Tag Archives: healing

Chickens Coming Home to Roost

We live in a distressing time in the US because we live amid the nests to which the chickens are coming home to roost.  The phrase “chickens coming home to roost” refers to the cycle of insanity that returns to those who act insanely the consequences of their deeds.  “Chicken” is an especially apt term because it’s also typically used as a label for a person who is extremely afraid.  (Supposedly, chickens are easily scared and scattered in fear before a marauding fox. Yet, if one has tried to interfere with a hen who is protecting her brood of chicks, one might not be convinced that all chickens are readily frightened away.)

Let’s look at the possibility that “chickens coming home to roost” refers to the actions of scared people returning to haunt them.  Since actions arise from thoughts and since feelings of fear can cause thoughts that are irrational, one can readily see how actions that are of chicken nature are based on fear.  Fear distorts minds to think irrationally, even to the point of causing chronic irrationality we label “insanity.”  In recent generations, the US has become a society of chronically frightened and irrational people who prefer to deny our emotions and hide behind the masks of our egos in pride than to admit that we are afraid most of the time.  We acquired the habit of denying our fears by many decades and multiple generations of denial of emotions in general.

For example, during one insane cycle of fear-generated violence, one generation created nuclear weapons to solve the problem of needing to feel more secure and then faced the very real possibility of triggering a nuclear holocaust to destroy humanity and render our planet cruelly less habitable.  Chickens threatened then to come home to roost.  But, we learned to live under that cloud of nuclear fear and march on undeterred in our commitment to our consumerist militarism.  We proudly called our lifestyle Darwinian capitalism and by well-crafted propaganda fooled many of us into believing it was “free enterprise” — an expression of our more expansive freedoms as free people,  who, as it turns out, failed to realize how seductively our egos were enslaving us on account of our unconscious fears.

We still live under the fear of pending doom of nuclear disaster and many other fears that have piled on top of it in the dark caverns of our minds where our egos entomb them rather than face them. We still march on undeterred as long as we can manage to remain undisturbed by the consequences of our decisions.  On account of our habit of denial, we’ve become increasingly indifferent to the legitimate needs of human beings, others and ourselves.  Instead of caring how our actions may affect “others,” we carefully plan our actions to make sure that their ill-effects fall on others but not upon us.  We’ve practiced this principle of exporting ill-effects for many generations in both our military ventures and our business ventures.

In our military ventures, we expected US citizens to go “off to war” in two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and many other smaller scale combat actions. And somehow we expected them to function within horrifically terrifying battlefield conditions without falling apart or being adversely affected by their experiences.  We expected them to be brave and strong and committed to protecting their faraway homes from the threats we believed were so significant that we placed our citizens in harm’s way in distant lands to avoid those threats.  Those who survived physically, we welcomed home as heroes with far too little regard for how their service to our welfare cost them emotionally. We saw physical wounds and disabilities but not emotional ones.  We failed to expect, as reason dictates, that after the intensity of battle is over, the falling apart comes along naturally as a part of grieving.  It must if anyone is to regain his or her sanity after being subject to such insanity.  To us who had learned to harden our hearts and deny to our emotions their sane, healthy role in our lives, emotions became invisible and readily ignored.  It takes sensitivity and empathy to detect emotions in ourselves and others and we learned well how to deaden those human attributes of sanity and pretend to live “well” without them in operation in our lives.  In fact, we often ridicule and look down upon as “weak” and certainly unmasculine those who have not deadened their sensitive, empathetic nature. We too have learned not to fall apart nor to grieve to restore our sanity.  Insanity — to one degree or another preserved by unprocessed emotions — has become our national norm.

We have avoided bringing the battlefield home to us by exporting it abroad to other cultures and lands where we felt freer to resort to violence that spilled over into civilian populations, but not our own.  Now the chaos and violence of the battlefields we exported under the influence of our fears are coming home to roost.

We also have exported the harmful commercial side-effects of a materialistic, hedonistic society to place those burdens on others as much as possible.  We’ve used the “toilet bowl theory” to justify dumping toxic wastes where we who enjoy the byproducts of that waste are not directly affected or even confronted by the sights and smells of toxins that are robbing others of life, liberty and their pursuit of happiness.  Extraction and use of fossil fuels — and the disposal of waste produced by their extraction and use — proceed apace so long as the harmful consequences of the their extraction, use and disposal fall on others.  We don’t care unless toxic waste or garbage dumps show up in our backyard. Someone else’s backyard is just fine with us. Pollution is other people’s problem so long as we have options to avoid it.

As a long-term consequence of playing chicken with the truth and failing to honestly face our fears throughout multiple generations, we are now no longer able to reroute the chickens from returning to the roost from which they originally flew.  The chickens of our militarism and consumerism are coming home to roost.  The empire we’ve enjoyed living within for many generations is now undeniably soiling its own nest.  Our lifestyles of denial, of pride and of shifting blame no longer protect us from facing the consequences of our insane, heartless decisions.  We are faced with the consequences whether or not we want to be. And we find it difficult to see the justice in this backflow of chickens to their roosts.  But just it is.  How we’ve come to abhor justice!  We fear justice most of all!

If we are to adequately address the escalating violence rising in our society, we must hear and heed the call of justice and do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God — not “our” God as if we define God but “God” as if God defines His/Her own nature.  Micah 6:8 states what is required of us, oh, fallible mortals that we are.  We must face the fact that those whom we trained to use weapons to protect our insane lifestyles are returning home to find other uses for their training and their weapons.  We trained them to become insanely insensitive and lacking in empathy like us and we now object to their teaching us the consequences of our heartlessness.

