Tag Archives: peace

Which Arms Race Do You Choose to Enter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Art Nicol 2015

 

We All Win the Final Battle of the Civil War

Beneath the surface, the U.S. Civil War fought by opposing armies in the middle of the 19th century continues to rage within many hearts and minds throughout the United States as we struggle with opposing values, ideals and priorities.  Issues that preceded the outbreak of armed hostilities between slave-holding states and slave-releasing states still breed unrest throughout our troubled nation.  Our issues are embodied in and expressed through economic competition fueled by heady pride untempered by heartfelt justice and compassion.  Episodes of armed violence that erupt sporadically are symptoms of our unresolved unrest and our unconscious struggle to find lasting peace of mind, hope of heart and joy of spirit.  We will win the battle for peace, hope and joy once we bring our unconscious struggle into the light of our conscious awareness and stop submerging it beneath pretenses of complacency and satisfaction with the status quo.

What is the status quo most of us throughout the U.S. seek to maintain that is actually perpetuating the violence that dismays us?  What are we complaining about that we could address effectively if only we were to see it clearly rather than hide from it in the smoke of emotionally heated power struggles?  The paradox is that we cannot see clearly what is not yet visible to us until we allow the smoke of anger-fueled battles to clear from our fields of vision and give higher priority to seeing clearly than to battling endlessly for the power to have things our way.  Burning anger as a fuel for power struggles pollutes the air of reasoned discussions.  Its fumes mask the real issues and raise barriers of defensiveness on all sides. So long as we angrily assert as necessary to our pride the right to have our own way in disregard of others’ dignity, we will remain embattled in anger-fueled power struggles and blind to the alternative within which all can have our dignified way in peace because power is shared equitably.

As an alternative fuel for well-reasoned discussions, a passion for peace burns cleanly.  Angry battles are unnecessary.  Anger is an early stage of grief.  It is not a sign of strength but instead a sign of not-yet-healed woundedness.  Peace is a sign of strength even while enduring woundedness.  Peace does not ignore painful issues and their associated wounds.  It addresses them with reason, seeking to find the root cause of wound-inflicting conflicts and resolving each to every reasoning person’s satisfaction.  Anger’s presence is a sign of unresolved emotions bullying their way through the waves of confusion and chaos to ram against ideas angered minds do not find agreeable – or silently swarming beneath the waves seeking to torpedo ideas presented by competitors in a battle for control of the storm-tossed seas upon which humanity sails.  Battle-won control does not assure that lasting peace will follow.  Battle-weariness is not the same as peace.  It is more likely that another round of conflict will arise out of painful memories associated with earlier battles than that sustainable peace will prevail unless our memories are healed of our pain.

No matter how grand a floated ideal may be anger can blow it out of the water.  Angry battles to preserve pride as the measure of individual or group success are counter-productive.  They insure that all successes are temporary and decline in their capacity to satisfy.  Anger acts like an addictive drug because adrenalin that accompanies anger is an addictive chemical.  Angry people become addicted to our own body chemistry. We become our own drug pushers, provoking angry conflicts in order to get high. The more one uses anger to justify adrenalin-pumped up action the more one has to escalate its use to produce the next high.  Coming down from an angry high does not feel good.  Withdrawal from habits of anger can feel miserable.  Yet, angry battles to produce pride’s highs only perpetuate the endless rounds of unsatisfying outcomes we’ve endured. It’s time to consider the alternative fully and cease to sacrifice our lives on altars of anger’s futility.  It’s time to be wiser and promote peace in place of pride as our priority – and as our privilege.

I am heir to a rare but not entirely unique privilege.  I have the privilege of having been cast out of pride’s status quo and required to remain on the sidelines relatively free of battlefields.  As a result, my battle-remote field of vision is less smoke-filled and more prone to see with peace and hope-filled joy what embattled peoples have not yet realized is right before our eyes and readily within our reach. What I see in my field of vision are masses of people who have endured much pain in their struggles to survive amid centuries of economic competition that is now proving totally incapable of satisfying many while it relentlessly channels economic prosperity and pseudo-privileges of pride to relatively few. This distorted distribution of economic benefits is another symptom of the underlying, not-yet-unresolved issues about which I write.

