Tag Archives: empowerment

Let’s Not Yet Dismiss Jesus As Impotent and Irrelevant

In the United States, we are surrounded by massive evidence proving beyond all reasonable doubt that Jesus is condemned to impotence and irrelevance within a nation that claims to adhere to consumerism-gutted Christian celebrations such as Easter and Christmas and accounts for large, if dwindling, attendance at churches who give lip service to Jesus as the divine entity they honor.  The overwhelming majority of jurors gathering at such places of worship have declared Jesus to be irrelevant as well as impotent within their lifestyles.  They prefer to substitute a watered down, plastic, artificially distanced version of Jesus in place of his living vitality at work within their hearts and minds.  They prefer to hold Jesus in a social chokehold, silence his voice and condemn him to a life sentence of imprisonment within their egos as they bar the door against wholehearted surrender to his call upon their lives.

Every foreperson of every jury handpicked by the prosecution in favor of violent reactions to other people’s violence has declared the verdict:  Jesus is “Guilty as charged” and condemned to oblivion!  Jesus has been on trial across our nation for generations and is now presumed to be guilty of irrelevance and impotence until proven innocent, of which proof there scarce is hope. The only evidence he ever sought to leave on Earth was the evidence provided through the lives of wholehearted followers in his footsteps.  Today few followers are willing to seek the faded signs of his divergent path among the crowded ways along which as lemmings we scramble towards the cliffs over which others have flung themselves. Thus the evidence he seeks to reveal is faint because we are faint-hearted.

The prevailing presumption in favor of Jesus’ impotence and irrelevance is the predictable outcome of our devoting the resources of our legal systems throughout our lands to exacting retribution for every perceived wrong committed by one person against another through all forms of legal process, both criminal and civil.  In the face of Jesus’ model of forgiveness, despite claiming to be a Christian nation, not one state within our Federal system offers its citizens the opportunity to experiment with non-retributive responses to wrongdoing across the board as a systematic norm.  Occasional programs of restorative justice and mediation notwithstanding, the social norm of a retribution-purposed legal system offers little room for Jesus’ voice.  His has once again become a voice crying in the wilderness.  This time that wilderness is our nation of violence and knee-jerk tendencies to use the law to augment personal anger into a national tragedy and twist all legal proceedings into venues for personal revenge.

In Romans 12:2, followers of Jesus are (note: “are” not “were”) admonished, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  In willful disregard of this admonition, the vast majority of those who claim to honor Jesus prefer to react to wrongs with the same patterns of thoughts, words and actions as the mainstream society around them.  Patterns socially engrained in our thinking since infancy are not readily uprooted.  Like dandelions casually yanked up by their tops, they spring back from deeply buried roots. They are tenacious weeds eradicated only by persistent application of the Holy Spirit as the universal herbicide for the mistake of putting our minds “upon the things of man instead of upon the things of God.”

Based on worldly patterns, we allow the early stage of grief commonly recognized to be “anger” to motivate our actions in response to wrongs we perceive to have been done to us and to others towards whom we feel protective.  Anger is the mainstream, deeply rooted pattern of motivation behind both criminal and civil “remedies.”  Although called “remedies” as if they offer some form of healing, they are not remedies but reminders of the vicious outcomes of cycles of violence perpetuated by anger.  They are institutionalized, socially conformist forms of revenge not anything close to what Jesus presented as the model response to wrongs of criminal or civil nature.

As an innocent human being, Jesus was subjected to harsh treatment as if he were a criminal.  Amidst that cruelty, as he hung at the behest of religious leaders of his era on a form of torturous death popular among the politically powerful, he hung there between two others condemned to the same cruelly prolonged death for their petty crimes.  There Jesus continued to minister mercy, acknowledging the humility of one of his cross-hung compatriots by welcoming him as a guest of Jesus in paradise.  Throughout his ministry on Earth, Jesus encountered, healed and welcomed many whom the mainstream, religiously self-justifying, status-quo-reserving law-abiders called “sinners” and would have stoned to death or banished from their “good company.”  He dared then to say (and would say again today howsoever unpopular it might make him), “And neither do I condemn you” to the woman caught in adultery (having no opportunity to say the same to her male collaborator in adultery since no one sought to stone him at the moment of the story preserved in the Bible).

On another occasion, Jesus taught that the person who visited an inmate in prison was counted among those who had ministered unto him.  It is doubtful that he had in mind that such a visitor would go to the prison to chastise and condemn the inmate as if he or she were chastising and condemning Jesus.  More likely, Jesus expected the visitor to show mercy upon the inmate and share kindness and other acts of mercy with the inmate as Jesus would have done.  He would have visited the inmate as an expression of God’s unconditional love.  How do we view and treat those we incarcerate or others whom we relegate to the margins of society as undesirables? How rigid is our caste system?  To what extent do we dare violate it?

In modern society (one that ironically we claim to be a civil one), we function like a gang of mobsters. We who claim privilege status within the “gang” we call society do not directly sully our hands in the dirty work of harming others.  We hire agents to do the dirty work, just as any seasoned gang leader does.  We hire prosecutors with orientations as bullies who lust for power and hunger to exercise dominion over others to accuse and condemn members of our society as scapegoats to contrast to the heroes we hold up as paragons of virtue.  Sometimes we are so disappointed with our heroes that we topple them off the media-elevated pedestals upon which we had previously installed them and cast them down as scapegoats of the most useful kind.  The media profits from both these false elevations to and the subsequent sensationalized falls from social grace.  In contrast, regardless of the judgment of people in dispensing social grace for temporary, shallow, self-serving reasons, God’s divine grace remains relentlessly extended to us all — howsoever others may judge and condemn us.  Such is an example of the pattern of the world as we put our minds not upon the way of Jesus as an exemplar of God’s way but upon some alternative our egos in our fear prefer.

Followers of the ways of the world who conform mindlessly to its patterns are not following the one who walked the Earth as Jesus, suffered upon the cross of social condemnation to demonstrate his divinity and would even today lead us all to co-create heaven here and now upon this Earth if only we would follow him in all our thoughts, words and deeds.  To do so, as Paul wisely and insightfully observed, we could not allow our minds to remain imprisoned within the patterns of worldly thought of our current, ego-confined, adolescent society but would instead intentionally and relentlessly allow our minds to be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit until our every thought, word and deed revealed the perfect will of God as mature children of God according to our true identity.

As one who had throughout his life on Earth grown in “wisdom and stature in the eyes of man [and woman] and God,” Jesus’ life revealed the will of God in his thinking, speaking and acting.  We are called to do likewise to overcome our identity crisis and refuse to linger any longer in it.  To fulfill our high calling as inheritors of the Kingdom of Love, we must divest our energies from the false calling of condemning others and re-invest these God-given energies with steadfast, uncompromising devotion of our hearts, minds, bodies and souls to ministering to the “least of these” as if each and every one of them is Jesus – without even one exception our egos would prefer to make because we are afraid to appear foolish in the eyes of those who conform to the patterns of the world.  Whom would Jesus reject from his ministry?  Which social leper do we condemn as if he would?

One pattern most fondly adhered to by the world who condemns Jesus to impotence and irrelevancy is the pattern of carving out exceptions to the lifestyle principles he both espoused and modeled.  If you claim to believe in Jesus, follow him as he has called you to do, not compromisingly or lukewarmly – at risk of being spit out of his mouth – but instead radically, wholeheartedly and passionately as if Jesus is not only your savior but your Lord as well.  Allow fear to carve out no exceptions to his mercy and grace lest you discover that the exception you carve out also encompasses you.  Seek full release from the pain you struggle to deny you feel as you fail to live according to your true identity as a child of God. It is that pain that causes you to believe you are being punished and sustains the guilt you feel.  That pain is not punishment.  It is merely the natural result of not allowing yourself to expand beyond your ego’s concerns and undertake your own growth in stature and wisdom.  It is the pain an eagle’s developing chick feels while confined within its egg.  Struggle to peck your way free of the ego’s imprisoning shell.  In the pattern of your creation, you are like Jesus, destined to grow relentlessly in your unique expression of God’s grace.  It is painful to allow your socially reinforced fears to stunt your growth and confine yourself within your ego as if it were your identity.  The ego is a false identity.  You are a good egg but more than an ego.  Accept your true identity as a sibling of Jesus within God’s family and let go of the pain of denying that identity.  Through letting go of your ego, you will discover the freedom from painful guilt and shame your heart desires.

