed to buy the next fix or steal from the fans to gain the necessary votes to win the next election or draw the attention he or she craves.  Negative attention has become more desirable than loss of all attention and disappearance into anonymity.  It’s all the same pattern.  People who are trusting and vulnerable are considered the easiest victims to manipulate.  The addictive personality truly believes that he or she can fool all of the people all of the time.

Is he or she right?  Can he or she fool us all?  It’s really up to you whether or not he or she is right.  What you are willing to see at work beneath surface depends on your willingness to be open-minded as well as open-hearted and see with your inner vision – a vision some call intuition and others call wisdom.  If you will admit that you may be afraid of being played for a fool, then the wisdom of your honesty about that fear may release you to see more clearly whether or not the other person is actually trying to do so.

The surest way to prevent yourself from being played for a fool is to search out from within your own life the patterns of an addictive personality and do all you need to do to prevent yourself from remaining enslaved to them.  Until we examine ourselves for such patterns and admit our vulnerability to falling into them, we are all enslaved to the Matrix of such patterns and doomed to repeat them until we value freedom from them more than we value the comforts and conveniences of remaining addicted to them.

© Art Nicol 2015

Ego, The River of Life and God

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” Revelation 22:1-2 (NIV)

And then the ego set about building levies to keep the floodwaters of God’s unconditional love from running beyond the river’s banks to bring fertility to lands not privileged to border the river, about which the ego saw too little potential for self-importance and pride to bother caring.  And the ego dammed the river to divert its joyful flow into generating energy for ego-sustaining manufacturing activities and entertainment.  And the ego dumped toxic wastes into the river because it could not be bothered with recycling the byproducts of its vanity, greed, sloth, anger, lust, envy and gluttony.  And the ego crossed the sun-baked mudflats where the silt had filled in the river to harvest the fruit for a season and market it for a handsome profit, manufacture and brand high-priced drugs from the leaves to swell the well-heeled’s bank accounts and cut down the tree of life and sawed it into lumber for more luxurious homes, country estates, country clubs and yachts for the privileged class.  Then, in place of the tree but to honor its memory, the ego erected a plastic-and-stainless-steel, weather-resistant monument to itself in the middle of the mudflats and lighted it 24 hours a day with energy-saving LED bulbs to justify its claim to being eco-friendly.

And God and the Lamb sat patiently upon their thrones no less empowered to be Divine than when the river flowed freely and waited for the people of God to notice the utter foolishness of the ego and its claims to privileged status as River Monitor and Elitist Corps of Engineers.  They waited patiently for the people of God to repudiate the ego in favor of humbly returning to worship God and acknowledge the authority of the Lamb.  And upon the return of the people of God to their one true God, the River began to flow again across all territories of the Earth without regard to barriers and regulatory structures set up by the ego because the people of God provided a new, more expansive and freer flowing network of channels through which the Water of Life might flow to nurture the nations to new life and demonstrate the grace and glory of God in faithfulness to all Creation.   And the people of God bore manifold expressions of fruitfulness, yielding a sustainable and bountiful crop in all seasons that expanded year after year; and the gifted hearts and minds of the people of God were for the healing of the nations.

And then it became true as foretold of old by the Exiled One, “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.” Revelation 22:3 (NIV)

© Art Nicol 2015

Humanity at the Center of God’s Will – Part 2

God has a center or core of Being that we might most closely associate with Will.  As the Supreme Power and Story Teller, God is free to do whatever pleases God.  I submit that it always and unfailingly pleases God to have all of Divine Creation know Life’s fullest abundance in the context of Love.  God is willfully 100% committed to creating and sustaining Life within which that goal is fully satisfied.  Just as God wills to be fully God, so God wills that every expression of Life be fully free and empowered to be what God creates it to be. In short, God shares the essence of the Divine Will with every form of Life God creates.  Most if not all spiritual thought systems address the “Origin of Life” by sharing a Creation Story.  The key common point in each of those stories is “God did it.”  Throughout sacred stories, the name of the God may vary but the Creator role of God remains constant. Science has substituted other stories to explain the origin of life, stories that do not give credit to an undetectable Being by any name except the Big Bang.  According to a Unified Theory of Life, “why” Life exists is a factor to consider in determining “how,” “when,” “where” and “for and through what” Life exists.  Scientific thinking has produced the illusion that the “origin of life” is a past event, a matter of history of one or another time frame long ago.

The theory of Life that I propose here includes the reality that life is still originating from God’s core (or care, the heart of God’s care power) and taking on new qualities that differentiate it from previous versions of life, even within each species, including the Human Species.  For example, in response to human needs, God creates new versions of humans capable of expressing the progress of human development more completely or of offsetting the harm caused by previous generations of humans.  For this and other reasons, I submit that we must stop judging each other as if God is no longer creating anything not observed or witnessed before.  Some of those we judge unacceptable in comparison to existing models of humanity may in fact be God’s most exquisite upgrades.  We must open our minds to the reality that God is still the Creator and actively creating originals.  The Origin of Life is still actively originating.  In fact, we’d see Life best from God’s perspective if we were to see each other as one-of-a-kind originals and stop trying to make each of us a clone or stereotype as if God has lost all originality or insist upon conformity to some uniform standard humans prefer to adopt in place of God’s prerogative to continue creating originals for God’s higher purposes than we yet know about or can acknowledge.  We need to come to grips with the question “Did God do it or is this caused by some other cause?”  So long as we insist on telling God what’s acceptable for God to create, we’re out of our orbit (as well as out of our minds and out of our position with God).  Surely the fact that we often call tragic events “acts of God” suggests how little we honor God’s true nature and how much rethinking we need to undertake.

To assist their orderly thinking and rethinking, scientists have developed “constants” to help reconcile what appeared at first to be irreconcilable anomalies observed by scientists. A list of many generally accepted scientific constants named after people appears at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientific_constants_named_after_people.  I propose that the dimensionless, non-quantifiable Divine Constant named after God is also helpful in reconciling what otherwise appear to be irreconcilable anomalies humans observe in Life.  What appear to be paradoxes to humans may not be paradoxes within the Divine Constant.  But I also propose that the Divine Constant of God is not what most religions have described it to be.  Most human religions have made the mistake of describing the nature of God in human terms and failed to take into the account the true nature of Divinity that lies beyond human understanding, no matter how advanced human understanding may appear to become (scientifically, religiously or otherwise).  As one of its primary contributions, my proposal reaches towards and points our (re)thinking in the direction of Divinity beyond current human understanding.  It assumes the existence of Divinity and the existence of a vitally essential relationship between Divinity and humanity.  Plus it assumes that this theory, like all others developed before it, is only “good as far as it goes.”  My hope and purpose in sharing this theory is to promote greater progress in humanity’s relationship with God – a going forward farther together, no longer as separately as we’ve allowed our jouney to become in modern times.  My hope is to contribute a means of rekindling a well-reasoned investment of time and energy in our faith in God as well as comparable investment in God’s faithfulness to us – all of us.

God’s constant will is that all expressions of Life know their true nature as manifestations of Divine Love.  No aspect of Life is left out of Divine Love.  However, humans have developed many theories by which to divide humanity between one part that is included in God’s favor and at least one part, often several parts, that God purportedly excludes from Divine favor.  In creating such categories of inclusion and exclusion, humans err.  We are mistaken every time we assert that God has excluded any element of Life from the Divine Constant of willfully being 100% committed to The Goal.  To help us keep in mind what this “goal” is, it may be helpful to create an acronym from the word “goal.”  I propose that G.O.A.L. stands for “God’s Ongoing Articulation of Life.”  The Divine Constant is that all of Life is included in GOAL favorably and never excluded from it.  Attempts by humans to explain how some part of God’s creation has lost its standing with God and no longer receives God’s commitment to its well-being are entirely, without exception mistaken.  Likewise, human attempts to impose on some subparts of humanity conditions under which God will favor them are mistaken.  Such human attempts are always based on human fears of aspects of humanity that seem unacceptable to those humans who fabricate their supposed explanations.  They are afraid.  They assume God is also afraid.  That is a fundamental error.  Whether a human deems himself, herself or his or her group to be superior or inferior, more favored or less favored by God, the error is the same.  We are all God’s favorite flower.  That seems impossible only because our language is limited and cannot adequately express the Divine Constant’s fullness.