Certainly, we find it attractive to hire some of our former military personnel to staff our internal civilian military forces to protect us internally from harm that we have created through our heartless lifestyles and to route some of our citizens off to prison.  Mass incarceration is another form of dumping ground for the waste products of our militarism and consumerism but we must face the fact that God created no human being to be labeled “waste” and so unjustly treated.  Although we claim to be, we are hardly entitled to critique those whom we’ve trained to do our dirty work of harming others on our behalf in the course of their assigned duties as if we might expect them to be always capable of setting aside their emotions and acting reasonably – with sensitivity and empathy –  in the face of perceived threats to their well-being.  We’ve trained them to react instantly without out consideration for the harm that might flow to others from their defensive reactions and then later purport to hold them accountable for using reflexively the training that we required of them.  Having required of our guardians of domestic tranquility other than the duty to do justice, love mercy and walking humbly with a merciful, forgiving and gracious God, we reap the consequences of our unholy expectations.  We must hold ourselves accountable!

We also object to finding scummy green algae clogging the beaches upon which we prefer to frolic in our escapist activities so necessary to offset our denied internal emotional pain.  We have learned to flee from the natural consequences of our harmful, heartless lifestyles to beaches, parklands and other scenic nature preserves to which we have consigned the last remnants of nature by which we feel rejuvenated while we cause it to become ultimately extinct.  The loss of beaches and waterways to algae on account of unfettered use of fertilizers to grow profitable crops and the loss of picturesque mountain vistas to rapacious mining and deforestation or to acid rain from the byproducts of industry to feed our materialistic appetites are chickens coming home to roost too close to home for us to ignore.  But ignore them we will if we can.

And if we can no longer ignore them, we will shift to others the blame for causing them and the responsibility for correcting and cleaning up our messes – if we can.  As taxpayers who have already funded construction of the highways and airports we use to escape on our vacations to beaches, waterways and mountains, we hardly think it’s fair to also expect us to accept responsibility for the harmful side-effects of our lifestyles and bear the cost of cleaning up after ourselves. Let someone else bear the brunt of our insanity!

And if you say that there is no one else available upon whom to shift the burdens, you are wrong.  We may no longer be able to find others in different parts of the 3-dimensional physical world upon whom to foist the consequences of our insanity, but we are creative thinkers.  We can export the consequences into the 4th dimension – to the future and let the next generation deal with it.  Or perhaps not.  Perhaps we are living amid the time frame of that “next generation” even now as the chickens we raised and exported to the winds now journey home to roost among us.

© Art Nicol 2016

The Highest Privileged Class

I was born with matching skin into a white, middle class family with adequate resources to provide its seven children with shelter, nutrition, clothing, healthcare and the rest of the necessities of life on modest terms.  The instability of my family’s home as we moved around to follow my father’s advancing career opportunities did not deprive us of the education that later opened doors to college options if we wanted them.  Our home routines emphasized education because both of my parents were college-educated, as were my grandparents before them.  Education was not our pathway out of any ghetto.  It offered continued upward mobility as measured by social status, finances and clout.

We never lived in a ghetto although we also never lived in prosperous conditions until my youngest siblings entered school full-time so that my mother could go to work as an elementary school art teacher and add a second income to the family’s resources.  Out of the house at that point, I still could come home to visit the increasingly comfortable, middle class household my younger siblings enjoyed.  As part of a childhood tradition of passing along hand-me-downs, I started each school year wearing shirts that my older brother outgrew plus two new shirts I was permitted to select for myself.  Also handed down to me each school year from generation to generation were the more fundamental traditions of parental stability and educational opportunities that opened doors not as readily opened to others even of my race who may have lacked such multi-generational support for their natural developmental progress.

Experiences I had as a volunteer while in college and later experiences I had as an adult opened my eyes to the more limited opportunities of children of other races, economic classes and little or no empowering traditions of parental stability and education. Especially limited were opportunities available to those born into poorer families or not supported by two educated parents who negotiated their way through life as a couple rather than allow their marriage to flounder in the seas of an angry divorce.  My experiences with dysfunctional family dynamics were mild compared with those of many who struggle to grow up in this “land of opportunity.”  I was not only living in the “land of doors that opened” more readily to people of my gender and race.  I was also living in that land while being prepared by my family to advance through those doors as a welcomed arrival within whom those on the inside of such fields of opportunity felt comfortable.  In short, I was well trained to conform, keep my alternative thoughts to myself and appear to bow to authority.

At first, I did not realize but gradually became aware that my social training as a child groomed me to be a member of the privileged class that measures its privileges by money, social approval and power to take dominion of whatever territory appeals to its members. I was an unwitting heir apparent within the gender, race and class who had arrived on this continent centuries earlier to claim it for themselves regardless of any pre-existing occupants and explore and exploit its resources as if they were entitled to use any and all of them to feather their own nests without regard to the impact of their greedy exploitation upon anyone else or the future of the continent.  Those were hand-me-down attitudes of entitlement that eventually I found did not fit me like a shirt I wanted to wear.  The fabric of those traditions chaffed my soul and burdened my heart.  The shirts others offered to me as hand-me-downs when I was an adult were too small for me and not my style.

The privileged class in which I found myself entitled to membership was this continent’s original entitlement class.  Its traditions were rooted in assumptions of entitlement.  The more socially aggressive among the first arrivals either served as agents of the aristocracies of Europe or claimed to seek their own fortune independent of the dominion of such aristocracies in order to establish an alternate aristocracy.  Wars were fought for independence from European aristocracies and for rights of ownership of people and things not previously subjected to ownership while continental-style aristocracies emerged upon this continent within the new culture. The culture turned out to be not new but instead a rehash of the old culture relabeled and sometimes disguised behind a thin veneer of democratic principles and necessarily therefore covert in its nature.  The Europeans on the continent of North America claimed it for themselves as minor bullies when they overthrew the dominion of foreign bullies posing as European monarchs and then proceeded to bully each other into accommodating each of them.