No longer be careless about your heart’s desire to do the right thing even when it is socially unpopular to do so.  Instead care less about the opinions of those still entrapped in the judgmental attitudes of their egos and care more about the judgment of Jesus upon your life.  Seek his mercy as you extend yours.  Let divine love be perfected within you as it was perfect in Jesus so that love casts out all fears that might otherwise falsely convince you that some exceptions to the universal extension of unconditional love to all have merit.  Argue with if you must (as most of us do!) but eventually do not defy your Friend and Master.  Surrender to his loving, merciful wisdom so as to come to know your true, forgiven, grace-empowered nature as God’s child ever as much as Jesus knew and knows his own.  That is what it means to belong to him.  It is the path to service by which you come to know the fullest joy life offers.  It is the pathway to relief from grief that otherwise lingers when it need no longer linger.

To whose pattern do we conform?  Whose view of us matters most to us?  To whose image and likeness do we seek to conform so as to beam the radiance of God’s grace across the heartscape of our nation’s ills and bring forth relational healing instead of condemnation?  We have a choice between the pattern of the fear-filled, fear-controlled ego or the pattern of the love-embodying, love-surrendered follower of Jesus. Let go of ego’s reign and embrace the reign of love offered to you unconditionally by God through Jesus.

In that manner, let your heart not be troubled, nor let it be afraid that upon your death bed you’ll find yourself alone, while drowning in regrets and awash with grief you could have faced and overcome so many years earlier.  Why let the anger of grief rob you of years of peace, hope and joy that await you here on earth as a gift?  Accept the gift.  Linger no longer in the darkness of your prolonged grievances. Instead allow the light of love to shine forth from within you as you know in your heart you can and desire.

The impotence and irrelevancy you choose to assign to Jesus is actually a false belief in your own impotence and irrelevancy.  Neither you nor Jesus is impotent or irrelevant when you team up to respond with grace, mercy and love by faith in the Divine Parent whom Jesus called “Abba.”  The time of the grace of our Father/Mother God/Goddess is upon us.  Accept and embrace who you are and cease to hide isolated in the shadows as if you are impotent and irrelevant to making a difference in how others experience their lives.  Join love’s revolution as a welcome member of the team who wholeheartedly, without reservation embrace Jesus as our wayshower.  And find yourself welcomed home as you welcome others as your sisters and your brothers.

© Art Nicol 2016

Affinity for Divinity

Within each of us is an affinity for divinity. Why?  Because we are each “originally” created as an expression of the divine and yearn deep within us to return to our roots.  (By “originally” I mean both “from the beginning” and “as a uniquely distinctive expression of the Creator – a one-of-a-kind original.” That’s a paradox of our existence:  we are each uniquely, distinctively different and yet we are all also united as one within the human race according to universal qualities we all share.  We, as the entire, eternally interconnected human species, express diversity within unity to express all of the Divine Source with Whom we are eternally united as one.  As Divine Love flows through us we reveal the Divine Source’s nature and favor towards us.)

Our yearning to be free to be and express who we truly are is surging up from within us from our roots.  Within us the S.A.P. we are (Spiritually Anointed People) rises relentlessly to the surface, as surely as in northern climates the sap in trees rises to renew life each spring.  By acknowledging our yearning and cultivating, watering and nurturing the soul-soil within which our roots thrive, we encourage our depth of yearning to rise closer and closer to the surface until it emerges into expression within our daily lives and blossoms here as us – who we each are and who we collectively as the human species or “humanity” are. (Within the sequence of time here on Earth, some of us will rise up before others but eventually we will all rise up so that time and space will matter less and less because our eternal and infinitely powerful divine nature will have come online collectively.)

We are inherently and resolutely as determined to know our own divinity (divine identity), be true to it and express it as dandelions are to rise again from the slightest bit of root or tiniest of wind-borne seed.  When our divinity emerges collectively, as a human race we will cease to engage in oppression, exploitation and conflict towards each other and be unstoppably resilient and brilliant as caregivers for all forms of life within and around us.  Until then we’ll simply fail time after time to achieve our heartfelt dreams and desires to end violence because being untrue to ourselves is the ultimate violence and guaranties our failure to achieve lasting peace.  To paraphrase Shakespeare, we must know our true identity – our authenticity – and be true to it at least simultaneously with, if not before, being false to no one else.  As we learn to be honest with and accept others non-judgmentally, we learn to be honest with and accept ourselves non-judgmentally.  This is the feedback loop process for recovering awareness of our true identity.  Acceptance of others leads to greater acceptance of self, which in turn leads to greater acceptance of others, etc. – all with growing inner peace as well as outer peace.  Thus we implement the principle “As within, so without.”

Before we rise up to blossom as we truly are in fulfillment of our own hearts’ desire and of The Divine’s will for us as beloved children of The Divine Source of Life, we are buried beneath the illusions and false images the world of fear teaches us to worship as survivors but not thrivers.  To thrive we must come alive as who we truly are and dare to share our true identity with at least one other and then more and more with all others as sisters and brothers in the same divine family.  It is irresistible, this urge to emerge and share!

Recently I’ve been thinking again about how this emergency took place in my life.  Emergence felt like an emergency because it felt urgent to my heart that I emerge and it felt threatening to my ego that I might emerge as me from behind the cloaking device my ego had become as my social image.  Pride and shame held me back, inhibited my emergence and tried to thwart my fulfillment in living true to who I am.  After living many years as an ego and hiding within the social roles egos train us to play, it upset many people who had known me in my ego roles to behold the real me emerging.  “What’s wrong with you, Art?” they’d ask, if not overtly to my face then privately to themselves and perhaps as well to others.   What was “wrong” with Art was that I was no longer willing to play charades and hide myself from others.  The process of emerging was awkward, more awkward than it need be for others if only we’d all welcome such emergences more openly and not do our best to control or even repress them as unwelcome challenges to the status quo within which we profess ourselves to be so comfortable.  Repressive social reactions on the part of frightened conformists delay and even disfigure emergences.  Being scalded by shame and blame wounds our hearts and can leave long-lasting scars.

I was no longer comfortable with hiding within the status quo as a conformist. I was troubled by my affinity to divinity.  I did not know my troubled waters initially by such a concept.  I did not know how to identify my troubled state.  Indeed, I was more inclined to ask of myself “What’s wrong with you, Art?” than to claim the truth that something miraculous and beautiful was happening – something possibly more “right” than yet understood let alone socially acceptable.  Today I hope to be here to encourage others to emerge beyond merely surviving within ego’s fearful darkness to enjoy thriving within the love-bathed lightness of wholeness, authenticity and integrity.  We need to give each other emotional support as we emerge as authentic but diverse expressions of the divine instead of bashing each other for being different. Let us learn to bathe wounds rather than bash the wounded, wash away grief rather than wander astray and wallow in its initial stages of denial, anger, bargaining and depression.

For each of us, the process of emerging is motivated in some way by our affinity for divinity.  Yet, our identifying links with divinity may differ.  Mine is merely an example of what may be possible for all of us.  If your links to divinity are of a nature similar to mine, I welcome you to share your experiences with me and others.  If, however, your links to divinity are of a different nature, please honor them as well and feel equally welcome to share them.  Perhaps in our sharing we will find the common threads and themes that link us all.

As briefly as I can manage let me describe linking themes I have traced throughout my life that opened doors to phases of my emergence:

First Theme: I will call this linking theme my desire to enjoy relationships with authors and other storytellers, both of fiction and nonfiction.  Throughout my life, I have enjoyed reading, listening to and watching stories that are well presented and have depth and breadth of symbolic meaning.  Allegories and metaphors need not dominate but a story that reveals patterns of human thinking, emotions and character development intrigues me.  Call them archetypes, themes or common patterns, their presence revealed within a story captures my imagination and draws me inward to participate in the experiences of characters in the story.  My imagination allows me to “there” with the characters even while remaining “here” in my own life.  Truth be known, sometimes I tend to become more “lost” in the story than remain aware of my surroundings. Ironically it is my tendency to become so lost in my imagination that allowed me to encounter my true identity and recover from having mislaid and forgotten it as ego’s social training taught me to do.