Anger in reaction to harmful economic inequities is understandable.  Anger is not bad. It’s simply not the condition under which we can adequately address lasting resolution of issues that preserve economic inequities.  We who weary of feeling powerless and inadequate to the task of resolving these issues need to exercise wisdom to develop long-term solutions to these long-standing inequities.  Anger interferes with our capacity to listen to and heed wisdom’s guidance.  Let us not judge and condemn ourselves for feeling angry or afraid.  Anger and fear are understandable reactions to painful belief in our powerlessness.  Yet we can learn to set aside our angry reactions and our fears of perpetual powerlessness to confer together in communal peace that arises from personal self-disciplines of inner peace.  Every person has the capacity to contribute personal inner peace to an outpouring of communal peace – no matter how extremely justified anger and fear seem.

As has long been trumpeted, “To the victors go the spoils!”  Every war has required that there be winners and losers, victors and victims, heroes and scapegoats.  The outcome of wars has always been to allocate the spoils of war so as to perpetuate pride’s status quo within which battles of one kind or another remain inevitable in recurring cycles of warfare.  Lessons of pride learned in earlier wars cause warring parties to modify their methods and submerge their battles and their allegiances beneath the surface out of sight – hidden behind charming smiles and soothing words that mask their wounded pride.  Pride’s lessons preserve the distrust and secrecy that undergird all warfare rather than promote the alternative of trust and transparency upon which lasting peace may be established.

As yet the pride-free lesson has not been learned that all forms of battle for one person’s, group’s, nation’s or culture’s supposedly superior way of life at the expense of another’s supposedly inferior way of life represent the same mistake repeated over and over again with insane results only the hardest-hearted prideful person could admire.  One proof of such insanity is found in the fact that the victors to whom the spoils of each successive battle go progressively decrease in proportion to the battle’s victims.  Smaller grows the pool of spoils-receiving winners as larger grow the widening pools of losers from whom the spoils are drained.  Fewer and fatter are pride’s vampires as larger grow the pools of blood from which they drink.  If blood is a symbol for life, then no one wins when blood is distributed throughout the body of humanity with pride-rewarding inequity.  Distribution of the spoils of war to preserve pride’s dominion within the status quo – no matter how artfully disguised as change – spoils everything for everyone in the long run as the health of humanity’s limbs, organs and associated functions decline.  Pride is healthy for no one, not even for the privileged few who cling to their pride at all cost to themselves and everyone.

The world is awash with symptoms of the futility of perpetuating pride’s competition-driven status quo.  It is time for reasoning human beings to set aside pride and shame out of concern for the welfare of the whole.  To stop perpetuating the status quo of declining human functioning (sometimes called “systemic” or “institutionalized” dehumanization or exploitation) we must look squarely at what pride’s status quo is and let it go as an alternative no longer appealing to us.  We must grow wise enough to spot it in all its forms and respond each time it is offered to us by admitting “Been there, done that” and engage in it no more.  Until we repent of our participation in pride’s status quo and commit ourselves to living according to the only true alternative of peace-generating humility, we are doomed to repeat the errors of our past and unwittingly participate in perpetuating violence while the alternative of peace remains unseen yet right at hand.  I write now to invite those who want to see what I see to join me in seeing it as our collective vision.  We can choose to embrace peace together and establish it as a viable alternative to futility so that others can consider it when it becomes their turn to do so.  Love’s humility is the alternative to pride’s futility.  The more love’s alternative exists in tangible expression because its practitioners reveal it through our lifestyles, the more clearly others will behold it and find it appealing to them as well.  By our commitment to love’s alternative even in its birth struggles, we will invite others to win together with us the one final universal battle in the Civil War.  No war is civil.  Peace is.  We must first reclaim peace within our hearts before we can share it with others in sustainable Civil Peace.