God is never afraid of any aspect of Creation/Life.  Nor is God blind or unaware.  A key feature of the Divine Constant of God is vision.  God’s vision extends far beyond human vision. That the theory of Life that I am sharing here is visionary and idealistic simply reflects the nature of God’s vision and idealism and our human capacity to receive that vision and idealism if we intentionally, with patient diligence and discipline, open our hearts and minds to receive it.  Some may call me an “idealistic visionary.”  If that means anything it means that I’ve discovered how to receive a sense of God’s vision and ideals and share them as best I can.  If what I share offends some human beings, it may be because I’ve received and/or shared inaccurately. It may also mean that they are offended by God’s all-inclusive visionary Constant Will because they prefer to feel proud of some imagined preferential standing with God that does not actually exist.  I encourage those who object to my theory to examine their own hearts for the presence of pride and shame (flipsides of the same coin of ego) and identify the fears that cause their thinking to be more rigidly heartless than God’s.  May God’s Spirit of Love soften our hearts and open our minds to see as God sees and embrace divine ideals as the most promising avenue along which to walk together in peace and good will.

In all reconsiderations and extensions of past theories in light of my proposed theory, I urge thinkers to realize how the ego has trained our minds to ignore our hearts and pretend that the heart is not important, especially when compared with the mind.  The ego is prejudiced in favor of ideas and against emotions.  Why?  Because Divine Love is an idea awash with the emotion of joy that dissolves the ego entirely.  The ego has no standing before God within the Divine Constant because the ego is the Nothing in comparison to God’s Everything.  The ego is the antithesis of God’s will that no aspect of Life should suffer and that only Love infused with peace, hope and joy be known by experience.  In contrast, suffering fascinates and sustains the ego.  Because the ego feeds on suffering, it generates as much conflict to expand suffering as it can persuade humans to participate in.  The ego seeks to reduce humans to heartless automatons and clones who participate heartlessly and mindlessly (reactively) in cycles of ever-expanding conflict, violence and suffering by attacking other aspects of humanity with which we do not see eye to eye because we lack God’s vision.  When blinded by pain and enraged by grief to the point of seeking revenge, we are in no position to see as God sees or to recall to mind God’s GOAL within the Divine Constant.  In such blindness we lose our way.  We stray outside the Divine Constant in search of an alternative and seek to justify exercising our will in a manner contrary to God’s will that all Life be honored within the Divine Constant.  In our quest to justify our plans for vengeance, we may even invoke God’s name as if God has changed the Divine Constant. That too is error.  The Divine Constant remains resolutely true to itself even when we may disagree with it most vehemently.

God’s will is the opposite of the ego’s rage-motivated revenge. God seeks instead to show humans how to rely upon divinely defined forgiveness as our lens through which to look upon and appreciate the full diversity of human authenticity.  Through this lens of nonjudgment, God invites us to see all things (including widely diverse expressions of humanity) reconciled within the Divine Constant, regardless of how far afield from the Divine Constant some elements of the human race may stray.  The ego points us in the direction of becoming increasingly heartless and cruel in tearing ourselves apart in cycles of self-condemning violence that spiral in upon themselves.  As the alternative to ego, God draws us by Divine Magnetism in the direction of increasingly recovering our wholehearted enthusiasm for Life and our natural desire to join God within the Divine Constant as an expression of God’s will that we live together as a single unified Divine Species at the center of a Creation filled with a full Spectrum of Species.  Humanity is the rainbow through which God seeks to shine forth all of who God is as a Being of Grace fully capable of carrying the human race far beyond cycles of vengeful violence – if we’ll allow ourselves to be carried away in that trusting manner.  We are the arc of Divine History written from the perspective of Eternity.  But the pen and paper (or digitizing mechanism) must cooperate with the Author, Director and Composer if the Sacred Story is ever to unfold as it is told.  A human species crippled by pain and blinded by rage makes a poor medium for revealing the Sacred Story of the Divine Constant.

God is not blind and never will be blind.  God is eternally visionary – the light by which we may see Life accurately.  Although God designed humanity (the Human Species) to be a single, unified and integrated expression of the Ultimate Divine, we have become so engulfed in the modern world fabricated by scientific thinking that we’ve all but entirely lost our capacity for vision.  In place of our native capacity for inner sight, we’ve substituted physical sight oriented towards the physical world around us and shut down inner sight and other inner senses.  We’ve substituted for all of our inner senses an orientation to the outer – for all practical purposes to the exclusion of the inner.  If we listen at all, we listen to and heed messages outside of us rather than messages deep inside.  We turn all our senses externally to the exclusion of our deepest, most serene and joyfully heartfelt inner world (which, as adults, we’ve often forgotten entirely so well adjusted to ego’s angry, competitive orientation have we become!).  In this manner, we allow the fear-based, anger-perpetuating egos of others to imagine and present through multiple media a non-unified world of terror and suffering to which we must learn to adjust instead of imagining for ourselves a unified world of love, healing and sustainable health for all forms of Life within which we are empowered to co-create more Life as collaborators within the Divine Constant.  In this and other ways, we’ve misdirected the use of our sacred imagination and forsaken our own capacity for sharing God’s vision and expressing Divine idealism as elegant, effective and exalted integrity.

Under the influence of ego as enhanced and entrenched by scientific thinking – and while imagining (as ego counsels us to do) that fear is the dominant power in the Universe – we’ve opted to participate in relentless, increasingly more pervasive and destructive dismantling of life in defiance of God’s Divine Design.  We’ve mistakenly pulled ourselves out of Life’s Integrative Equation and stifled the flow of energy by which all elements of Life are drawn irresistibly together like iron filings into Divine Love’s magnetic field.  The Unifying Field of Love can be resisted by only one power in the Universe.  That is the power God entrusted to humans as a quality of Divine Supremacy, the power that anoints the Human Species as the Ultimate Expression of Creation in God’s image.  We call it will power.  We also call it “free” will.  By surrendering our will to the ego’s fragmenting agenda and disintegrated worldview, we’ve enslaved it to fear and exercise it to thwart God’s will as if in rebellion against God.  Our will is no longer free so long as ego rules it.  God stands ready, willing and able to set our wills free again if and when we seek God’s help in doing so.  To seek God’s help requires that we admit the errors by which the ego became so uncompromisingly the master of our lives and let go of the habits by which the ego has trained us to maintain our enslavement to ego.  In every moment of time we have the potential to be free again.  To regain our freedom requires that we reverse our commitment to living by fear and allow ourselves to master the art and science of living by Divine Love within the Divine Constant.  The ego is a tyrant whose propaganda machine has convinced us that it is the protector of our tiny fragment of life.  We must regain our visionary wisdom to see the ego as the generator of fragmentation and sustainer of fears and repudiate its authority in our lives.

As a tyrannical shredder of humanity, the ego is both unwise and insane.  By instituting habits of denying our emotions and numbing awareness of our hearts (within which we would otherwise sense our emotions), the ego cuts us off from the wisdom that flows into our hearts from God’s heart and renders us incapable of reasoning in ways that fully honor the sanctity of life.  In our futile attempt to permanently enslave us to the ego’s madness, we’ve come to act as if the human race is an embodiment of guilt and dishonor rather than an expression of our true nature as innocent, honorable creations of an innocent, honorable God.  Our popular concept of God is modeled on the all-too-common stereotypical male human who is angry, condemning and punitive in reaction to any experience he does not like.  We are mistaken to characterize God as a Supreme Bully who seeks to prove superiority over humans by adopting socially admired attributes of masculinity and power equated with dominance and aggression unbalanced by less admired femininity and power equated with nurturing and receptivity.