I became lost in stories told by others to become found in my own living story.  I now realize that my whole life has been symbolic and in some way identified with the common allegories and archetypes of humanity.  (It is likely that you will find your life story is as well.) In some ways, my awakening to this realization while surrounded by many people who do not yet realize that it is also true for them caused me to feel lonely.  I yearn for the companionship of others with whom to share my story and listen to theirs too.  Knowing that every one of us has a story worth sharing has held up to me a path from loneliness to more expansive connections with others past, present and future.  The Eternity of Divinity embraces all time frames and is part of the divinity for which I now feel such affinity.  I began as an expression of an eternal story and now know myself as continuing to be such an expression.

Among the many story tellers who have encouraged me to grow increasingly aware of my nature as a child of God none has been more influential than Jesus.  The stories he told that remain in our records are likely not the only ones he told.  His whole life remains largely an untold story buried beneath myths and legends that have been layered on by various story tellers’ for a variety of purposes.  What marvels my imagination most is that the most outlandishly generous and merciful of the stories of Jesus’ life are the most likely to be true.  Within stories of helpful Samaritans, prodigal sons, women at wells, women at risk of being stoned, reviled tax collectors and others honored to share meals and the like, I found myself invited to imagine what it might be like to have known Jesus as a disciple walking with him as he revealed and shared the nature of his Father as the Divine Parent of us all.  Through my imagination my heart tapped into inspirations that gave birth to actions that taught me much by experience that formal, ego-censored education could not show me.

Second Theme:  I will call this linking theme my desire to be helpful.  Perhaps mostly as a result of my middlish position among seven siblings and my desire to earn my parents’ attention, appreciation and approval, I acquired the disposition and habit of being helpful early in life and could not shirk it afterwards.  I believe that this habit was hard to break because it is rooted in the nature of the Divine Source of Life.  The Source is disposed to helpfulness and habitually helps us whether or not we ask.  As this second theme shaped my development from childhood throughout adulthood, I stumbled along, many times failing, as how to be most helpful was revealed to me.  Throughout my life, I had to change many of my ways of offering helpfulness to more closely correspond to how divine aid is offered, but I could not shake off the desire to be helpful even when I became discouraged about ever learning how to be helpful in truly helpful, lasting ways.  Just as Edison experimented with many materials as he searched for ones to serve as filaments in his early light bulbs, I experimented with ways of helpfulness that shed little light or burned out all too readily.  There are ways to help as the Divine Benevolent One helps, to be an extension of Divine Benevolence as Jesus was while walking upon the earth, and to shed a warm and gentle light to radiate within the darkness of a violence-tossed and troubled world.   Mastering how to do so remains one of my primary goals.  Stories of those who have done so gracefully and effectively throughout the ages continue to inspire and guide me.

Third Theme:  I will call this linking theme my desire to share.  Again this theme began when I was growing up amid seven siblings and observed that if we did not share, there’d not be much left for the smaller and less aggressive ones of us.  Thus, sharing began as a survival principle.  Later it morphed into a principle by which to thrive as me as I discovered that the Divine Source of Life had created and still creates all that is by sharing Divinity with all.  Organic, natural sustainability models itself on the Divine.  In time, I learned how to engage in feedback loops with the Divine and my fellow human beings and to enjoy the empowering unity that such feedback loops generate.  My life has been enriched by sharing all that I receive. I know now with certainty what I had previously only believed was possibly true – that giving and receiving are the same thing, a unified and unifying process we call “sharing.”  The Golden Rule rules our whole lives as surely as the Law of Gravity rules our physical existence.  Whether or not our affinity for divinity will ever defy gravity I do not know except to say that the gravest and weightiest of earthly problems seem to grow lighter as we approach their solutions from the perspective of Eternity.  In my experiences, the Creator has turned out to be more lighthearted than I was initially led to believe.

These three themes have grown over my lifetime as branches of a stout and sometimes fruitful tree. Within those branches I have found myself nourished, nurtured and lifted beyond the ego’s mind-clouding fogs of pain and confusion into awareness of my own identity as a child of God.  My discovery of my divine identity led me to discover FIRELIGHT as an acronym to partially summarize my story.  Faith Initiates Rising to Excellence by Learning to Implement God’s Highest Truth. What is that Truth?  That we are each and every one of us without exception a child of God, by whatever name we may refer to such a Supreme Parent or Source of Life.  (And by whatever names – deriding or uplifting – that we have from time to time called ourselves and have been called by others.)

When I call this ultimate Truth “highest” I also mean it is the deepest, reaching to the taproot of our creation within which all our roots are joined.  Designed to explore the truth of divine love within the depths of our beings, we are also designed to express this truth within our relationships from the most intimate ones outward in ever-expanding circles of new life.  Ours is a love story, a story of mutually helpful beings designed by Divine Love to grow in evermore powerful capacities to express and share love in ever-ascending, upward spiraling feedback loops – giving and receiving as a unified Divine Companion and Loved One for our Creator. “As the Creator Is so We Are.”  We are here on earth to discover what that observation means and how to live according to it in all the fullness of our beings.

(For more about FIRELIGHT, please visit the Firelight SJL tab above.)

© Art Nicol 2016

The Infinitesimal Unnoticed God

Why do participants in technology-enraptured cultures so easily overlook and ignore God?  Where technology captures the imagination it enslaves hearts and minds and makes the idea of God seem unimaginably tiny, unappealing and, frankly, irrelevant.  Why bother searching to detect God’s messages among all the chatter when the search seems as likely to succeed as our search for messages from extraterrestrial beings?

By comparison to technologically enhanced messages, what is God doing to show off a Divine Presence? Could it be the nature of holiness to be readily unnoticed precisely because it conducts no mass media or marketing campaigns on its behalf and seeks not fame or fortune – of which it has neither need nor desire?  Might the Ultimate Divine be so focused on serving humanity behind the scenes and beneath the radar in uttermost humility that we discount this Presence as a candidate for Godhood?  Might our own individual yearning and striving for self-sufficiency, independence and an ever so modest bit of limelight hoodwink us into believing that we achieved all our goals on our own and received no aid from any significant source the recognition of which might rob us of our self-satisfaction and claim to accolades? Might we identify with sports teams, political parties, schools, religions and other groups to hitch a ride on their claims to fame and reap vicarious benefits from mere association with our chosen group’s success?  Might even our “good works” be tainted by our desire to feel better about ourselves personally and receive pats on the back if not Nobel Prizes and other variously valued awards for charity? Might pride’s declaration “This I did all by myself” (or only with the help of colleagues to whom I can point my finger with pride) be utter foolishness every time it’s uttered?

God has no need of self-promotion or self-aggrandizement – or of praise and admiration from the crowds who, for example, once welcomed Jesus as their Messiah and not long afterwards cried out “Crucify him, crucify him.”  God knows the fickleness of public opinion and does not hunger to impress!  The ways of modern versions of success through exploitation, expansionism and claims to “specialness” are not the ways of God.  Every person who claims a worldly achievement admired by his or her peers and wider audiences without acknowledging the absolute necessity of God’s role in it conspires to disclaim God’s nature as a devoted nurturer and devotee of humanity.  Many co-conspirators are ganging up to prove not that God is dead but instead irrelevant, impotent and uncaring. Who needs God when we have unlimited technology by which to achieve greatness, notoriety and popularity?  Who needs God when we can without Divine Aid capture and enslave minds, hearts and wills of most if not all members of mass-media-dominated societies awash with participants who prefer to follow the crowd and be told what to think, feel, wear, eat, do, etc. than to create a worthwhile life based on ideas received from the Divine Beyond?  Isn’t listening to God too much bother compared with the ease of listening to the media?

Propaganda’s capacity to use technology to endlessly repeat lies glorifying self-sufficiency is enough to convince most people that lies are truth as if repetition is proof itself and truth has no existence apart from what people can be convinced to believe.  The simplicity and perseverance of truth offers no novelty, complexity or glamour to enhance its marketability or entertainment value.  God is simply not fun enough!  Most people are not interested in puzzling through the mysteries and paradoxes of Eternal Truth.  Like God, such truth is infinitesimal and readily goes unnoticed.  It fills all the spaces between media-trumpeted events and entertainment like dark matter fills the “voids” between the stars and planets.  It is not visible to human minds that know not how to sense its Presence.  Yet it is there waiting to be sensed.