For reasons of my own, I had no natural inclination to be a crown prince rubbing shoulders with the aristocratic bullies I found within the privileged class of white, educated, upwardly mobile, financially promising males into which I was so readily welcome as if I were one of them.  Within that class I was a misfit.  Eventually I failed to adequately disguise my misfit orientation and found myself less and less welcome.  My skin color, education and other matching criteria could not save me.  I became an anathema to those who preferred to exploit their privileges and climb higher over the backs of others. For many years I was confused about where I belonged socially.  If not these, then who were my people?

As my mind gained clarity about who my people are, I became aware that there is class of “highest privilege” to which all of us have the power to belong and within which all are welcome.  This is the class beyond subclasses defined on ego’s terms as superior or inferior to one another depending upon the criteria selected in each cyclical assessment.  Beyond the ego’s constant campaign to separate humanity into variously appealing, variously socially approved and variously designated subcategories, there is a united, all-inclusive class with access to the most rewarding experience available to humankind.  Its access to this rewarding experience is only exclusive to the extent that the class is all-inclusive.

One has to join this uppermost class voluntarily to encounter the experience of this highest possible reward but anyone and everyone can join.  No one is excluded who volunteers to join and does the one thing necessary to be included with full membership privileges.  That one thing is to shed his or her ego and step beyond the ego’s divisive, inherently conflict-perpetuating perspective to see the world through an ego-free lens as a universally unified and symbiotic experience for all forms of life.

Humility is the process needed to shed the ego.  Any who will humble himself or herself, give up his or her illusory and meaningless privileges as an ego and seek his or her true identity beyond the ego is welcome to join in the experience of unconditional love that flows freely and abundantly within this class.  It is a highest class act and attitude to join.  Humility is not a step down into the basement of life, as some mistake it to be.  In fact it is the stairway to heaven on Earth.   Pride and prejudice do not cause a person to ascend but rather to descend in privileges as measured by a person’s decreasing or increasing quality of experiences of love.

At love’s heights it is authenticity, integrity and humility that matter most — for all of every age, gender, gender orientation, sexual orientation, social status, marital status, financial status, race, nationality and creed.  Love is truly all we need and ego has no capacity to deliver it.  Just as no electrical energy passes through plastic or rubber, no energy of love transmits through the artificial identity we call the ego.  Ego insulates us from love.  Let’s let go of ego to know that love abounds infinitely and eternally for all of us.

© Art Nicol 2016

Arbitrary Power Expresses Maximum Powerlessness

News media reports the arbitrary use of power against innocent targets with increasing frequency. Why? Why do we hear of and see so many senseless expressions of power used to harm the least reasonable targets?  Because such expressions of power are symptomatic of an underlying social condition of perceived powerlessness.  Individuals who used to comfort themselves by associating in their minds with being part of a powerful group, team or nation no longer find comfort there because those opportunities for vicarious “power by association” are disappearing.  Traditions of parasitically drawing a sense of power by belonging to an unassailable, always winning group are crumbling.  In the absence of traditional temporary relief from secret (often unconscious) feelings of personal powerlessness and resulting frustrations about lack of control over one’s own destiny, individuals who are vulnerable to such feelings of powerlessness for whatever reason are popping to the surface with their frustrations in both planned and spontaneous acts of reactionary violence.

The USA population includes many frustrated people who no longer believe that they have power to influence the course of their lives and cause any improvement in their lives or the lives of others they care about.  The mythical American Dream of pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps and single-handedly achieving success on some terms valued by the achiever is a bubble that has burst.  Like the housing bubble, .com bubble and so many other illusions of permanent prosperity based on constant growth, the American Dream of continuously improving prosperity based on continuous expansion of the economy and of dominance by the USA empire around the world has burst.  We’d like to pretend to blame that bubble’s bursting in air on current leaders or even upon past leaders and comfort ourselves with renewed bombs bursting in air, but that’s another illusion.  The truth is that illusions are illusions and don’t last forever.

If an individual feels powerless, one way of compensating for his or her sense of powerlessness is to find convenient targets of sufficient weakness to inflict harm and pain upon in some way dramatically obvious that the “power to cause pain” flows from the individual according to his or her arbitrary willfulness.  “See how powerful I am?” is the message.  If the individual feels frustrated about not having his or her way in other areas of life, at least in this one area he or she is can assert unchallengeable dominance.  The more arbitrary the expression of power in relationship to any true justification for that expression of power, the more powerful the person feels temporarily.  It’s like a “fix” for that person.  Arbitrary use of power is addictive, a drug upon which the powerless person depends for relief.  Plus the more publicly the person gets away with his or her abuse of power, the more thrilling the expression of power becomes.  Targeting senseless victims for abuse becomes not only an addictive habit but a destructively meaningless hobby, sadistically amusing to the person who expresses power in this manner.  “Getting away with it” adds to the thrill of arbitrary power.  “Getting away with it in the open with no one being able to stop me” is the greatest thrill of all.  “Recruiting others to protect me while I am openly abusing power by harming innocent victims” also adds to the person’s false sense of power.

The emotional and mental inner workings of people who senselessly use power to harm or cause pain to others is not as much of a mystery to humans as we’d like to claim.  Most if not all of us have had occasion to be at least tempted to engage in such power dynamics as a way of compensating for the frustrations of our lives.  “Kicking the dog” in private is a minor expression of power for this purpose.  Punishing weak members of society for their acting out their own frustrations in public upon arbitrary victims is another expression of this power.

We much prefer to accuse others of doing what we’d likely do ourselves when the shoe is on the other foot and then inflict pain upon them as if to flagellate ourselves vicariously for participating in such a weakness.  The temptation is strong to point the finger at others and declare ourselves free of any related habits and hobbies.  It would be better for all of us if we’d spend at least as much time pointing the finger towards ourselves and confessing our own misunderstanding about power and how power to cause pain and harm to others is never a true expression of power.  It’s a game our egos play to express how undeserving of love we secretly believe we are and to convince us how much we are powerless to do anything about improving the condition of the society in which we live.  The ego lies.  True power is the power to help another person recover from having been the victim of arbitrary power or any other form of pain and find his or her path to freedom from otherwise, in turning the table, becoming an abuser of power too.  We must get up from that table and take no side of it. Instead we need to fashion campfires and other circles of reconciliation around which to gather as one village.  If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes this kind of transformed village to raise us all up to envision and share true power from another perspective.