Unlike emotionally insecure humans who may harbor secret feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness, God has no need to prove Divine Power by dominating others and causing pain. In all acts of terrorism by which humans treat each other inhumanely (or by ecoterrorism mistreat other forms of Life), the ego is at work.  The ego is the terrorist.  Anyone acting as a terrorist is acting out of unrelieved pain and feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness that egos may sometimes manifest in the extreme.  As egos cut us off from each other’s hearts and from the heart of God, we are left to struggle as isolated, finite bodily expressions of the Infinite with which we are otherwise naturally connected. We are not merely bodies nor are we beings measured primarily by physical criteria.

Never burdened by feelings of inadequacy or powerlessness, God is confident in being God. We are mistaken to attribute to God symptoms of men or women’s hidden feelings of inadequacy and lack of confidence.  Beyond the ego, we have the capacity to admit our errors and learn from them.  Divine Love encourages that we do precisely that – regardless of how inadequate, guilty and ashamed we may feel temporarily while making such admissions. Ultimately we will like ourselves more for having had the courage to be honest.  The ego’s dishonesty is one of the reasons we feel so low about ourselves when we act out of ego and mistakenly equate our identity with ego.  In our honesty we will feel release from ego’s tyranny.

In modern times, in place of building confidence within our inner being and expressing it outwardly in caring honesty, we’ve institutionalized the importance of “liking” or “disliking” each other’s social personality (ego), equated it with approving or disapproving of each other and use social media to exaggerate the importance of such superficial assessments.  We keep score of trivia to ignore what’s most important.  By this and many other means, we’ve substituted trivial activities and images of popularity for self-confidence rooted in deeply satisfying acceptance and expression of our true, sacred nature.  The more we ignore our sacred inner nature, the more we give importance to external substitutes.  God is neither unbalanced nor concerned with trivia, popular admiration or social approval.  Ego is.  God is not. To rise beyond ego in renewed awareness and expression of our Sacred Selves within the Divine Constant, we must join God in giving far less value to trivial pursuits, social approval, popularity and what those who remain enslaved on ego’s terms may think or value. We can learn to value caringly expressed honesty and integrity instead.

How did we go this far astray from sanity and reason?  How may we restore ourselves to our true identity and destiny?  Our true identity as creations of God is our ultimate, continuously unfolding destiny, achieved by accepting both our identity and our destiny within the Divine Constant and remaining aware of both instead of adopting ego as the alternative.  The foolishness of the ego does not represent our true nature or our most promising future.  When we shed ego as our standard by no longer allowing pride and shame to dictate how we feel, think, decide and act, we’re on our way to freedom in mastering the art of loving and being loved in return.  We went astray when we stopped depending on God for help and guidance in being our authentic, Diverse-yet-Divine Selves as designed by God.  We will experience restoration (to sanity, reason, wisdom, love, peace, hope, joy and all that’s worthwhile in life) when we admit that we cannot restore ourselves on our own but need only ask wholeheartedly for God to pour forth fully all the helpful power of restoration we need and desire. Whether we call it restoration, healing or redemption, the power and the process it sets in motion come from God.  We both need and want it.

© Art Nicol 2015

To consider more about the possibility of a Unified Story of Life, please read Part 3 of this 3-part series.

Greedy, Needy and Grace

If there is a cultural war that calls forth our best intentions to resolve, it is a war between the prevailing culture of greed that creates homelessness and other forms of neediness and suffering and an ideal greedless culture that would provide adequately for everyone and alleviate suffering. Folk singers Peter, Paul and Mary sang about this cultural war in a song whose lyrics include these lines:

Futility and senseless war, pit the rich against the poor,
While cause is buried long before the fight
For what was wrong, for what was right,
It’s just the strong, who ever says what’s right.

In part because as a young man during the Viet Nam war era I allowed Peter, Paul and Mary’s songs to speak to my heart, I am today an admittedly unrepentant idealist. I became stained with idealism, dyed in the wool as a person in quest of the ideal.  I believe it’s possible for us to resolve this cultural war in favor of the ideal culture.  I also believe that pitting the rich against the poor is a necessary byproduct or effect produced by the “cause” that “is buried long before the fight.”  We need to unbury this “cause” in order to dispel its power to perpetuate the prevailing culture or “status quo” by which neediness and suffering in all their forms are made to seem inevitable. Neediness and suffering are not inevitable.  They are produced by a cause we can dispel.  Once we dispel the cause, the effects or byproducts of the cause will end.

Sound too simple? Surely it does, because we tend to judge it through the filter of the buried “cause” that distorts all things simple to try to keep us from seeing simplicity.  The buried cause insists that life must be more complicated than that and refuses to allow us to accept the simple truth about how readily homelessness and other forms of neediness can be overcome and suffering not only mitigated but gradually ended.  In support of my idealism, I summarize here the means of ending neediness and suffering.  Believe it or not, as you choose.  But, please listen to your heart’s desire as you read.  What does your heart truly desire deep beneath all arguments to contradict the simplicity I present?  Might your mind be arguing against what your heart desires?  Might your heart be wiser than your mind and know what to desire and relentlessly work towards even in the face of arguments to the contrary?  Might grace be at work deep in your heart inviting you to listen and consider what might be true in the face of beliefs you’ve long held dear but which are not necessarily true?

What “cause is buried long before the fight?” I propose that buried beneath our awareness is a cause that promotes futility and senseless war and pits the rich against the poor.  We live in an era when few of us who are exposed to the media can fail to see the senselessness of wars swirling around us and the hostility that many wealthy people feel towards poor people.  The wealthier feel threatened by those who have less wealth.  Many of us in the USA are somewhere on the continuum of relatively “wealthier” and strive to hold our position on that upward ladder of mobility towards success as measured by financial milestones.  The powerful few (among whom we may aspire to someday belong and whose accomplishments we may admire) feel the need to amass even more power to protect themselves from the many who seem powerless and yet somehow make the powerful feel threatened enough to spend their resources setting up defenses to protect their positions amid prevailing economic inequities.  The “haves” fear that the “have-nots” will take from them what they value.  So, they prepare to defend what they have and their “right” to have it.  Why?  What “causes” that to happen?  Why we might ourselves identify with such defensive preparations?  Why might our desire to identify with the wealthy cause us to engage in futility?

Are we ready, willing and able to unbury the “cause” and look directly at it? If we are, we can dispel it as nonsense and move past it into a new era based on a new culture of equitable sharing of resources and opportunities.  The buried “cause” is nonsense, but believing in it assigns power to it.  Our minds have the capacity to give power even to nonsense.  History is filled with examples of such assignments of power to nonsense.  Of course, at the time, humanity did not recognize the nonsense as nonsense and believed it to be truth.  Believing a falsehood or misperception to be true gives it power over our lives.  We live by what we believe, not by objective truth. If our beliefs do not square with truth, then truth does not influence us.  Instead, what we mistakenly believe influences us, even causes us to act consistently with our false beliefs.  Changing our minds to believe differently frees us of the influence of false ideas that previously controlled our actions.  The most empowering decision we can make is to change our minds to let go of a false belief in order to accept a truth in its place. It is wise to seriously consider making such choices.

I write to offer my readers such an opportunity to exercise their will power (or power of choice) in favor of truth in place of false beliefs. The “cause . . . buried long before the fight” that “pits the rich against the poor” and generates “futility and senseless war” is a false belief in who we are.  Fear has persuaded us to believe in a false identity in place of our true identity.  We have buried our fears that cause us to adhere to this false identity so that these buried fears can now cause us to fight with each other and prepare elaborate defenses to protect us from each other instead of trust each other to share this world as a culture of universal peace and good will.  So long as we allow these fears to remain buried they will continuously thwart all efforts to install peace in place of violence as a permanent condition.  We must unbury these fears in order to move beyond the cycles of futility humanity has endured for many generations. Centuries of futility arise from habits of denying the fears that feed the cycles of violence and futility of our efforts to remove violence as a social norm.