To switch metaphors, a murky slurry of lies covers the natural landscape of truth beneath multiple coats of lacquer – each glossier, smoother and more opaque than the last.  In the process of sealing life within this lacquer of lies, we have painted ourselves into a corner and framed God outside of the picture.  God has been framed as the cause of evil and therefore tainted with impurity and unworthy of our honor and worship.  Hence we witness the decline of modern society as we divorce ourselves from God by declaring our independence and self-sufficiency instead of intentionally nurturing our interdependence with God’s help in the context of Divine grace.   We foolishly and arrogantly declare that we have no need of dependence upon God. Our individual and collectives egos will not allow us to consider such a possibility.  Since this option threatens the very foundation of the ego’s dominion in our lives, it is understandable that our egos resist our considering it.

How well are radical independence from God and denial of Eternal Truth working for humanity?  Is the propaganda serving us?  Might God yet be serving us better despite our efforts to resist Divine Aid?  What might happen if we were to stop resisting and begin instead to cooperate with God?

Look around at what mass media (perhaps more aptly labeled “mess media”) deems worthy to report and promote and you will see all the evidence you need to demonstrate the utter failure of radical independence from God’s nature and nurture.  Utter failure calls for utter rejection of the nonsense of independence outside of the moderating context and influence of grace-infused interdependence.  Whatever level of independence we may find helpful must bow to our innate need for interdependence as a species or we will soon be rendered extinct by our own hand.  Having experimented with radical independence, taken self-sufficiency to its extreme and beheld the costs, we must now turn as radically to interdependence and persevere in our steadfast commitment to that alternative way by which life may be shared with all of us as brothers and sisters within the human family.

God need not remain unnoticed, unappreciated and dishonored.  We can choose to notice, appreciate and honor God by choosing to notice, appreciate and honor each other as children of God created in our Diving Parent’s image and likeness.  How I notice, appreciate and honor you equates to how I notice, appreciate and honor God just as surely as how you notice, appreciate and honor my earthly children equates to how you notice, appreciate and honor me.  We are all one.  To notice, appreciate and honor any is to notice, appreciate and honor all and the Source of All.  By such noticing, appreciating and honoring we will discover that God has been noticing, appreciating and honoring us all along, waiting always patiently for us to return the favor.

God waits to serve us as gratefully receptive Divine Dependents of a Divinely Dependable Parent.  Accepting such divine service does not offend the value of our well-reasoned, self-disciplined individuality but merely cautions against taking independence so far to fracture our relationships with one another.  Stretching and growing us together but not stressing and blowing us apart.  The reliability of God’s power and willingness to aid us in our pursuit of harmonious oneness is not infinitesimal.  It is instead unfathomable.  To notice, appreciate and honor it is not to claim to fully understand, manipulate or control.  We must trust God to be God even while God remains a mystery beyond our understanding, manipulation and control.  Let us join our hearts together to call upon such a Power to come to our aid in this hour of our greatest need.  That hour is upon us here and now.  Through our foolishness we have brought this hour upon us.  By divine grace and wisdom our Sacred Parent will lead us through and beyond it to a brighter hour that is truly ours to share for as long as we forsake foolishness and embrace the wisdom of God’s way.

© Art Nicol 2016

You Were Born to Have an Impact

Saying that you “were born” implies that you originate from a source that gave birth to you.  A source gave birth to you.  In a materialistic, scientific worldview, the idea of “birth” focuses on the origin of the physical body and traces your body’s origin back to your parents and then backward genetically through a timeline of gene pools that contributed to your body’s genetic makeup.  Then, according to science, the genes of your body – as influenced by your environment and your interactions with your environment –  determine the development of your body.  If all you are is a body, then that’s the whole story – cellular growth determined by genetic makeup and the influences of your environment as you experience being exposed to your environment, including the things you eat, the activities you undertake and the locations where you choose to be active.  If all you are is a body, then having “an impact” is limited to your body’s presence, consumption of resources and production of output, if any, beyond waste products.  That’s a pretty dismal view of a person’s life, value and impact.

However, it’s possible that you are not merely a body.  It’s possible that your body’s brain does not entirely explain the mental activities you experience during your lifetime.  It’s possible that you develop mentally on account of factors beyond the genetic makeup of your body and your interactions with your environment.  Although your mental development may be heavily influenced by genetic makeup and environment, you may not be merely a product of your environment.  You may have options beyond being a mere “product” rolling along a socially oriented assembly line to your final destination as a socially acceptable (popular and praised) or unacceptable (cast out and shamed) by-product of your social interactions. What if you do have options?  What if there is more to the story than genetic makeup and social environment that helps your mind understand who you are?  What if fully and completely answering the question “Who am I?” requires you to see yourself as more than a structurally arranged, unique set of cells engineered by genes and adapting to its environment?

Of course, you do not have to entertain possibilities beyond genes and environment in consider your nature and nurture.  That is your choice.  In fact, having that choice illustrates an aspect of you that cannot readily be explained by genes and environment. That aspect is your capacity to make choices.  If you fully honor your capacity to make choices – your willpower – then you begin to experience yourself as much more than a by-product of genetically coded cells interacting with their environment.  In fact, because our exercise of willpower opens doors to infinite possibilities, recognizing willpower as a valued dimension of human life invites us to see a greatly expanded meaning of “having an impact.”  The greatest impact may be revealed in a lifetime of choices made that defy options and opportunities offered in our normal social environment because we reach for more creative options and opportunities that our mind allows us to imagine.  I suggest that it is within the exercise of our imaginations as the source of our options that we will find the fuller meaning of being “born” and “having impact.”

My own life journey has taught me that my choices bring consequences.  One of the most promising consequences proved to be that one choice may lead me to awareness of other options and opportunities I did not previously know existed.  For example, making the choice to step beyond my comfort zone as a fence-sitter and avoider of conflict and controversy eventually led me step by step to encounter a progression of uncomfortable but educational environments in which my range of options and opportunities was more expansive, diverse and enriching than the range previously known to me.  Had I remained too scared to explore this progression of uncomfortable but educational life experiences I would have remained ignorant of the greater possibilities of life and not encountered the Ultimate Source of Life personally.  No matter how admirable my intentions might have been in investing myself strictly within my previous comfort zone, my growth as a person would have been stunted and I would have remained a fence-sitter, people-pleaser and conflict/controversy-avoider. And I would have remained a perfectionist out of fear of being criticized for mistakes that inevitably come with exploring wider environments where unimagined often unforeseen challenges and lessons remain to be encountered and mastered by faith.

More importantly, had I not grown more understanding and insightful and progressively wiser throughout the course of my journey, I would have continued to unwittingly inflict harm on others through my ignorance and well-intended foolishness. I would have misled many others into believing that what I said was true was true instead of encouraging them to risk taking their own journey of discovery as I had and learn what is true for themselves from the same Source. Having mistakenly crucified others on the cross of my own ignorance, I would have had to continue to cry out “God forgive me for I know not what I do.”  Instead, having taken the risk of venturing beyond my comfort zones into zones of progressively less comfort, I have learned who I am, who the Source of Life from Whom I was born is and of the reality of my and all of humanity’s solidarity and oneness with the Source.  As a result, I have learned to seek and receive the Source’s guidance as to what I do and how I do it in regard to every living being I encounter.  Having learned the art of humility and surrendered my life to serving the Source, I am now more apt to actually cause the good I intend than ever I was before because I have learned to be the Source’s instrument for extending Source-defined, Source-provided good to others.  I have learned to no longer rely upon my own ideas about what is “good” or trust in my own best intentions.  Instead, I’ve learned to trust that the Source knows best — even when my own more limited mind still puzzles over how the Source’s ideas work.  I do not pretend that the providence of miracles is mine to rule.  In short, I’ve learned to no longer lean upon my own understanding.