If our nation is ever to stop abusing its power by subjecting weaker nations to pain and harm, we as individual citizens of our nation must undertake personally to adopt a different understanding of power and participate with wisdom in the alternative vision of power as a capacity to heal rather than to harm.

© Art Nicol 2016

Let’s Address the Root Cause of Racism, Sexism and Other Egoisms

Many and vocal are the voices speaking out today against institutional or systemic racism in the USA.  A growing awareness emerges that the racism once thought adequately addressed by the civil rights movement decades ago still prevails beneath the surface.  Racism may have gone underground and become harder to pin down because of the camouflage it has acquired, but it is still operative in the United States. Like a virulent virus it has formed new strains that resist detection and eradication.

I propose here to shed some light on why this is true.  Will this light be all the light needed to illuminate this topic?  Hardly likely.  But perhaps it will help some see more clearly the patterns that support racism and the treatment necessary to eradicate those patterns. To keep things simple I will draw upon Martin Luther King Jr.’s insights as starting points.  The overarching pattern I observe is that we’ve not taken MLK Jr.’s insights to heart and applied them rigorously as far as they would take us if we did so. Having abandoned any commitment we may have once felt to be inspired to action by MLK Jr’s words, we now reap the consequences of abandoning his principles instead of remaining faithful to them while traveling together along the full length to which they would otherwise have taken us.  To eradicate institutional racism we need to apply the antidote of principles espoused by MLK Jr. until they work their miracle of transformation fully.

First, I start with this observation made by Martin Luther King Jr.: “Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.” We have failed to admit to ourselves that laws may repress undesired actions but that they have never changed the underlying motives for socially destructive actions.  Repression by punishment, sanctions, consequences, etc. forces the motivating attitudes underground.  “Don’t ever let me catch you behaving that way again, young man!” berates a parent to a wayward son.  Some sons change their attitudes within and do not misbehave again.  Many sons simply become sneakier to make sure that their parents do not catch them misbehaving again but do not actually cease to misbehave.  They learn to misbehave in ways not as readily detected by their parents.  Thus it has been with making racism illegal.  A change of heart is needed, even among the heartless.  It is not enough to threaten to punish or impose consequences upon the heartless for misbehaving.  Their thrills come from defying authority and seeing how craftily they can get away with misbehaving.  It’s an ego-driven game with rewards of its own.  We fail to admit that anyone who has become heartless on account of themselves having been treated heartlessly is likely to have become immune to change forced upon him or her by additional painful consequences.  We need to stop the insane practice of trying to out-bully bullies (both within our nation and beyond).

If we are to truly learn anything from our decades of utterly failing to eradicate racism, it must include the insight that passage and enforcement of laws, no matter how artfully worded or rigorously enforced they may be, will not eradicate racism.  What might the alternative be?  How are the heartless transformed to consider being and then actually daring to become less heartless?  How do we release ourselves from the prisons of heartlessness within which  we seek to survive and instead make wholehearted empathy and compassion new prevailing norms in the USA?  Surely we will not try to legislate empathy and compassion.

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream about the alternative I have in mind: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  He took the risk of dying while doing his part to make his dream come true, not merely for his children but for all children.  And the risk he took materialized and he was silenced.  We have repeated his dream speech many times since then.  But as Eliza Doolittle sings in My Fair Lady, “Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words. Is that all you blighters can do?”  Words frequently repeated but rarely applied become slogans that lose their meaning.  MLK Jr. was not a “blighter” who failed to put his words into meaningful, sustained action.  Many of those who repeat his words contribute to the social blight of racism by being “blighters” who do fail to “walk the talk” as 12-steppers might say.  Instead we tend to relapse into our egostic pursuits of choice and fall off the wagon of transformation needed to actually accomplish social justice.  We are seduced in part by the appeal of social approval to which we remain addicted, an appeal to remain safely hunkered down in the crowd rather than to stick out our necks.

So it has been with MLK Jr.’s inspired dream.  It died amid droning repetition of the words not matched by their vigorous application in our lives.  His dream inspired and challenged us when he first revealed it.  It does so yet today.  But we have failed to respond.  That is our failure.  That is our own heartlessness revealed in stubborn apathy and resignation to the way things are as if that’s how things will inevitably always be.  Until we overcome our own failure to respond and transform our own hearts, we are part of the problem and have no standing to prosecute those whose hearts remain hardened along with ours but whose violent actions, both overt and covert, remain expressed without restraint.  To end the torrent of racism eroding our nation, each of us must cease to contribute our little stream of heartlessness and add instead our most wholehearted rivulet-grown-to-river participation in the alternative of which MLK Jr. dreamt and spoke and for which he lived fully until his life was cut short.  We must stop resisting forward motion and instead begin relentlessly persisting in it.

Are we willing to fully and persistently participate in the alternative society that offers the only solution to systemic racism? Do children’s lives matter?  To what degree?  Are we willing to risk it all for the possibility that the children who matter to us will grow up to live in a nation that does not judge them by the color of their skin nor by any other superficial and unworthy criteria?  MLK Jr. said “No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they’d die for.”  Are we willing to lay down our lives for the sake of the children on whatever terms we are called to lay them down?