Do you want to remove violence as a social norm? Are you sick and tired of violence yet – sick and tired enough to participate in moving into a culture in which violence is not “normal?”  Your heart is likely to desire to move beyond violence if you have loved ones you feel are vulnerable to violence and realize that you cannot protect them from violence on your own.  The “rich” suffer from the illusion that they have sufficient resources to protect their children and other loved ones from violence.  They believe in investing in elegant and elaborate isolation, gated communities and other forms of barriers in an effort to block violence from reaching them.  They believe in raising up military machinery and institutions (and train other people’s children to staff them) that they hope will be sufficient to block access to the territory they/we occupy and prevent needy people from encroaching upon their/our abundance.  They/we are mistaken.  Their/our efforts are futile.  The war will reach them/us beyond every barrier they/we erect.

No matter how much of their/our resources they/we invest in postponing the inevitable, the inevitable will happen.  War is cycling out of control into yet another outbreak of worldwide violence at home and abroad.  Unless we act with determination to establish the true alternative, the two will soon merge and become indistinguishable.  The rich are too few and poor too many to deny the poor access to the wealth and opportunities that the few have for many generations sought to reserve to their/ourselves. With whom will you choose to identify – the rich or the poor?  Is it wise to identify with the rich pitted against the poor?  Or would it be wiser to identify as a participant in reconciling the rich and the poor into one sharing culture in solidarity with all humankind?

Fear is causing us to go to war against ourselves within the human race, to see in the “other” who appears on our doorstep as a stranger the image of an “enemy” to our prosperity, happiness and security. I propose that this is an unnecessary and inaccurate belief as far from truth as the belief that the world is flat once was discovered to be.  While humans believed that the world was flat, they lived as if it were flat.  They feared the “edge” of the earth and shied away from it.  Today most humans know that the world is not flat.  Today we also need to learn to know that the stranger is not a threat to our well-being and that the well-rounded culture of shared resources and opportunities is not an unrealistic ideal but rather the most promising way to bring an end to futility and senseless war and set in motion conditions in which there are no more distinctions between the rich and poor.  The stranger is not the edge of our comfort zones from which to shy away but rather the life-enriching opportunity to embrace life more fully and enjoy all that our self-protective habits have caused us to lose.  Our fears cause us to be violent towards ourselves and lose out on the benefits of a far more expansive and fear-free life than our fears can ever provide.

Buried fears are the buried cause of our futile efforts to resolve conflicts and build long-lasting peace. We will never establish a worldwide culture within which the human race can be at peace with itself/ourself until we bring our fears to light, look at them to see their false foundation and let them go.  They are nonsense.  But they are a nonsense in which we have so long unwittingly believed and for so many generations taught our children to believe that they have taken on the illusion of unquestionable truth.  We have sanctified and made holy false beliefs about who we are and who other people are.  We have failed to learn the lessons of history and remain doomed to repeat them in endless cycles of violence and futility until we unearth the fears that perpetuate such cycles and dispel them as the nonsense they are.

Our egos are the tombs within which we bury our fears generation after generation and perpetuate their causation of futility and senseless violence. We believe ourselves to be our egos.  That’s not true. We are not creatures destined to cower in the dark behind our ego’s defensive walls afraid to welcome strangers or to reach out in good will towards those who arrive on our doorsteps.  We are creatures of light with a far more promising destiny.  We need only dismantle our egos’ defensive structures to realize the truth of our far grander power and capacity to resolve all forms of conflict, share the world and its resources and opportunities and by this process truly protect our loved ones and provide security for all people’s loved ones.  We need not pit the loved ones of some against the loved ones of “others” when we realize that we are all our sisters and brothers.

The ideal I lay out here is an idea by which we need no longer delegate to our children the future prospect of being at war with other people’s children. If we desire in the depths of our hearts not to bury our children and the children of our friends and neighbors and perpetuate our universal grief, we must learn to unbury the fears that cause us to blindly act in futility when we could otherwise act with immense utility.  Blind actions are unwise.  Taking the blinders of buried fears from our minds’ vision will go a long way towards empowering us to work together as collaborators in developing and sustaining the idealistic culture of shared peace, power and purpose about which I dare to boldly write as an advocate.

Am I a visionary and yet also a realistic idealist?  Yes, because the fears that once blinded me no longer blind me.  They need not blind anyone who chooses to unbury them, look directly at them and set them aside as nonsense.  The world is not flat.  Strangers need not be flatly denied access to shared resources and opportunities.  Together, we (“us” and those formerly viewed as “strangers” or “not us”) can build together that which will not be built until we all build it together as members of one community committed relentlessly, resolutely and resiliently to the welfare of all.  It is in such solidarity with all members of the human race that we will find not only the hope of ending war forever but also the seemingly miraculous means for doing so.

© Art Nicol 2015

The Privilege of Connecting with Another Who Sees

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; but only he who sees takes off his shoes.” From Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I want to step aside from attempts to be objective and didactic and share a more personal, subjective response to another person’s blog. Since I do not have permission to reveal this blogger’s name, I’ll not reveal it. Perhaps it’s helpful not to identify the writer so that any reader can identify with my response to any other writer. I am writing because I felt a connection with this other writer. I’m an avid reader and have felt connections with writers since I first began to read. I believe that in this recent connection with this blogger I’ve come to understand more about why I feel the connections I feel. I think it’s because I have an imagination through or within which I “see” things that are beyond my immediate range of physical sight and feel connected with artists who share their own sense of this kind of sight through whatever medium they work within. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning stated, it feels like I’m standing on holy ground and see the world afire with the Spirit of Truth when this feeling of connection happens.

As those who have read my material know, I often write about the ego and its effect in isolating us from one another. The ego is the walls or barriers that keep us from connecting with each other more completely. It is the isolated mental outcome of believing that we are bodies and nothing more than bodies, and will die without any continuity of life beyond the body once our body ceases to function. It is a choice to adopt this mindset or perspective, but it is a choice we make gradually in so many small steps that we don’t realize we’ve made it until it’s entirely made and we no longer “see” an alternative. Those who dare to see with the power of their imagination have awakened my own imagination and re-introduced me to the possibility that there is more to me than meets the physical senses. Writers of both nonfiction and fiction have invited me to imagine a life that exceeds the life my physical senses detect and invited me to step beyond the physical to explore what’s more than physical. As I accepted that invitation, I discovered the “more” my heart desired to believe just might be possible and regained my optimism about life’s being an adventure worth living as Love in search of Love.

The writer about whom I write says that the painting entitled Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich is his favorite painting. I share it with you here:

Wanderer above the sea of fog Caspar David Friedrich

The blogger who declares his favor for this painting says he’s not sure why he likes it so much. In sharing his thoughts and feelings about this painting, this writer drew me into a conversation with the painter and the blogger who appreciates the painter’s work. This diablog is my participation in that conversation. I believe that the conversation is among all of us who sense within us the imagination of an artist and the heart of a lover awakening. I invite all with whom this diablog resonates to feel this awakening presence and savor it as our renewed awareness of the interconnecting synergy of wholeness that is within each of us. It is not necessary that we all feel the same emotions on account of viewing and interacting with this painting. That it invokes emotions is what we have in common. The heart that feels! That is the holy ground to which Browning referred as the place where taking off our shoes seems an apt response, just as it did to Moses in the presence of his burning bush. Our hearts leap up aflame with emotions at the presence of fresh, creative possibilities radiating from the Mystery when life calls us to turn aside to see what’s going on that is out of the ordinary and unconventional – above and beyond the sea of fog.