It is true that I was born to have an impact. It is also true that my most helpful impact would have been stillborn had I allowed myself to remain trapped in the belief that I am essentially a body composed of cells engineered by genes and developed, molded and trained like some form of artificial intelligence through interactions with my environment.  As tempting as it may be to conform one’s thinking to the popular ideas of one’s society, I encourage others to take the risk of deviating from those normative ideas and daring to encounter criticism as many bold explorers and thinkers have endured. Why? Because it is true that love endures all things — even the criticism of those not yet inclined to overcome their own fears and ignorance. The best way to prove that you are born as a being of love to share love with increasingly expansive impact is to discover that all you are is love no matter in what environment, subculture or social setting you may find yourself immersed and engaged from stage to stage along your journey — no matter how harsh the criticism may be.

Just as there is no limit to the capacity of the Source of Love to love there is no limit to your capacity to love because you were born with an enduring connection to your Source and can tap into infinite love flowing from your Source by exercise of your willpower.  The willpower of the Source chose to give you the experience of being born with this enduring, unbreakable connection because the Source created you to be just like your Source, a spitting image of your Source but not a splitting image of It.  Never are you split or separated from your Source. Never are you born to cause or perpetuate splits or separations to occur between you and your Source, you and anyone else or anyone and his or her Source.  The Source of Life and Love for each of us is the same Source.  We are all one with that Source – our Source, not yours, mine, his, hers or theirs but ours.

You were born to have an impact, too.  No matter what distinctive details may emerge in your manifestation of love as you come into awareness of the Source of Love in your mind and heart, you are here to have an impact comparable to and compatible with mine.  We are all here to help bind up heartache and other wounds and to heal relationships wherever we may travel. Whether our model of healing is Jesus who was born to have an impact that included healing broken hearts and restoring relationship between humanity and our Source or some other healing entity, our mission and purpose remain in line with the Source’s vision for all humanity to see ourselves as one loving community overflowing with love because we are connected to an infinite flow of love.

On March 4, 1865, following a great conflict that he was not able to avoid and ceasing to attempt to be a fence-sitter or people-pleasing politician, Abraham Lincoln said it this way:

“With malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Towards this endlessly unfolding destiny I encourage all of us to strive together by faith in the Source who is ever faithful.  Therein awaits the impact for which we were born — each individually and all collectively.

© Art Nicol 2016

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 3

Wholeheartedness is key.  To once again know ourselves to be the heart of Life as God created Life, we must be wholeheartedly committed to serving God in this role as an act of our free will – and apply for the position as if we were applying for the most rewarding and amazing career we could imagine.  At first it may not feel like an expression of freedom to do so. It may feel like an act of obedience or surrender as if contrary to our freedom to do whatever pleases us. So long as we equate being free to being neglectful, thoughtless, indifferent, undisciplined and wild in self-indulgently pleasing our individual selves no matter the cost to others, we will resist restoration to the heart of God.  Under that false definition of “freedom,” our egos will continue to convince us that pleasing God means sacrificing what’s important to us.  When we value individuality above community in unbalanced ways, we cause suffering – to ourselves and others.  To foster the continuation of such unbalanced living, the ego will continue to value pride as the alternative to shame and argue that cooperating with God’s will is humiliating and can only be done at a great cost to our pride.

The ego is correct that submitting to and cooperating with God’s will and learning to live within the heart of God in line with the Divine Constant is not prideful.  But neither is it shameful.  It is having the humility to reconnect with true power rather than A) remaining disconnected, isolated, lonely and devoid of the joys of healthy intimacy and B) trying to hide from deeply dissatisfying feelings of powerless and loss.  The experience of being restored to alignment with God’s will is vastly rewarding but not on ego’s terms.  So long as we value ego’s terms, we’ll resist God’s terms.  The choice is stark.  We cannot live by both ego’s fear-controlled, loveless terms and God’s courageous, love-enriched terms.  We must eventually choose one or the other.  And we must choose wholeheartedly and remain committed to that choice no matter how the ego tries to tempt us to return to or compromise with ego’s terms.  As we gain progress in implementing our choice to forego the ego entirely, we’ll become increasingly eager to continue making that choice.

For a while, it will seem as if doing what pleases God requires that we do what does not please ourselves.  That sense of loss will continue only as long as we continue to mistakenly identify with ego as our “self.”  That God’s will for Life and our will for Life are one will is not immediately evident to us because our ego-oriented habits will not immediately give way to the new set of habits we will acquire as we master the discipline of living within the Divine Constant as an expression of God’s unconditionally loving heart.  One of the most persuasive arguments the ego will present in favor of remaining loyal to the ego and avoiding learning to live as G.O.A.L. will be to point out that awakening to our emotions and becoming less numb to our hearts requires that we become aware of the negative emotions that the ego convinced us to store away earlier in life.  Under the ego’s influence, it is true that instead of processing our emotions on a current basis we bottled them up and allowed them to accumulate.  The ego will argue, “Look, you’ve stored up a lot of pain trying to avoid feeling it earlier in life. Do you really want to feel that pain now?  Why not keep bottling it up and avoid feeling it as the ego allows you to do?”

Yes, the pain is there, stored up from years of habitually avoiding being honest about your emotions.  With God’s able assistance you will be empowered to look directly at this pain, be honest about it and grieve through it to the brighter life beyond it, where pain will no longer accumulate as a plague upon your heart and mind and motivate you to participate in cycles of violence – as victim or victimizer.  You gain God’s assistance by asking for it and being wholeheartedly committed to receiving it in all the forms it takes.  You can remain enslaved to pain (and to its accumulated version called “chronic suffering”) by continuing to live by your ego’s false identity and obeying the ego’s demand that you condemn and punish yourself and others for “sins,” wrongs and guilt that can be forgiven instead.  Or you can become free of pain and suffering by envisioning life beyond the pain, beyond the suffering and beyond the ego and engaging in the process of grieving to attain relief, a process through which your vision of the Divine Constant draws you like iron filings to a magnetic field.  Which option really pleases you?  Are you really pleased by the prospect of enduring pain and suffering forever as you condemn yourself and others to it by identifying with ego or are you likely to be more pleased by the prospect of ending pain and suffering?  Endure or end pain and suffering?  Is that really a difficult choice?  The main difficulty in the choice presents itself at the beginning – are you willing to take the risk that the Divine Constant exists and will prove to welcome you to life within it?  Are you willing to risk giving up the power to inflict painful revenge in order to discover your natural power to share love and healing instead?  Your sense of risk will gradually fade the more you experience the fruits of your exercising faith in God and allow God to prove Eternity’s favorable faithfulness to you.

Only our egos resist God’s will.  Our true nature as created by God does not resist.  It remains receptive to God’s presence, power and purpose as a beloved child remains receptive to the caring presence, power and purpose of a trusted, nurturing human parent.  (Much of our resistance to trusting God as a nurturing Divine Parent is rooted in our past experiences with human parents and other authority figures whom we expected to care for us on favorable terms but instead treated us according to ego’s terms and – by neglect, abuse or both – failed to express the qualities of God’s care and caused us to feel betrayed.  Now many of us fear being betrayed, rejected and abandoned by God as well as by others.)  As we let down our ego’s guarded stance towards God as Supreme Authority and Caregiver and risk exploring the ego-diminishing experience of God we will be amazed and delighted by what we discover.  The wonderful features and benefits of being human that we’d not known or encountered before – or thought we’d never know or encounter again – come alive and energize life more completely.  We feel the magnetic field of God’s love flowing through and around us and become convinced that we are detecting what scientists have not yet been able to detect.  In this experience, we will know that we are the God-detectors and that our subjective experiences of God are like the responses of iron filings to a magnet’s magnetic field.  Being susceptible to magnetism, the iron filings cannot resist aligning themselves with the magnetic field.  Being susceptible to Love’s Power because we are created by Love, we similarly cannot resist aligning ourselves and all we are with Love’s energizing invitation in our hearts.