I suggest to you that dying for a cause is not the more difficult way to lay down your life.  The more difficult ways of laying down one’s life involve continuing to live in the face of intense fears with the courage of one’s convictions no matter how unpopular those convictions may be in the minds of others.  We must be willing to put at risk the very social approval by which our thinking, speech and actions are too often unconsciously censured, shaped and stylized.  Once again, participating in public rallies, cheering (or even being) inspirational speakers and generally repeating the patterns of the civil rights and anti-war movements of the past are in vogue.  Missing are the rigorously probing self-examination and repentance that will help us all let go of our attitudes and beliefs that support racism, sexism, heterosexism, ethnocentrism and other forms of egoism so as to deprive institutional and systemic expressions of those dehumanizing “isms” of support.  Doubtlessly, MLK Jr. engaged in such self-examination and repentance.  His private process of rigorously examining his own character to root out pockets of hypocrisy must become our own process.

To examine our institutions for signs of any “ism” (including the scourge of intellectualism) while failing to examine ourselves — as citizens of a republic who staff, patronize, support and give legitimacy to our institutions — for attitudes and beliefs that perpetuate all forms of “isms” is to fail once again to learn the lessons of history and doom ourselves to repeat them.  Is our only goal to change the current flavor our egoism or to eradicate it entirely in all flavors?  Will it be unpopular to call for examination of our individual and collective character so as to be capable of judging ourselves by the content of our character instead of by the color of our skin, age, ethnicity, religion, gender/gender orientation, sexual orientation, economic class, educational level, marital status, family type, etc.?  Yes, but MLK Jr. had an insight for us here too: “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”  He, she, we . . . let’s not quibble about pronouns now.  We have more important issues to address.  As writer Walter Kelly once said long ago through Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

The overarching pattern that we must address radically, at its roots, is the pattern of the ego’s dominance in our personal lives and elsewhere throughout our nation.  The ego is based on fear.  Fear is the opposite of love, which the ego has zero capacity to honor and share.  Love is an anathema to the ego.  Yet, love is also the antidote to fear because it is the only true alternative to fear.  Fear corrupts our character, causes our hearts to harden and seduces us by alternative temptations to not be true to ourselves and to stray from our paths of transformation.  We must apply the antidote of love rigorously as compassionately necessary to ourselves and to our neighbors without judgment or condemnation until all fear is released and we rise up together as “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  Again repeating words makes us numb to their meaning unless we live them out radically through our own lives as if the welfare of the children depends on us.  It does.

If we truly desire with all our hearts to lean not upon our own understanding, it is time to trust in the Higher Power from whom divine love flows for guidance, humble ourselves to shed our egos, forsake all attitudes of pride and shame as well as guilt and blame, and listen within our hearts to the still small voice of wisdom we’ve so rigorously repressed that our consciences barely make themselves heard.  That’s our choice.  I invite us all to join in participating in the radical healing of our nation of all the pain that our various forms of “isms” have inflicted upon us all, more upon some than upon others, but not sparing any of us. May we find within us our innate capacity to forgive ourselves and each other and rise up together — not to seek vengeance one against another but instead to seek victory in which we are all included.

I end now with one last quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”  That is the attitude that will save us from all of our less worthy attitudes and beliefs by which we’ve beset ourselves with violence by seeing each other as separate and unforgivably wrong, even as if some form of competitor if not an enemy combatant.  Can we love and forgive our competition and our enemies, both those whom we find within our hearts in residence because they caused us pain in the past and we’ve not yet forgiven them as well as those who remain external to us but also remain unforgiven?  Martin Luther King Jr. shared inspiring words about the power of persistently applied love as the ultimate solution but I’ll leave that quote for you to find.

© Art Nicol 2016

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

We Kill Those Who Come to Save Us

On a Memorial Day weekend as we honor heroes, it seems apt to remember that not all who threaten the status quo are enemies that we need to eradicate as if the gardens of our minds have no room for new ideas.  Not every plant not previously encountered is a weed.  Some newly arriving people in our monolithic culture . . .  including incoming young members of our society who immigrate from heaven to our lands . . . bring gifts of healing and restoration to new life beyond the culture of violence to which we’ve become so well adjusted that we consider its norms sacred.  Truly sacred bearers of glad tidings of great joy arrive moment by moment to serve as reminders of what’s truly valuable.  In fact, the more violent our culture becomes, the more frequently and earnestly these message-bearers strive to capture our attention and tell us that violence is not the only alternative.  Might such nonconformist violators of the status quo not also be heroes we could welcome and value more?

Certainly we are grateful for the heroes who have protected and continue to protect us from harm.  We are also increasingly aware that a hero’s experiences in the face of violence include being harmed, emotionally if not also physically, as he or she stands up for us to stem the tide of violence that threatens to overrun us.  We ask our heroes to endure the pain we’re afraid to experience on our own behalf.  And to help us remain blind to our decision to use others as heroes to protect our comfortable lifestyles, we deny that the enemies our heroes fight are products of our own self-indulgent creature comforts and conveniences.  We deny that there are consequences to our choices and prefer to fashion scapegoats to excuse our self-indulgence lifestyles by blaming others for being envious of us — and eventually perhaps hateful towards us when we deny the legitimacy of their envy.

Although we perpetuate the expansion of our lifestyles through the operation of institutionalized envy, we refuse to see the woe we cause to others by not taking their wants and needs into account as we satisfy our own.  We are driven by our habit of comparing what “little” we have to what “more” others have.  This habit of comparison is selective.  It selects for justifications for our continued pursuit of more while keeping us blind to our own envy of those with more.  Other habits of valuing socially approved images and superficial, materialistic possessions keep us focused on “things” and luxuries as objects of desire, feeding our envy continuously to keep our economy in motion.  Earn, spend, earn, spend, earn, spend . . . the never-satisfying, ever-accelerating cycle of our lifestyles.