Our minds are curious to see and learn more when the Mystery draws us in by our hearts’ desires and passions. Our hearts require us to turn aside. We may have been wandering a long time or a short time, but as wanderers we are seeking, consciously or unconsciously for answers to Life’s Mysteries. When the Creator speaks, our hearts respond. For any of us, another artist may be the Creator’s voice in whatever medium the artist works. Wanderer above the Sea of Fog may serve as one of our burning bushes if it speaks to us. We may turn aside to contemplate it, seeking to comprehend why it speaks to us and what it is saying that so intrigues us. In that moment, we may identify with being the wanderer who sees a vista within our imagination populated with pinnacles of clarity above and beyond the more common fogginess among which we spend most of our days. We stand transfixed by the vision we have stumbled upon. We have been climbing uphill in our wanderings, aware that we were struggling upward and yet not knowing what we might expect to find. Suddenly we are no longer a mere wanderer. We have become a wonderer in the Presence of the Divine Mystery that awaits all who seek to see above the sea of fog that otherwise hampers our vision.

Suddenly we see both the fog that had hampered our vision and the vision we’d not known to expect but which drew us relentlessly onward and upward nevertheless. Blind wandering in response to our heart’s desires becomes an amazing sight before which we stand in awe, transfixed as we take it all in as best we can. We recall dimly the way we came to reach this pinnacle experience and are uncertain how we’ll descend again. We cannot go back the way we came. We must somehow move forward, most likely back down the other side once more into the sea of fog – for leaping from pinnacle of clarity to pinnacle of clarity seems impossible. Yet, we cannot forget the vista we’ve encountered or dismiss the power of our imagination to capture and be captured by it. We are one with the vista and its novel clarity. It is ours, we are its. We are the vista and it is us. We’ll never be the same again. Having awakened we must remain awakened no matter how the sea of fog once again surrounds us and clouds our vision. We remember clarity of sight. We now know that it is possible. We stumble onward hoping that future opportunities to climb will present themselves that we may again see with clarity, the clarity that only heights confer.

Can we be sure of achieving a height again? Do we want to achieve it the same way twice or is there a natural high we seek beyond the ones we may have stumbled upon before? What enhances clarity and what does not? We are learning as we wander. We are becoming the Eternal Wonderer. In time and space we wander while in Eternity we wonder. Having once connected with the Master Artist whose Master Artwork we each are and remembered, we cannot forget again. We carry the memories of past encounters with the Divine as it has spoken to us and feel the power of its inspiration ever drawing us forward as we wander along life’s convoluted pathways in search of the being who we are and the Being from whence we came and to which we return. We seek to return to oneness with ourselves and all Creation and with the Creator of all that is alive and well. We are Love’s emerging Presence in an unfolding realm of Love that has no beginning and no end. No sea of fog can obscure that Truth forever.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

Wholeness as the Pivot Point of Change

Let me keep this simple. Unless a person who seeks to be the change in the world he or she wants to see (pursuant to Gandhi’s admonition) slips out of and beyond his or her ego, he or she will fail to participate in a true change. The ego is a master of disguises. To change from one ego-disguise to another is no change. For the world to outgrow violence as a norm and instead enter into a phase devoted to healing the wounds of past violence as a new norm, individually and collectively we all must become humble, ego-free healers.

Beyond the phase of healing awaits the phase in which no harm is ever done that requires healing. To reach that harmless phase, we must undo the harm that our harming stage has done.  To pivot away from ego requires what we pivot out of the ego’s closed system of thinking to enter into the only true alternative — open-mindedness to all creative possibilities.  Wholeness offers us the pivot point around which to turn all of the ego’s ways of thinking on their heads and emerge beyond ego as if we’ve entered into and passed beyond the worm hole into a whole new universe of grand options that set us free to be more than ego wants or believes we can be.  Freedom frightens the ego.  Freedom wisely lived requires no ego and thus no longer lets fear of change hold us back. Only then can we become the change in the world our hearts desire but our egos fear.

Phase 2 is upon us. We either elect to participate in Phase 2 as one of the healers of the harm done in Phase 1 or we remain a participant in Phase 1. Any attempt to remain loyal to the ego while claiming to do no harm is the cover-up of codependency and enabling that the ego employs to perpetuate its reign of terror. “Oh,” you may say, “but I’m a helpful person who never harms anyone.” Perhaps you truly are. Perhaps you truly intend to be but do not yet realize how your best intentions remain unfulfilled.  It is more likely than not that you are allowing your ego to fool yourself into believing you are doing no harm while it’s not true. Do I sound too harsh and unkind to you? Please forgive me if I seem that way.  In actuality, all I’m inviting you to do is move beyond the mistakes I made as a co-dependent enabler who failed to realize that my ego was still in charge of my heart and mind and running me in circles like a fool.

Despite the fact that I once desperately wanted to never be a fool, I was one. It was much more obvious to others than it was to myself, but that’s how the ego operates. It makes you look like a fool to others so that they in their own ego-oriented foolishness can comment upon, judge and find fault with your foolishness rather than see and address their own. It serves the ego’s purpose to make each of us look like a fool to others of us.  It serve the ego’s goal of perpetuating itself to generate controversy among us and set us to judging one another instead of seeing the ego at work behind the scenes. The ego achieves this ego-perpetuating status quo by convincing each of us to adopt one of its contrasting sets of values as “ours” and set ourselves apart from “others” by virtue of our chosen set of values. Sets of values that contrast with one another establish the basis for on-going, continuous conflicts, discussions to resolve conflicts and all out battles when discussions fail to resolve them. The ego does not want our conflicts resolved. So, my ego will do everything it can to justify my claiming the superiority of my set of values over contrasting sets of value and my unwillingness to see things through the eyes of others whose sets of values differ from mine.

Sets of values may in fact differ for a variety of reasons. But if the reason is not focused with clarity upon the role of ego in perpetuating conflicts and correspondingly upon the means by which we may rise beyond ego, then the sets of values conflict only in relatively superficial ways. Superficial differences among sets of values have historically been sufficient to justify all levels of conflict, including wars. That one group may raise three fingers while pronouncing a blessing while another group raises two fingers is nonsensically superficial. Other superficial differences that have seemingly justified violence by one group upon another may not be as obviously superficial and foolish, but they are. People who allow their egos to be in charge of their decisions resort to a wide variety of excuses for identifying other people as enemies upon whom the infliction of violence is seen as fully justified, even reasonable.

Wholeness is the alternative to the ego. That is why wholeness is the necessary, pivotal component of any path by which a person who seeks to be the change in the world he or she wants to see achieves that goal rather than remains trapped within the ego’s conflict-perpetuating worldwide status quo. A person must be willing to become aware of his or her wholeness and devoted to its nurture and perpetuation in order to stop participating in the perpetuation of ego-generated harm. Wholeness is health. Devotion to the nurture and perpetuation of wholeness in ourselves and others is healing. Without wholeness neither health (Phase 3) as a goal nor healing (Phase 2) as an interim path to that goal is possible. Why? Because the ego will successfully resist healing and health and preserve the status quo of ill-health and harmfulness in order to preserve itself as essential to the person’s sense of personal safety and personal identity.

We who have been raised in an ego-oriented society to believe ego to be our identity are like fish who have been swimming in water without being aware of the water. The only reason I become aware of the water is there came to be a time in my life when I felt like a fish out of water. Amid the discomfort of flopping around and suffocating on the shore, I awoke to the realization that my ego was not my true identity. On that shore, my ego died and yet I, the true me, was still alive. In that phase of my life, I suffered an acute identity crisis. If my ego is not I, then who am I? I spent several years on a quest for the answer to this amazing question I’d previously failed to ask. Who am I?

Early in my quest for answers to this pressing question, I was introduced to a work called A Course In Miracles. I devoted myself to studying this course with more diligence than I’d ever studied before. I had been a fairly good student of other areas of study in my past. This area of study motivated me like none had previously motivated me. In the past I studied other subjects to please others, not expose myself to the shame of public failure and achieve academic expectations and benchmarks set by others. In studying A Course In Miracles, I studied and applied what I learned for reasons far more personal to me, from motivations that arose from within me, as if Life itself called me to succeed. Through this process I awakened to and gradually accepted my true identity and discovered many answers as well as many continuingly unanswered questions. I learned to live by faith in the presence of the Mystery of the Divine, including of my own identity within the Divine.