Our struggle to let down resistance and trust takes place within our wills and minds.  God has no struggle.  God is wholeheartedly committed to our well-being and always has been and always will be. God knows no other way to Be. The struggle is ours, between our ego’s orientation and our divine, natural orientation.  God trusts that our nature as created offspring of the Origin of Life will ultimately prevail.  There is a struggle within each of us only because we’ve been raised to believe in the ego as our identity.  Our minds have taken up that concept of ego-identity in powerful ways to do our best to adopt it and adapt to it.  We put our faith in those who taught us to be egos and in the rules, roles and rituals by which we learned to belong as an ego in an ego-oriented society.  We may feel betrayed when we discover that “obeying” God’s authority is not humiliating – as it may have been for us to obey human authority figures.  We will discover that “obedience” to God’s will is not a sacrifice at all.  It’s a privilege.  It’s a decision to cooperate, collaborate and co-create with Love’s presence, power and purpose so as to cease to feel little or no personal significance, power or purpose within our own lives.  We will come alive with our own incredible personal presence, power and purpose because we aligned our wills with the Divine Constant and learned to live wholeheartedly committed to all it asks of us to be true to ourselves.

We are not our egos.  The ego is a false identity we adopted to survive in the modern, ego-dominated society where God’s true nature as the Source of Love has been denied – at best relegated to an accessory to modern lifestyles and at worst discredited and discarded altogether.  God is not a handbag, necktie or other accessory to Life.  God is the main point of Life, all that makes Life worth living.  Modern lifestyles that relegate God to a minor role or dismiss Divinity from the team are not actually lifestyles.  They are deathstyles masquerading as lifestyles.  They are deathstyles to the same extent to which they define God, the Creator and Sustainer of Life, to be irrelevant or indifferent – or worse our hostile adversary.  As we learn to restore God to supreme relevance and benevolence at the center of our lives, we will awaken in our hearts to experiences of the Divine Love that have otherwise been missing in action in our lives.  Without God, our lives may be filled with endless action but still be empty of love.  Divine Love will be our reward for “obeying” God and discovering that our free will is truly an honored element of God’s will.  In fact, our will cannot be truly free unless it honors God’s will as its source.  The negative connotations of “obedience” fade away as we realize that all God asks of us is to consent and cooperate in allowing God to deliver us from ego and its fears so that God may gracefully deliver to us all our hearts desire.  The ego asks for our compliance with its subtly manipulative, seductive tyranny.  God invites us to openly, honestly and transparently explore investing our wholehearted consent and cooperation within the Divine Constant and with each other so as to create together the world beyond ego we may have sometimes dared to hope is possible.

Learning to relate to God as a gracefully generous and gentle lover requires renewal of lost trust.  It requires that we trust a Power Greater Than Ourselves to have our best interests in mind and at heart and to show us step by step how love reliably works within the Divine Constant.  The process of trust-building between ourselves and God requires that we risk trusting and appreciating (instead of judging and condemning) each other too.  Through experiences of broken promises and other types of violated trust that we’ve experienced at the hands of other people’s egos, we have learned 1) not to trust God or each other, 2) not to feel our emotions or be sensitive to and aware of our hearts and the hearts of others, and 3) not to talk about things that really matter (as Claudia Black points out in her helpful book*).  To rise beyond ego means to let go of the ego’s dysfunctional rules of distrust, heartlessness and superficiality and move ever deeper into and throughout Life’s enriching, adventurous journey as explorers, pioneers and settlers, not to displace anyone but to find our own place within the infinitely expansive Divine Constant.  In contrast, modern society majors in maintaining distrust, heartlessness and superficiality as our steady diet and as the defining features of the tightly defended, closed comfort zones within which we cower as egos.

The Divine Constant is not our ego’s comfort zone (or status quo, sheltering bubble or closed social system) but it is our Natural Self’s native creativity zone within which we come fully online and enlivened and dare to take the risk of changing for the better and unfolding to be all God created us to be.  It is not the realm where human scientists can detect all phenomena and control all experiments on human terms.  It is a realm of risks.  Some experiments may blow up in our face and splash egg on our egos.  Yet, even experiments that seem to end in ignoble failure contain valuable lessons.  Within God’s grace, no matter how our explorative experimentation may progress as we discover more about who we are and how to express ourselves, we remain secure in our knowledge that we are loved and cared for by a God who is wholeheartedly devoted to us personally – each and everyone one of us singly and all of us collectively.  God’s solidarity with each and all of us is unshakeable, even during our most adolescent phases and fascinations.  And God is wholeheartedly committed to our learning and making progress through all of our experiences as divine “works in progress” who are ever evolving and emerging to be, represent and express the more comprehensive nature of God’s mind, heart and will.

We are God’s will power set free to either live according to the Divine Constant or repudiate it and remain apart from it until we tire of being apart from it and opt to join with it as an expression of our freedom.  Freedom is what it’s all about.  That is why Martin Luther King, Jr. reported after his encounter with God that he was “free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last.”  My life purpose is to encourage us to all join MLK Jr. in fulfilling the dream he asked us to envision with him.  He saw what God was seeing and rejoiced to share with us what God had shown him.  So every visionary dreams of doing to the ever-evolving enhancement of the quality of Life on Earth.

A visionary’s inspiration of the Divine Constant:

Fast forward several decades, the Divine Constant remains constantly honored:

And articulated in a variety of ways:

I propose that we are here on Earth to explore the fullest expanses of Life in the context and under the guidance of Love as shared with God and each other.  We are not here to pursue our lonely, misguided explorations as egos in the context of isolating fears that deprive us of the immense joys of sacred, enthusiastic, heartfelt intimacy.  We are here instead to serve each other as expressions of the Divine Constant, encouraging all of us to participate in that renewing, ancient territory.  Let us agree together to value all that God holds valuable and offers to share generously. Let us let go of all the valueless that ego once convinced us to value.  It feels miraculous to realize that God encourages us to try new experiences beyond pride and shame and guilt and blame and there – in the beyond – engage with Life playfully as innocent children are free to do if given that latitude by those who watch over them as authority figures.  That is the latitude God grants us.  It is also our hearts’ desires come true.

Could life be as simple as deciding to wholeheartedly have faith in a benevolent and merciful God who has no need to argue with anyone nor punish or make anyone feel guilty or ashamed for disagreeing or being different?  What would it feel like to be totally safe while expressing a creative idea or heartfelt feeling to which the mainstream majority may at first react adversely?  What would it feel like to say, “Hey, I have something to say that’s controversial and I’m not sure if it’s correct, but I feel the need to say it anyway because I believe it may be helpful?” and not be ridiculed or in any other manner made to regret speaking up?  What if such uncensored freedom of expression allowed solutions to social issues to arise from the depths of our hearts as we listened to the Spirit of Love within us?   What would it be like if we all did our best to be nonjudgmental as God is instead of defending our egos and projecting our fears on one another?

It is easy to project fears upon the defenseless innocents and make them play the role of scapegoats.  Would it not be more honest and require more courage to recognize our own fears directly and admit how we’re tempted to pretend we are not afraid? Would our relationships work out better is we did not allow our undisclosed fears and their resulting temptation to pretend to dictate how we think, speak and act?  The ego counsels that we hide all our emotions, including our fears, but also our anger, sorrow, peace, hope and joy.  It counsels that we project images of pride (or second best, shame) as substitutes for honest emotions caringly expressed within our relationships.  The ego tends to characterize anger as an expression of power when in fact it’s an expression of deep-seated feelings of powerlessness.   In contrast, the Spirit of Love counsels that we find within our hearts the courage to stand together humbly as honest citizens and live at peace with one another.  The Divine Constant welcomes us to be a constant source of peace, hope, joy and love and a model of emotions of all types expressed caringly.  Constantly.  Can we be it?  Yes, we can, by God’s grace and with God’s empowering assistance.

Would it not be amazing to discover how right both scientists dedicated to the highest principles of science and believers in God dedicated to the highest principles of sacredness have been all along in seeking to be more than superficial observers of Life?  May we all learn to look deep into our hearts and there find persuasive cause to see eye to eye and cease to take an eye for an eye.  May we discover within our shared experience of the Divine Constant that

IIO and

I + I = WE as US (Wise Explorers as United Spirits)

amid a never-ending quest to experience our deepest satisfaction as GOAL.

*Black, It Will Never Happen to Me, 2nd Edition, MAC Publishing, Bainbridge Island WA 2001.

