Tag Archives: peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Art Nicol 2015

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

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 Privilege of Connecting with Another Who Sees

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

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

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

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

Wanderer above the sea of fog Caspar David Friedrich

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

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

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

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

© Art Nicol 2015

 

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