Above and beyond all else that has motivated me have been the experiences of peace, hope, joy and love that my ego never allowed me to encounter and enjoy. On account of those experiences alone, and not for any argumentative reasons, do I now encourage you to enter upon your own quest for your identity beyond the ego and the path that will take you through Phase 2 into Phase 3 as you emerge to yourself and others as a whole person rather than remain disguised behind the masks and entrapped behind the walls of your false identity of ego. If you feel so called, come forth to join me and others in the realm beyond ego of which Rumi wrote when he penned,

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.”

Let me here share a snapshot of my own version of that truth in the form of an illustration I invite you to contemplate for its value to you as your inner voice of Spirit counsels you to do.  More about this topic is available by clicking on the Heartbook tab on the menu.

Wholeness Archtype with text 2015

For more encouragement from Rumi as a source of inspiration and wisdom, visit http://launchyourgenius.com/2014/08/04/rumi/.

For more encouragement to understand how to use your own path of faith to grow beyond the ego’s confining definition of your past, present and future, make it a point to enter into your own personal quest for answers to the pressing question “Who am I?”  Our human race will not develop beyond its current adolescent stage until each of us asks this riddle of the Universe and learns to listen to the answer we receive within our hearts and minds.  I would be honored to encourage you to find deepest satisfaction in your quest.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which Arms Race Do You Choose to Enter?

Once again it is evident that those who profit from manufacturing and marketing military weapons continue to engage in propaganda urging US taxpayers to foot the bill for their luxury lifestyles. (Those who pay directly or indirectly for governments around the world are also roped in by this global propaganda machine underwritten by multinational corporations who are more loyal to fattening their own bank accounts and indulging in conspicuous consumption as global playboys and playgirls than they are to any nation or peoples beyond their immediate families.) The main theme of such propaganda is the “arms race.” According this propaganda, we are always at the mercy of hostile nations and unruly hostile non-nations acting on their own. Threats from all sides seem to justify arming ourselves to the teeth. Add to that the seeming threats from within our own borders attributed to criminals, terrorists and general crazies and we have the makings an endless arms race from which no one escapes but a few definitely profit. It’s a bonus to the profit-makers that many US citizens have decided that the only adequate response to this growing perception of apparent hostility from others outside and inside our borders is to arm themselves with weapons supplied by the same arms industry. Ah, the profitability of fear!

Are you and I powerless in the face of this arms race that sucks resources from our pockets as relentlessly as lampreys suck life from lake trout and leeches suck blood from any animal to which they can attach themselves? Are we at the mercy of these profit-making vampires who own and operate major media sources so as to keep their propaganda ever before us? Do we have no choice but to be taken in by the propaganda and participate as unsuspecting or suspicious but compliant dupes and funders of the excesses of those who profit from this arms race?

Not necessarily. First we can decide to disregard the propaganda that tells us that the world is entirely hostile towards the US and that we have no choice but to arm ourselves with a succession of soon-to-be-obsolete weapons in an endless race towards the wars we cannot avoid. The inevitability of war is assumed by the propaganda and the only issue presented is how well prepared will we be to win that war. Few of us want to go down in defeat. So, if one assumes that war is inevitable, most of us will join the cry for increased preparedness at any cost. Yet, we don’t have to believe that assumption or buy into the propaganda. We can choose to participate in an alternative arms race instead.

What might that alternative arms race look like? It would look like neighbors opening their arms to each other and reaching around the globe to welcome strangers as neighbors in our global village. We can ignore the doomsayers and act as if we have a better future based on peace and good will shared by good-natured, reasoning people who populate the globe with values and priorities akin to our own. We can assume not hostility but instead common ground in our shared hearts’ desires to raise children in healthy conditions and share life with loved ones in stability and harmony without fear of losses inflicted by hostile forces prepared only to spread violence like an epidemic throughout the human race.

We could engage in a race into each other’s arms if only we trusted each other more than feared each other. Are we willing to take that risk? Might we set aside our xenophobia and reach out to each other as if we might find friends instead of enemies? What do we have to lose? The military version of the arms race dooms all of us. All we have to lose by taking the risk of embracing each other as neighbors instead of as hostile strangers is doom. Might it make sense to you and I to forsake doom in exchange for embracing peace and the freedom to share the globe with good will?

How will we ever find the courage to take such a risk in the face of pressures to believe the propaganda and stand apart in fear? I suggest our courage will come from our faith that there’s a power greater than the arms merchants and their minions, a Power that will aid our alternative arms race. If we race into the arms of the Creator who loves us, we will discover divinely inspired courage within our hearts and God’s corresponding wisdom to make our dreams of peace on earth among people of good will a reality even in the face of contrary arguments proposed by distributors of death. All we need to do is to decide to be customers of the Distributor of Life who charges us nothing for receiving all we can open ourselves to receive of life. It costs us nothing but our egos to open our hearts and minds to the Source of Life and receive in abundance all that the Source generously offers to share with us. Is humility too great a price for peace on earth?

I hope that anyone who prefers life over death and love over fear will consider joining me in the alternative arms race into the loving arms of God and the people who say “Amen” to God in whatever language they choose to say it. God is great in any language spoken around the world by people of all faiths in a God who wills that the human race enjoy being surrounded and filled with love and allowed to live into the fullness of time as Eternity’s children.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

Open Letter to Those Reaching Out to Outcast LGBTQ Youth and Young Adults

If you are reaching out to LGBTQ youth and young adults who feel unwelcome in their families, communities of faith, schools and other traditional social institutions, first let me say “Thank you” for your earnest effort to awaken dignity and self-respect in those harmed by the lies by which mainstream society surrounds them and inevitably fills them as these lies seep in to poison their hearts and minds. The harm is oftentimes mental and emotional before its toxicity builds up to the point of causing physical harm.   Self-destructive actions come along after self-destructive ideas about how life works take root and toxic emotions that naturally result from believing lies about being unworthy of dignity, respect and love color self-perceptions. Since self-rejection, self-hatred and self-punishment follows on the heels of social rejection, it is helpful to have society cease to reject and begin instead to wholeheartedly accept LGBTQ youth and young adults as welcome members of society. If given enough opportunity, self-acceptance, self-love and self-actualization will also follow from the healing power of social acceptance. But it is not enough to convert the shame of social rejection into the pride of social acceptance. Why? Because shame and pride are flipsides of the same coin by which an ego-based society enslaves us all. We need to do more than help LGBTQ youth and young adults to adopt the ego’s ways of being enslaved to social approval by pride and taken for the ego’s ride to a destiny unworthy of all human beings.  The ego’s way is not the solution. There is another resolution to the dilemma of being nonconforming or “different.”

Because a spiritually rooted and enriched life is the only true alternative to the ego’s seductive illusions, I especially want to thank those who are doing all they can to alert men and women who claim to speak for God to the harm caused by religious teachings that utterly denigrate the personhood and dignity of people with nonmainstream sexual and gender orientations.  As a follower of Jesus, I encourage you to challenge those who claim to honor Jesus to do much, much more than to stop spreading the lies that purport to condemn people of all ages who live with nonmainstream sexual and gender orientations to lives of guilt and shame and doom them forever to hell as unqualified to ever enter heaven.  To end systemic and individual bigotry is a worthy goal because once it’s achieved, we’ll stop harming our youth and young adults who dare to feel “different” and as part of their feeling different struggle secretly or openly with “different” sexual and gender orientations than the mainstream may admit to sharing.  But ceasing to do harm is not enough.  We must invest ourselves without reservation in undoing harm already done and in healing broken hearts much in the need of mending.  Only then will we face within ourselves the adverse effects of ego on and within all of us and evolve beyond ego’s limitations to embrace lives flowing freely with love’s most desired and treasured experiences.