© Art Nicol 2015

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 Silent Harm of Believing Ourselves Merely to Be Bodies

Since the onset of the scientific era, literate humans have, over the centuries, come to view ourselves as merely bodies occupying space on the Earth as it travels through what we call “outer space.” We’ve amassed a vast body of published ideas shared widely among those who learn to read.  These ideas contain biases and assumptions we rarely question but instead allow to point us ever outward in a relentless exploration of expansively more outer space.  Which ideas are published and made available to the public is, for the most part, determined by a publication industry that has adopted the same biases and assumptions, resulting in the continuing promotion of biased reporting of ideas, not the diet of vigorously robust, broad-ranging ideas upon which the human mind may feed to thrive and grow stronger.  As a result, our minds are starving for more nourishment than typical publications provide.

Our mental diet is anemic, lacking in vital nutrients necessary to sustain humanity’s existence. Why?  Because we are not merely bodies but have unquestioningly adopted the assumption that we are.  This silent assumption neglects the features of humanity that are not physical and promotes violence towards our physical health as well.  We are neglecting our wholeness because of our assumptions in favor of the false primacy of our physicality.  We still have time to free ourselves of this deadly trend and reverse the harm it has caused.  In challenging the assumption that we are merely bodies we will discover the healing and restoration of wholeness that we need and so desperately desire.  We can remain literate without remaining ignorant of the more holistic truths that will set us free from violence and its harm.

As a consequence of the assumptions upon which our current focus of literacy is based, we’ve become convinced that the ultimate truths most essential for understanding life await to be discovered “out there” by someone bold enough to go “there” personally or by some form of technology. In the process we’ve become enamored with technology and our ever increasing capacity to see and explore beyond the Earth as well as into features of Earth both at macro- and micro-physical dimensions.  We spend billions of dollars based on the biases and assumptions unquestioned within our materialistic, scientific viewpoint on life.  Sciences tend to examine the outer, physical world in greater and greater scope and detail without questioning whether we may be overlooking other areas of inquiry vital to our understanding of life.

In relatively recent times, scientific investigations have turned to seeking greater understanding of our minds. Our minds are not assumed to be “out there” beyond us but instead to be somehow “in here,” within of us.  Some investigate the mind as an individual phenomenon inherent in each person.  Some investigate the individual mind as having a capacity to connect with other individual minds so as, perhaps, to form a collective, single mind of all humanity. Where might individual minds and a collective mind exist, if they exist? “Out there” or “in here?” The investigation of the mind’s nature includes studies of the physical organ, the brain, that we associate with our mind.  But many investigators do not assume that the mind is limited to the brain.  How the brain relates to the phenomenon we call “mind” remains a mystery we continue to explore.  But at least the study of the mind has caused scientific investigative methods to no longer be applied only to exploring “out there.”  Now, we use scientific methods to explore the possibility of a realm of experience “in here.”

The expansion of science into exploring the possibilities of “in here” has brought science and mysticism into closer communication and proximity. It might challenge scientists to call science “scienticism” in parallel with mysticism to demote it from the sacred pedestal upon which we’ve set science for centuries. Might it be possible that scientific methods are no more and no less reliable a means for discovering truth than mystic methods?  Might the assumption that mystic methods are inherently unreliable be a product of the biases and assumptions that arose during the dawn of science in medieval times and now be in need of re-examination? Do we really want biases inherent in science since its birth to rule our world today? Might scienticism be the way of the left brain (analysis) while mysticism be the way of the right brain (intuition)?  Might we more completely understand life if we were to honor both as avenues of discovery and blend their inputs into an integrated whole?

The birth of science coincided with the onset of published ideas during a period of human history when we assumed many things that we’ve since proven to be incorrect. For example, we no longer believe the Earth to be flat nor the center of the Universe.  We have recognized the role of previously undetected “invisible” micro-organisms in the transmission of diseases, the digestion of nutrients and the recycling of debris.  Simultaneously our means of publication have evolved as have the scope of ideas included within the “sciences.”  Yet have we failed to examine the possibility that becoming capable of reading published science-biased ideas and incorporating them into our daily thinking may blind us to other avenues of exploration and to truths not discoverable through science?  Might it reflect an unhelpful bias to characterize all “nonscientific” methods and ideas as “superstitions?’  What if the past centuries of examining all things physical and material in greater detail and scope has drawn us unwittingly away from other means of investigating truths that are not limited to the physical world “out there” and more likely to discover important features of the nonphysical world “in here?”

My proposition is that we’ve become blind to the value of what might be called “nonscientific” methods of inquiry that are of great value to humanity’s understanding of life and promise to reveal truths essential to the long-term welfare of humanity. Do we really need to wait for scientists to conduct research based on research methods biased by centuries of unexamined assumptions about the material nature of life?  Suppose we stopped assuming that we are merely bodies and bundles of atoms structured together to create the physical systems of which our bodies are composed. Suppose we attribute to life other qualities than physical and material, qualities that must be sensed by means not currently developed by any form of science?  Might we not make more rapid advances in understanding essential truths about life that would save humanity from extinction and save Earth as a habitat fit for life in all forms? Suppose humanity is a habitat for divinity that we’ve allowed ourselves to appreciate too little because of the assumption that we are merely bodies.

I offer these alternative propositions because I believe that we need to consider them for the sake of our children’s future. I ask questions and offer alternative ideas on behalf of the minority of humans who currently do experience ourselves as more than mere bodies. There is a minority who truly experience themselves as forms of energy not adequately explained alone on physical terms now or likely to ever be adequately explained according to the biases and assumptions now limiting scientific inquiries.  Will the majority continue to disregard the input of this minority at the expense of humanity’s welfare?  Might those who have become enamored with science because they know how to read and consider themselves to be well-educated be willing to set aside the biases and assumptions of their social orientation and listen with more open minds to input from what is typically characterized as “unscientific” methods of inquiry?

Among those who experience themselves as more than merely bodies are intelligent men and women of integrity who earnestly desire to share what they sense about life for the benefit of the collective entity we call “humanity.”  We are individuals who care about the welfare of the whole of the human race and every individual in it.  That’s a mystic’s orientation.  It is not a sexual or gender orientation. It is not an orientation defined on the assumption that sex-linked or gender-linked features of our bodies or social orientations are the defining features of life.

Mystics do not define ourselves by our bodies. We define ourselves by our inner experiences and yet concern ourselves with the whole race who are largely focused on their outer experiences.  Mystics don’t generally need to be funded for our research or inquiries into the inner experiences “in here.”  We simply set aside time and opportunities to go inward to seek answers to questions that concern us, often questions of universal concern to all human beings.  Ours is a method of inquiry all members of the human race can master without needing to first acquire extensive formal education or even needing to learn to read published ideas.  It’s entirely feasible to learn to sense ideas “published” within our hearts and minds as if they are broadcast from a Divine Source for the universal benefit of all humankind.

Mystics have learned to tune into transmissions broadcast as energy in the inner realm of human experience by tuning out the alternative messages so abundantly transmitted by technological means “out there.”  Do we listen inwardly or outwardly? It would be wise to master the discipline of listening in both directions without blinders imposed unwittingly by unexamined biases and assumptions carried over from medieval times when mystics were purged, driven into exile and burned at stakes because their orientation offended the politically powerful who were then fighting for dominion in an increasingly materialistic world.  The fight to build political empires across the face of the physical Earth and beyond need not doom us to extinction.  We can stop competing against each other for dominion and learn to share the Earth as divine beings experiencing ourselves as bodies as for the purpose of building our character and exploring how to share life on Earth as life is shared in Heaven.

© 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Will – What Is It, How Does It Work?

Free will has challenged human beings since the beginning of time. In fact, mystics say that we used free will to create the illusion of time in the first place. What is free will? How does it work? These are two questions vital to the welfare of humankind in an age when power expressed as force is running amok around the globe destroying much of life. Is such violent disregard for life an exercise of our individual and collective free will?

To keep it simple, let’s consider “free will” to be one of the features of humans that distinguishes us from other life forms. A sign of this distinction is that we function with a consciousness of time. No other life form has perfected the art of “telling time” as we have. Agates, asteroids, asters, apples, anthrax, amoebas, anemones, anacondas, aardvarks, antelopes and apes do not schedule their lives by the clock even though some do order their activities based on the effect of the sun as the earth rotates. They live in relationship to such conditions naturally without concern for predicting them or controlling them. They’ve found no need or ability to invent sun dials and other handier timepieces until they arrive at a precision pegged on the periodic motion of atoms. We have chosen to do so as no mineral, plant or animal has. Our power to make such choices and carry them out can be called “free will.”