And yet when others seek to join us in our plentiful opportunities, we protest as if there’s not enough to share.  That we might no longer gain more and more threatens the foundation of our aspirations.  How could we go on comparing ourselves to what others enjoy if everyone has nearly the same?  What good is our socially popular image and our material possessions if they do not make us “special?”  How can we prove that God favors us if we live as if the concerns, needs and wants of others might be equal to our own and equally worthy of satisfaction?  Does not God play favorites just as we like to play favorites?  Is not that how one proves one’s power — by dispensing power and its accompanying perks on some basis one personally defines with little or no regard for any other standard?  Does not Facebook’s system of “Like” and “Dislike” prove the value of being liked even when we are not truly known or loved for ourselves because we hide behind the social images we project to score points as heroes and avoid becoming scapegoats?

Let us this weekend honor those who believed in the values of superiority claimed by the United States in comparison to other nations, or if not fully believing, nevertheless put themselves at risk to defend our claim and our opportunity to prove ourselves right rather than be destroyed by those who violently disagree with our claim of superiority.  But . . . and here’s a “but” worthy of due consideration . . . let us also carefully review the basis for our claim to superiority and remove from it the arrogance and ignorance we’ve religiously cultivated concerning the claims to value put forth by other nations and cultures.  In what way might we be right in claiming superiority that does not deny the value of other people’s claims to equally high value?  Might we be most right in the ideals to which we claim to subscribe such as “liberty and justice for all” and most need now to reveal our humility in admitting how far short of our own ideals we’ve often fallen?  Is a blend of humility and superiority possible or must one exclude the other?  Might our greatest claim to superiority be in the fitful but relentless progress we’ve endeavored to make in upholding and living true to our ideals?  Perhaps this weekend is one occasion among many to be grateful from the depths of our hearts for all who have stood up for us and sung our praises even when we’ve stumbled badly — or may yet be stumbling now.

Is this weekend an occasion to soberly consider the sacrifices we expect of heroes and ask ourselves, “Are we letting our heroes down when we fail to live according to our highest ideals?”  Are we mocking these heroic sacrifices when we fail to examine our own lifestyles for ways we’ve not ourselves been devoted to our stated highest ideals and instead neglected them as readily as we neglect our heroes when they come back home to our care?   Might we too often be a neglectful culture hypnotized by our pursuit of image-based, materialistic definitions of happiness while remaining blind to the consequences of our shallow pursuits as they spiral more and more out of control?  Our pursuit of shallowness and trivialities as a way of escaping from the deeper, heartfelt truths may be why our ship of state has run aground.  Deeper waters are calling to us from within our hearts.  Will we heed their call and learn to navigate their depths again?

© Art Nicol 2016

Let’s Dismantle Our Egos to Accept an End to Violence

If we continue to think only within the ego’s thought system we are lost in a world of violence and illusions about the cause of violence. As each anger-triggering interpersonal issue arises (whether it be private or political, local, national or global), we will inspect, dissect, analyze, categorize, theorize, shelve, institutionalize, aggrandize or minimize the issue and thereby perpetuate violence.  In short, we will perform an autopsy on each issue and then then enshrine it and our findings in a mausoleum without changing anything because we will not see the issue as a living opportunity to learn something new that points us towards a better future but as a dead thing of the past we must find a way to normalize or pretend to get rid of.  The ego plays such games with our minds for the purpose of steering us away from the truth that awaits within each issue that causes us to feel anger in some range from irritation to outrage.

The ego feeds and thrives upon anger. Conflict is the ego’s birthing ground, nursery and most developed expression.  It does not want us to find an alternative way to think about life because it fears that we’ll discover that it is the cause of violence and totally disinterested in ending violence.  Yet, within every issue that might arouse our anger to any degree lies a message of peace.  That message is “It need not be this way.”  Violence and anger are not necessary when issues are seen from the perspective of divine love – not the ego’s pseudo-love but love defined without regard to ego’s preservation.  All we need to do is to learn to walk with humility in God’s shoes (free of pride and shame as well as guilt and blame) and see life from Eternity’s perspective.  Then we’ll relax into accepting peace of mind, hope of heart and joy of spirit – what’s sometimes called “joie de vivre.”

The joy of life!  Where has it gone missing?  Why is it so elusive and once encountered so likely to slip away again?  The ego’s hold on our minds is the reason.  We cannot continue to indulge our egos and continue to think mistakenly that ego is a trustworthy guide to any answers worth discovering.  The answers exist but they exist beyond ego’s grasp.  We can begin to recognize them amid ego’s final gasp. Our minds’ capacity to encounter “Ah, ha” moments is evidence of our ability to think beyond ego’s limitations and grasp insights and understandings that elude ego.  We can gasp “Eureka!” at our ability to receive the truth that sets us free of ego.  We cannot grasp this truth and hold onto it too tightly any more than we can grasp a butterfly and squeeze it tightly without robbing it of life.  To become aware of the gentle touch of truth’s butterflies upon our minds, we must first open our hearts to let them land there, where our minds may be trained to notice their arrival.  We cannot inspect, dissect, analyze, etc. the butterflies truth sends to our hearts.  We can only receive, appreciate and marvel at their graceful, simple elegance and accept them as gifts from Divine Eternity.

Gifts from Divine Eternity are our natural inheritance.  As children of God, every one of us is poised to receive our inheritance.  We need not wait for God to die to inherit from our Creator.  All gifts from the Creative Realm are ours here and now – while we and God yet fully live.  The ego would have us believe that we have somehow murdered God or at least so offended Him/Her that any possibility of our having a favorable relationship with God/Goddess is dead.  To believe in God’s uninterruptedly abounding grace towards humanity in general and towards ourselves in particular seems impossible but it is only impossible to the ego that seeks to keep us in the dark, unaware of and inaccessible to our Divine Nature.