Until their hearts are healed, those who have been wounded by lies and social rejection carry emotional pain and will continue to act out their pain in ways that socially conformist folks will condemn as “proof” of the wounded’s inherent unholiness.  Inner pain is often acted out in socially nonconformist (even rebellious) ways in the face of the conformity that has caused the pain.  (Such acting out is a way of saying, “No, you cannot do that to me anymore.”)  We must educate conformists (adherents to traditions) to be aware of how their unreasonable, fear-based demands for conformity are themselves a root cause of psychic pain and of the resulting harm that flows from believing oneself to be utterly unworthy of and unavailable to God’s love.  Lies confuse our minds.  Confusion = a form of psychic pain that couples with feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy, powerlessness and resentment to imprison a person’s mind in a dilemma from which there appears to be no escape but death.  Death looks like the only relief after forms of temporary relief like drugs, alcohol, sex and other thrills and pleasure-triggering pursuits prove futile.

We must learn to say to inflexible traditionalists “If, in order to please God and experience Divine Love in abundance, I have to be 100% like you and not deviate in any way from the model of human life that you have adopted, then you are saying that God did not create diversity within the human race even though God created diversity among all other realms of Nature.”  Minerals, animals and vegetables embrace diversity without judging any aspect of diversity unworthy of belonging.  We must be willing to ask “What other expression of Nature polices its members to demand conformity and penalizes by rejection the minority who may not conform? Are not other species wise enough to accept nonconformity as a source of new-and-improved versions of the species that may prove to be more adaptive to changing conditions and capable of causing the species to survive those changes? Might demanding conformity and rejecting nonconformity doom the human race to extinction? Might a holy race include nonconformist expressions of holiness in all innocence as a way of ensuring that the race thrives beyond its currently limited vision for itself? Might God’s vision for the future of the human race encompass more than past traditions have embraced? Might future traditions embrace more of life, love, liberty and laughter because ancestral traditions learned to be more open to God’s creativity as a (re)new(ed) tradition?”

I’m not qualified to address how people of other religious flavors may view the socially marginalized (social “outcasts” or “rejects”), but I am qualified to speak to my brothers and sisters who claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior, as their primary Teacher and Friend.  We who follow Jesus are called to go far beyond stopping the transmission of harmful lies.  Yes, we do need to stop spreading messages of condemnation in the name of the one who said to the adulteress “And neither do I condemn you.”  Her sanctimonious, self-righteous neighbors accused her of “sin” and then dropped their stones when Jesus reminded them to look into their own hearts at their hidden, unconfessed and unrepented shortcomings.  All “sin” means at its origin is “separation.”  Jesus came not to separate from but to reconcile us to the Creator of Us All who loves and favors each of us as the individual and collective apple of His/Her eye.

The shortcomings of followers of Jesus include not only 1) accusing others of different sexual and gender orientations of being lifelong, irredeemable sinners (forever “separatists” from God doomed to suffer throughout all Eternity) but also 2) failing to heal and comfort those who are condemned.  It is not enough to stop condemning.  Jesus is a healer.  His followers must take up healing as their primary avocation until the harm done by the Church (and others) is undone.  We must heed the call to be allied not against but alongside those whom less understanding members of society have rejected as unacceptable family members, friends, classmates, fellow worshippers , co-workers, etc.

As an example of the misguided conclusions researchers are coming to about how to respond to the harm such condemnation causes, I cite this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/26/lgbt-homeless-youth-survival-sex_n_6754248.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices.

As this article evidences, researchers tend to intellectualize their way through data to spot the harm (as if it needs to be proven, which it does only to those who otherwise restrict their lives to associating with other members of the privileged class and remain blind to the plight of the less privileged). But they know nothing of the response followers of Jesus are called to provide in response to such harm.  We are not called to study “the problem” in order to gain “insight into a little-understood world and demonstrate the need for more government-funded shelter beds and other resources focused on LGBTQ youth.”  Government is not the answer here anymore than government-run orphanages and foster care meet the needs of unwanted children and youth to be welcomed in homes where they are wanted.  Plenty of followers of Jesus have homes that have room to welcome unwanted youth to be included there as members of the family, as spiritually adopted children and siblings simply because they are already divine children of the Divinely Loving God Jesus called Abba.  We need not out-source the care of the unwanted youth and young adults to governments or any other resource beyond the Christian community itself.  We who claim to occupy the privileged status of having Jesus’ care and guidance must take into our hearts and homes those Jesus says he identifies with, whom the Bible says he called “the least of these.”

I urge you who advocate on behalf of LGBTQ youth and young adults not to settle for speaking to believers in Jesus as if the government is the resource Jesus calls upon to serve God in his name and nature.  Jesus calls upon his followers to serve according to his way, truth and life.  He says we will do what he did and greater things will we do.  He does not teach that his followers should badger politicians into spending taxpayers’ money to provide for the socially marginalized.  He calls for his followers to serve directly in accordance with the blessings that they have received, to dig into their own pockets as the Good Samaritan did to provide for the stranger found beaten and abandoned along the road.  Emotionally beaten and abandoned LGBTQ street kids (as well as LGBTQ youth elsewhere in society) need more followers of Jesus to heed their Lord’s commandment to love God and one another and to leave no one out of their circle of love.

Others may be free to insulate themselves from direct involvement in the lives of those whom the distorters of Jesus’ teachings have harmed.  We who live by the truth of Jesus’ teachings must step forward to demonstrate by the congruency of our words and deeds that the age of  hypocrisy is over and a new age of integrity has begun.

To those who advocate on behalf of LGBTQ youth and young adults and seek to serve their best interests, I say, “What you are doing is a much needed beginning to the age of integrity.  I encourage you to take it all the way and call upon followers of Jesus to confess their own shortcomings as followers, turn from their adherence to habits of falling short, take up their responsibilities and follow the One who sends the Holy Spirit to leads us into all truth.” And I repeat, the gratitude of all whom you serve and of the God of Love who watches over them goes with you always. May you be open to reaping as you sow from the One who sows generously within the hearts and lives of all who serve in the nature of truth and love!

© Art Nicol 2015

Has Christianity Functioned as an Invasive Species?

The habitat of the lionfish used to be limited to warm parts of the Pacific Ocean but now lionfish have begun to occupy reef marine communities in warm Atlantic waters too. It is likely that humans introduced the lionfish to these waters by releasing them as no longer-wanted pets. In the absence of natural predators for lionfish in Atlantic waters, the lionfish population in Caribbean waters has grown unchecked. Since lionfish prey upon the young fish of other species, populations of native species in these reef communities have inevitably declined as lionfish consume their young and wipe out future breeders. In this manner, lionfish have functioned as a typical invasive species to reduce populations of native species by their predatory actions. Lionfish have no interest in preserving native populations when those populations feed their appetites.

Christians used to live in certain parts of the European continent where they identified themselves with the empire-building practices of the Roman Empire and used their religious beliefs to justify conquest of other people and their lands when the resources and peoples of conquered populations fed Europeans’ appetites for pleasure and for power. Many Europeans who traveled to the continent of North America to occupy what they claimed to be vacant lands brought their version of Christianity’s attitudes, beliefs and conquest-justify orientation with them to justify taking the lands occupied by indigenous members of the human race away from these native populations.

In the process of insuring that native populations (called tribes) would not resist the empire-building of European Christians, the European Christians removed the young of native tribes to teach them in schools away from their families and native traditions. They taught them a Western language, Westernized modern values and Westernized thinking to replace and wipe out the native language and rich heritage these young would otherwise have acquired from their tribal elders. As a result, the population of native tribes declined as their young became consumed by Western values and identified with Western lifestyles. The reefs that previously covered the continent where native tribes once thrived shrank into tiny remnants of the lowest quality lands least desired by the European conquerors. Today those shrunken reefs are more commonly known as “reservations.” They function as a patchwork of impoverished sanctuaries for the endangered indigenous members of the human race who occupied the North American continent before the arrival of Europeans.