Free will is a power. We sometimes call it “willpower.” We can choose intentionally to fix our wills upon a goal with such determination and discipline that it appears we’ve lost our freedom to choose otherwise. Yet, the truth is that we remain free to choose to focus our determination and capacity for discipline differently if we conclude that the first exercise of our focus and capacity is not achieving the goal we seek and decide to take another approach. “Deciding” is an aspect of our free will. All we need to do to “free” it again is to realize what we’ve focused it on one goal and can nevertheless, despite every argument to the contrary, change our focus if we want to.

Yes, if we “want” to. The exercise of our free will is heavily influenced if not totally dictated by what we “want” to happen or “want” to be true. That’s why it’s important to be aware of what we truly are “wanting” in order to be truly free to exercise our will. Most of us do not remain fully or even partially aware of what we “want” and allow our buried desires to take control of our wills and establish our life’s direction and destiny – even our demise. Beneath the destructive forces now at work around the globe is a desire to do or die. We are choosing death over life, more freely than we realize. We may have become unaware of the origin of our choice to “do or die” but we’ve made it. It remains there for us to choose differently if we want to choose differently. Do you “want” to choose to violate the norms of our violence-prone society and create for yourself and others who choose with you a society based on peace and love instead? You can if you truly want to.

Our “wanting” is the same as our “heart’s desires.” What are your heart’s desires? If what’s happening in your life is not in line with your deepest heart’s desires, why not? What other desires or “wants” have taken over your will to make it seem less than free? Why might you have unwittingly joined in the collective decision to “do or die” instead of to “do and live?” Why might you be willing to throw out the baby of life with the bathwater in order to achieve a death that vindicates your belief, opinion or perspective about anything? About what topic would you prefer to die instead of admit you might be mistaken and could, if you wanted to, change your mind?

I’ve asked key questions. Now, I want (yes, want and as an exercise of my free will) to share with you a perspective that has helped me decide to participate in the peace-and-love-prone alternative to a violence-and-hate-prone society. What I learned that helped me to change my mind arises from our understanding of the process of grieving. I learned that many of our decisions are influenced by our emotions and that we think we “want” what we’re in the mood for. I learned by experience that it’s not always wise and healthy to opt for what I’m in the mood for. Moods offer poor guidance for free will.

Grief is a process. The process of grief takes us stage by stage from the pain of being hurt in some manner to the release of that pain and a life beyond that pain. How these stages may progress in your life may differ from the pattern in my life. But, let’s consider how universal it is that grief begins with anger and resolves itself in peace if we allow all of our stages of grieving to function fully. The grieving process starts with the emotion of anger and winds up at the emotion of peace if we let it arrive there and don’t insist on remaining angry or sad (depressed) along the way. Our heart’s desires are influenced by the emotional state we are in. I suggest that being in an early stage of grief allows anger to dominate our “wants” and our wills and sets the stage for revenge-stoked violence to be our choice. That’s why I have learned the wisdom of not making important choices when I am in a HALT mode: Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. When in these mood-modes, it’s wise to wait and allow the mood to pass before exercising my will. Otherwise my will is not as “free” as I would want it to be. (Yes, I do “want” to learn to exercise “free” will, not some form of imprisoned or compromised will.)

I invite you to observe reports of violence for a while and to notice how many acts of violence occur under the influence of anger and/or fear. How many occur while the person who acts violently is still heavily influenced by the motive of revenge? Anger is an emotion that barely hints at the level of pain that a person is carrying around inside from encounters with pain from the past. Unhealed emotional pain is the same as unresolved grief. The “desire” to have revenge or “settle the score” is a symptom of unhealed, internalized pain, even when it may be called “justice.” As the saying goes, “an eye for an eye makes us all blind.” We are in grave danger of being blinded by the violence awash in the world and unable to see our way clear of it. But there is an alternative to blind rage and anger-clouded vision. We can see our way clear if we’ll take the time to grieve, resolve the painful issues of our past and present lives and then move forward together in peace. We can build lasting peace, not merely intermittent truces, through such patient processing of our collective and individual griefs.

Are you willing to step back from the frenetic pace of your life and grieve sufficiently so that your heart’s burdens of pain are resolved and you rise up with fresh energy to help build peace on earth among all peoples of good will? Good will is free will. All human beings are good people at heart. In the depth of our hearts we can find the common ground upon which to build lasting peace. We can find by faith that this common ground is there because the Creator of us all put it there. But to see and stand together upon such holy common ground we must be willing to be determined to acquire, honor and relentlessly use the habits of grieving needed to keep our visions clear and our minds focused on peace instead of focused on justifying anger.

We can “do” peace and live together in it. We need not allow hidden griefs and motives of revenge to dominate and imprison our hearts and minds – or our wills – as if we have no other choice. We do have another choice, a healthier and more promising one. I hope what I’ve written here helps us to see it and to make it. We can choose unifying humility in preference to divisive pride and shame. We need not proudly fight to our deaths over things that matter little in comparison to love’s simpler, more highly valued features and benefits over which no one needs to fight because they are universally available for free. We need not shame, blame or guilt-trip ourselves or others for our decisions or theirs. We can seek to understand by compassion’s perspective “There but by the grace of God go I.”

Many people who advocate on behalf of violence as a solution to human conflicts and confrontations (including to protect innocent defenseless people or in self-defense) have endured trauma in their past, sometimes trauma too severe to imagine if one has not been exposed to it personally. What I write here in no way denies or minimizes the pain that traumatized people have endured or continue to carry as ongoing suffering. I know that I’ve been fortunate to experience only moderate levels of emotional pain. I do not know by personal experience the fuller intensity of pain and suffering. Yet, I continue to advocate on behalf of grieving as the way to heal even the most severe pain and to relieve suffering that otherwise occurs when ungrieved emotional pain is allowed to take root unaddressed, often unnoticed as an underlying theme so prevalent as to be taken for granted as one of life’s unavoidable and permanent conditions.

Ungrieved pain is generating havoc around the world, nearby in our own homes and neighborhoods and far away in the homes and neighborhoods of other members of the human race. My heart’s desire is to help stop this havoc and chaotic, misplaced reliance on inflicting more pain as a response to pain. It’s time to see through the clouds of pain and dust storms of suffering that anyone who acts out violently, even with the full sanction of his or her social institutions, is acting out of unresolved pain. Our social institutions that rely upon punishment to control other people’s actions or impose guilt and shame as a “consequence” of violating those institutions’ rules, roles and rituals are contributing to the overarching pattern of violence that threatens to end the human race. While it is true that we must not deny or minimize pain, we must also not justify inflicting it is as if it is an essential part of the solution. It is a symptom of the problem of emotional unhealthiness we must all address more effectively together. Inflicting more pain and suffering in response to existing pain and suffering is totally counterproductive.

It is my intention to encourage us all to address this unhealthy condition in societies around the world by promoting the mastery of the grief-relief process in place of the grief-infliction process. Too many of our rules, roles and rituals perpetuate grief and pass it along generation to generation, person to person, group to group and humanity to our ecosystem (animals, plants and minerals). Let’s us experiment together instead with the process of relief and see the miracles that peace beyond anger and depression will bring.

Longer explanations of free will have been written by many superb thinkers. If you want to read examples of such works, check out Rollo May’s books entitled Love and Will and Freedom and Destiny. You’ll find great value in focusing your mind on these books and others like them. To do so would be an exercise of your own free will in a nonviolent way. My shorter discussion of free will is not alone sufficient to bring it all home to your heart. If it gets the ball rolling, please keep this ball of healing energy flowing freely within your life as you cultivate your own motivation for learning more about the process of relief called “grieving.” There is no more promising way to exercise your free will than to learn that it’s simply not true that “Big boys don’t cry” or that tears are a sign of weakness. Emotionally unhealthy boys, girls, men and women don’t cry. Ones with tender hearts, reasoning minds and good wills do. Please don’t be ashamed to be one of us.

© Art Nicol 2015