The ego cannot participate in divine grace because it disappears in the presence of such grace.  It’s not that the ego is “bad” or “not good enough” to participate in divine grace.  It’s merely that the ego’s way of thinking and feeling about life lacks the capacity to participate in grace because the ego’s way of thinking arose when we believed grace to be absent from our lives, when we believed we needed to protect ourselves from pain because there seemed no other way.  Grace and its progeny forgiveness, mercy, love, compassion, healing, reconciliation and other gentle-natured qualities of human beings exceed the ego’s realm of thought.  They manifest from our hearts, the realm of empathy and wisdom that ego knows not of.  In the presence of grace, the ego’s purpose vanishes and it crumbles into dust for lack of purpose.

The ego teaches us to deny our hearts.  Yet our hearts continue to desire more than the ego’s limited perspective on life can ever offer.  Our internal conflict between, on the one hand, striving to find satisfaction through our constant efforts to win approval through our performances in social roles and, on the other hand, simply desiring the free gift of satisfaction demonstrates that our hearts are aware that the ego does not serve us well.  We cannot win divine approval that brings us abiding deepest satisfaction because what is given freely cannot be won by effort or performance.  Abiding deepest satisfaction is an unearnable gift from our Creator to each of us without exception as His/Her eternally beloved child.

Instead of striving and struggling with egoic effort to prove we are worthy of love and all of life’s best, we can simply accept what our hearts most desire.  We can accept as divine fact that we are already loved and permanently poised to receive life’s best as freely given gifts.  How do we engage in such a radical shift in perspective?  We can begin by accepting the gift of our innate capacity to shift from reverse to neutral before we engage any forward gear.  We can reverse the devotion of our minds to ego’s way and restfully receive awareness of the alternate way and discover our natural affinity for it.  There is only one alternative way that truly exceeds ego’s grasp.  It is the way of divine love.  Ego honors fear.  The alternate way honors divine love and allows it to gradually dissipate all fears at a pace we can regulate according to our heart’s desire.  A text entitled A Course Of Love will tell you more about this way.  Visit http://acourseoflove.com/ to explore and engage in love’s more promising possibilities yourself.

You are poised to dive into love’s sea of serenity within you.  You are poised but like most people hesitate.  Diving into the unknown both intrigues and frightens you.  The ego would have you remain afraid to take the dive.  It would have you believe that taking the dive means forfeiting your opportunity to win the fight and exposes you to ridicule as an incompetent competitor.  The Divine Source of Love seeks not competitors but collaborators who will build the new world according to Love’s Master Plan.  Might you want to be one of the building blocks of such love – even when in the eyes of some others you may appear to be a loser rather than a winner in the ego’s endless rounds of competition?  If you have grown weary of the ego’s invitation to yet another round of competition for social approval and the supposed “perks” of ego, choose to let go of both ego’s perks and irks. Instead, let love be you and bond you to the Divine Source and others as Divine Grace is freely manifest within and through you.

© 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 1

Although the Earth is not the center of the Universe, humanity is at the center of God’s will, but not in the way many people believe.  Scientists discovered long ago the error of believing that all other heavenly bodies orbited around the Earth.  They do not, no matter how it may appear to casual observers that they do.  So long as observers assumed that the Earth stood motionless amid a sun, moon, planets, stars and other objects in space that moved, they tried to explain how the motions they observed were caused by the motion of every heavenly body except Earth.  Once observers accepted that the Earth itself is not only in motion in its own orbit but also in motion revolving around its own axis, their explanations and theories had to change. Let’s give these observant thinkers credit for having reconsidered their earlier theory that the Earth was absolutely motionless and for having tossed it out in favor of other theories once persuasive evidence was gathered.  Their reconsideration is a form of repentance, a process of rethinking prior conclusions in light of new evidence. We can similarly reconsider the central role God has entrusted to humanity once we stop assuming that our role consists primarily of being pampered, punished or passed over by God, observe accurately what our role is and develop a theory of life consistent with our true role.  Just as it takes more than casual observation to understand the relationship of Earth to other heavenly bodies, it takes more than casual observation to discern our role and relationship to God and God’s design for life.  Factors to observe accurately include questions such as “Who orbits whom?” and “For what purpose?”

When the Earth lost its status as the center of the Universe, the Christian religion (then predominantly expressed through the Catholic Church) resisted the new evidence as contrary to long-established religious beliefs about humanity’s being the centerpiece of God’s creation.  Catholic traditions enthroned in interpretations of scriptural stories set humanity above all other life forms as the pinnacle expression of God’s divine process of creation.  Had polar bears developed a religion it’s possible that they would have thought of themselves as the pinnacle expression of God’s creativity and interpreted the illusion that the stars appear to orbit around the North Pole and the fact that the Earth rotates on its axis around the North Pole as proof of polar bear supremacy. But it seems that only humans have developed religions or felt the need to assert superiority over other species and within our own species.  So only humans once claimed that the commonly observed motion of heavenly bodies was linked to humanity’s supremacy in God’s plan of creation and found it hard to let go of outdated theories of an Earth-centered Universe once new and less commonly observed yet nevertheless accurate evidence was available. Although the absence of an Earth-centered Universe did not necessarily imply the absence of a God-centered Universe, modernizing human thinking gradually shifted towards that conclusion.  Since Western thinking favors either/or outcomes, in the competition between the scientific and the sacred the scientific gained vastly predominant authority and the authority of the sacred faded by comparison.  The possibility of reconciling this competition in an outcome that honored the authority of “both/and” instead for “either/or” was not a favored outcome in minds trained in Western thinking that tends to see issues in terms of opposites and resolves conflicts by designating winners and losers.