There are parallels at work here. Do these parallels demonstrate the invasive and parasitic nature of the form of Christianity that Europeans exported to the North American continent? In the process of this exploitative exporting of toxic distortions of Jesus’ teachings, what happened to his teachings about how those with greater power should treat those with less power? With their superior weaponry and access to continent-spanning communications and transportation systems, were not the Europeans the more powerful? But which espoused true wisdom – the version of Christianity exported to the North American continent or the spirituality of the native populations? Centuries have passed. The evidence is now in. European values and methods have exploited the lands and waters and air as no native population has had the means, heart or will to exploit. We have become a nation rich on material terms and impoverished on wisdom’s terms.

Perhaps it is time for those who have subscribed to the justifications of modern Christianity to repent and turn away from their traditions as their ancestors once demanded that Native Americans turn away from their native traditions. Perhaps it is time for all who have subscribed voluntarily or involuntarily to the language and mindset of domination, conquest and exploitation to repent and learn the language and the practices of Jesus, the language and practices of divine love shared among the peoples of the Earth about which Jesus spoke and according to which he lived while in an earthly form. Beyond his earthly form, Jesus continues to call us to turn aside from the ways of the world, take off our shoes when we are on holy ground and listen to the voice that spoke to Moses from the burning bush. It is the same voice Jesus heard while in the wilderness and invites us today to hear by the power of the Holy Spirit blazing in our hearts.

Could it be that Jesus is so invested in the welfare of the whole human race (and every member of us) that he calls for each and all of us to stop doing unto others what has been done unto us and turn away to do unto others what we prefer from the depths of our hearts be done to us instead? Might we reverse the tides of toxic relationships that are washing across our lands if we were each to become totally committed to allowing the Holy Spirit to detoxify our own hearts and minds and to supporting each other in doing likewise? Could that be Jesus’ plan for ending the suffering we otherwise inflict upon ourselves and others in self-condemnation on account of our buried guilt and shame? Let us hear and honor by word and deed the message “Neither do I condemn you” as we turn away from our stony hearts and instead listen to the stories our hearts yearn to share about the love we want to dare and the miraculous ways we want to care.

© Art Nicol 2015

Trump or Triumph?

Let us be grateful to Donald Trump for his exaggerated display of the political option. Maestro Trump magnifies what is true of all politicians – that each seeks to cater to a slice of voters by matching the voters’ prejudices and playing on their fears. Lincoln said it this way, “You can fool all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” Recognizing this wisdom, political candidates generally seek to cater to a collection of slices of the voters who remain fooled long enough to vote the candidates into office. After the election, the need to keep the slices fooled diminishes.

Relying upon the shortness of voters’ memories and their lack of attention to issues that really matter, when the next election cycle comes around, politicians can engage in the same process all over again. Being caught in their irrational incongruities (sometimes referred to as “hypocrisy”) rarely deprives a candidate of office. (A scandal that the media finds juicy and marketable may deprive a candidate of office, but not hypocrisy, which is so commonplace as to merit little media attention.) In fact, being an accomplished juggler of inconsistencies often merits ascension to a higher office. We can be grateful to Mr. Trump for not making much of an effort to conceal his contempt for voters who actually try to think about deeper issues that matter and remain determined to build upon their understanding from election to election rather than remain focused on superficial issues and reboot their thinking each election cycle. Such thoughtful voters may be too tiny a minority to sway any election.

Is there an alternative to candidates’ trying to out Trump each other? Yes, but it’s not a political alternative. It won’t get a candidate elected to office. It’s more likely to get him or her scorned, ostracized and crucified as it did Jesus. The true alternative to Trump is Triumph. The small difference of two letters and the hugely significant qualities they stand for make all the difference in the world towards which each candidate leads. The spiral of Trumping and overtrumping leads followers into a ditch down one side or the other of the slippery slope of self-deception. These ditches are mirror images of each other, more similar than dissimilar. They represent the lower reaches of humanity’s decline, the lowest common denominator upon which fractions can be added to achieve temporary political alliances and win elections. “On which side do you stand?” is the politician’s primary question in wooing voters. “Into which ditch do you want to head with me in opposition to the ‘others?’” would be a more candid way to put the question, but candidates rarely are that candid.

The alternative Jesus presents heads in triumph along the high ridge formed by a chain of mountaintops beyond the downward sliding world of politics where “others” oppose each other to gain the power in an “us” vs. “them” worldview. In the mountaintop perspective of mystics (among who Jesus is a prime example), all humanity is one, not composed of oppositional factions but unified by truth and love as one divine family. Jesus lived the mystic’s alternative in which he believed and demonstrated the nature of its power to comfort, heal and bless everyone inclusively as each person chooses to repent of the politically oriented power-grabbing of his or her ego and surrenders instead to the power of God’s grace, mercy and love. As individuals lay their issues at the feet of Jesus, he accepts them as sisters and brothers regardless of what lifestyle they may have led before deciding to put their faith in him. In response to their repentance and surrender, he gives them new life beyond the ego’s false idols and substitutions for life as God created Life. What Jesus gives he gives from the Father from whom all good gifts come. Jesus shares generously all that he has received from the Father of us all. What politician offers that resolution to the issues that plague humanity with divisive violence and grief?

The “i” missing from Trump stands for “integrity,” a quality of life that embraces wholeness of person and shalom of heart and mind. This quality Jesus embodied and offers even now to help each of us embody. The “h” missing from Trump stands for “humility” and “honesty,” two qualities absent from the ego’s orientation and an anathema to political success. Humility coupled with honesty would require that most candidates simply withdraw from attempts to win voter approval to be a leader. It would require admitting that neither humility or honesty is popular among the masses and will not win votes. Voters tend to prefer leaders who are committed to arrogance and ignorance instead so that voters might be confirmed in their similar commitments. It is so much more convenient to formulate off-the-cuff opinions and vote according to them based on ignorance than to do the homework necessary to generate a deeper understanding and vote according to it. It is also more convenient to copy the answers off of another’s answer sheet, especially from one who seems to have the approval of the crowds, than to formulate an answer after much inner scrutiny and self-examination to identify and release internalized prejudices and fears that otherwise sway our choices.

Let us be grateful to Mr. Trump for clarifying just how lacking in integrity, humility and honesty we prefer our political candidates and the political process to be. We no more want a leader who holds us up to high expectations and ideals than we want Jesus to be Lord of our lives. Let us admit that we prefer to be rescued time after time from our individual and collective social follies as we hope Jesus will save us time after time from our spiritual ones. Who among us wants the burden of integrity, humility and honesty thrust upon us all the time? If one takes such ideals seriously, one becomes exceedingly unpopular in a world driven mad by ego’s internal conflicts and insatiable cravings. Who wants to take seriously the notion that to be great one must serve in humble positions and care about the powerless and weak at least as much if not more than about the socially elitist powerful? Who really wants to be assassinated like Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi because we held ourselves to higher ideals of excellence in service to the masses than the masses can tolerate considering for ourselves?

Let us be kind to Mr. Trump. He is serving God’s grand purpose to remind us that there is a clear choice to be made between ego and God. The ego darkens our lives with insane ideas that eventually reveal themselves to be absurd. God enlightens our lives with the only true alternative of sanity so that the truth might set us free.  Mr. Trump is doing us all a favor by publically displaying the extreme limits of absurdity and insanity so that we not mistake the political race for the race of which a devoted disciple of Jesus wrote long ago as recorded in 2 Timothy 7-8: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

Let us long not for Mr. Trump’s or any political candidate’s appearing but rather for Jesus to return as Lord to rule the Earth with love and cause mercy and justice to roll down from the heights of Divine Glory to satisfy all who hunger and thirst after righteousness as God defines the term. In doing so, let us also be open minded about the meaning of that term and not claim to tell others what God means by it. We may all be surprised to witness what it means when God thanks Mr. Trump for his bumbling service as a contrast to Jesus’ Triumph. If God did not work through imperfect instruments and have a sense of humor coupled with all-prevailing grace, which of us could claim to serve Him/Her or have any hope of heaven?

© Art Nicol 2015