Once scientific observations prevailed over traditional religious beliefs, scriptural stories lost much of their authority.  Science discredited Scripture.  Science won.  Religion lost.  In fact, science became the new religion and the former institutions of religion in Western (industrializing, developing, modernizing) society took a back seat to science for many centuries, serving mostly to justify and cheer on sciences’ achievements in the “march of progress” of modernization – as measured by material standards.  In the current modern era, it’s perhaps time to question whether science works well as a religion.  Perhaps in some way undetectable by science humanity does have a centerpiece relationship with God and a central role in God’s plan.  The ascendance of science as the superior thought system has seduced us into believing that what is “detectable” by scientific instruments and human observation is all that exists.  Thus, with a God that is undetectable by science, God does not exist except in the minds of those who believe God exists, a belief that seems to conflict with physical observations.  To many scientific thinkers (atheists, agnostics, skeptics, religiously oriented, etc.), the existence of God is not provable and therefore is largely if not totally irrelevant in one’s “practical” life.  While young or prospering socially, many people postpone thinking about God in any depth.  More pressing issues related to immediate social success take priority and occupy their minds. While in foxholes there may be no atheists, in between fox holes many sidestep issues related to God to focus on attaining their next social goals.

We may be reaping the results of having scientifically convinced ourselves that God is irrelevant to human life when the truth is precisely opposite. What if God is the most relevant aspect of life and if humanity is the most significant aspect of life as Life happens on God’s terms?  Might we shift our priorities and re-arrange our investment of time and energy if that were so?  By believing unquestionably in science as our new religion may we have inadvertently encouraged the plague of violence now besetting the Earth at all levels of Life? I am not blaming science for causing the plague.  I am merely suggesting that predominant use of science’s way of thinking has distorted our concepts of cause and effect and trained us to assume that the Law of Cause and Effect must always start with the assumption that major (if not all) causes are physical in nature and that nothing non-physical can be a significant factor in causing any effect. It is not necessary to return to medieval superstitions to regain our balance and consider the possibility of significant non-physical Causes of Effects within a balanced blend of both types of Causes and Effects.

I submit that careful observation (akin to Galileo’s looking through his primitive telescope) will establish that the human race plays a central role in the Universe according to God’s plan. (Given that there may or may not be other forms of life elsewhere in the Universe, I am not necessarily suggesting that humanity is the supreme form of life found everywhere in the Universe.  But I am suggesting that humanity is the supreme form of life found on Earth and may be charged, among other things, with advocating on behalf of the sanctity of all Earthly Life’s forms instead of desecrating them.  And if there are other forms of life beyond Earth, human beings are likely to be responsible for representing and advocating on behalf of all Earthly life forms in future relationships with non-Earthly life forms. Will it not be difficult for humans to stand up for all Earthly life forms when communicating with non-Earthly life forms if we continue to treat other Earthly life forms as unworthy of respect and totally expendable for our convenience?  We can only hope that non-Earthly life forms who turn out to have powers superior to ours do not treat us as poorly as we treat Earthly life forms of lesser power.)

I also submit that we will find and return to our central role in God’s plan for Life when we stop limiting our search to material or physical matter. Mainstream science focuses primarily on the physical world.  It is inherently biased in favor of materialism.  If we limit our inquiry into humanity’s significance to God by limiting our investigation to things physical, we’ll miss what we are looking for.  It is not physical.  It is detectable but not by instruments limited to detecting physical phenomena.  The discernable but nonphysical significance we have to God corresponds to God’s non-detectability by scientific instruments. The existence of humanity’s greatest significance is no more likely to be detected by scientific instruments than God is likely to be detected by them.  Hints may be detected but only hints. The precise attribute itself may remain undetectable by scientists for a long time.

By hints, I mean the byproducts or signs of humanity’s significance to God can be detected as evidence of that significance, if the observers are willing to accept these byproducts or signs as evidence rather than explain them away through other explanations more acceptable to science-biased minds.  Let’s take an example from science itself of a byproduct of an invisible phenomenon that scientists accept as evidence of the existence of that invisible phenomenon. Today scientists accept the existence of magnetic fields created by many kinds of objects, ranging in size (on Earth) from electrically charged particles in motion to small magnets and the Earth’s core.  Although a human’s physical senses may not detect the presence of a magnetic field, the introduction of iron filings into a magnetic field will disclose to human observation the presence of a magnetic field around a magnet. This video demonstrates what happens:

The reaction of the iron filings is evidence of the presence of the energy of the magnetic field around a magnet even when the field’s energy itself remains invisible.

My proposition is that the human species (humanity) is at the heart of Life as God creates Life.  Admittedly this proposition contains assumptions that may not be accepted by all observant thinkers.  It assumes 1) the existence of God, 2) the role of God as on-going Creator of Life (past, present and future tense of “create”) and 3) the existence of Life itself as an overarching, never-fully-completed phenomenon within which all forms of life (as we have identified and may yet identify them) take place.  I propose that Life is an ever-evolving Supreme Field of Divine Energy akin to a magnetic field, that God is the ever-expanding flow of divine energy that magnetizes Life akin to the way a flow of electrical energy creates a magnetic field around a wire through which the electricity flows and that Life’s “network of wires” or energy routes called “relationships” continues to expand as well as vary in capacity to transmit divine energy, depending among other things upon the level of resistance to the flow of divine energy.  As my proposal demonstrates, phenomena in the physical world can provide metaphors for the nature of Life and help us to accept observable evidence in a new light based on a revised theory of Life.

We need not toss out all of our past observations, theories and conclusions in order to investigate the value of this revised theory in which both God and humanity play key roles.  We need only be willing to consider that our past and present theories are “good as far as they go” and that there’s more to the story than what our currently accepted theories consider possible or adequately allow for.  I propose that scientific theories are Scientific stories and that Sacred stories (from all of humanity’s spiritually oriented thought systems, both of oral and written traditions, not just Christian Scripture) have value as allegorical perspective and guidance in understanding the meaning, purpose and direction of Life. In short I am proposing a theory by which sciences and religions may be reconciled and integrated into a unified perspective on Life – within a Unified Story told by the Source of Life through human emotions, thoughts and activities. Under such a unified thesis, the sciences may have more to say about “how” life works than about “why” Life exists.

© Art Nicol 2015

To consider more about the possibility of a Unified Story of Life, please read Part 2 of this 3-part series.