The alternative about which I write is a blend of the most promising of all individuals’ and cultures’ ways of life and visions for a better future.  Love’s most promising multicultural ways and visions have humbly endured the tests of time.  Just as the Earth’s current non-aristocratic masses are enduring much pain and suffering in the modern age, enduring pain and suffering has been the norm for the masses throughout human history. All viable cultures’ most highly evolved ways of endurance and visions for relief from pain and suffering blend together into the Alternative I’ve seen is not only possible for us all to share but actually the only viable alternative to warfare and its pain and suffering.  As the humble sages and elders of every reasoning culture teach, we either choose to perpetuate our suffering or to relieve it, heal from it and live beyond it.  Habits of pride passed along through many generations conspire to perpetuate our suffering. Yet in one generation we can learn to set aside pride’s habits if we want them set aside in order to embrace the Alternative to suffering about which so many dream.  Those of us who set our hearts resolutely upon the purpose of embracing life fully as wise and humble people of all ages can embrace life for all of humanity.  We can be the hearts, minds, hands and arms that reach out to embrace the whole solution for us all. Voluntary humility achieved through surrender of both our pride and shame, not forcefully imposed humiliation, will save humanity for all of us.

The U.S. Civil War was called the “war between the states.” The universal civil war is also a war between states.  But it is a war between two states, just as the U.S. Civil War was a war between two orientations towards freedom.  The universal civil war is also a battle about freedom.  It is a war between on the one hand A) those who believe in slavery for some (or many or most) and freedom for many (or some or few) and on the other hand B) those who believe in slavery for none and freedom for all.   The choice of sides in this universal war is that stark.  It is a radical choice because it reaches to the root of freedom’s origin and insists that no compromise with principles of universal freedom can be practiced without sacrificing freedom for us all.  Pride’s status quo stands for perpetual compromise and its resulting loss of universal freedom and substitution of universal slavery.  The Misery Compromise has been tried and failed.  Attempts to compromise have proven that misery cannot be distributed to some without inflicting it on all.  It is time to take a radically uncompromising stand for liberty and justice for all or suffer slavery for our children and their children.

The war between the states about which I write is a war between two states of mind – one free and one enslaved.  Those who have endured much pain and suffering may find it hard to believe that the alternative to suffering actually exists – already available to be accepted, adopted and appreciated every moment of the day and night.  Yet, because it is true that those who endure all things have endured as love endures, this alternative that love offers is already the alternative for which those who have suffered most are well-prepared. If love endures all things and you’ve endured all things, then you are love.  Your essence is love that endures for eternity.  The endurance of suffering is simply a period of preparation for rising beyond suffering as you accept release from misinterpreted lessons of suffering. The key false lesson suffering seeks to teach you is that you are enslaved forever to suffering, destined to perpetuate it always either as a sufferer or as one who inflicts suffering.  This key lesson is not true.  It is a misunderstanding adopted by a mind confused by pain and the fear of greater pain.  To avoid greater pain, our minds interpreted past pain as proof of our unworthiness to be freely loved and loving as if our destiny is to always suffer love’s betrayal and loss.  Instead of abiding by this false lesson, we can choose to neither endure suffering nor inflict it.  That’s what the Golden Rule teaches.  This rule is honored in some version by every benevolent spiritual path of faith. (See http://www.religioustolerance.org/reciproc.htm)  No one is excluded from the power of the Golden Rule.

The Alternative within which you naturally belong but may not yet behold is the Alternative of Love. It is the Alternative towards which every version of the Golden Rule points. It is a state not only of mind but of heart as well.  It is the natural state into which we emerge as we practice reconciling our minds with our hearts and allow the best of reconciled blends to merge as the truth of who we are.  The war between the two possible states of mind can be won by any individual who decides to win it within himself or herself and learn to rise beyond his or her own inner conflicts to discover and practice inner peace. It is a war won by daring to open one’s heart to love again and allowing love’s power to reconcile all conflicting points of view in the light of eternal love’s humility.  As individuals welcome heartfelt inner peace as their new norm and join with other welcomers, their peace-enriched community emerges beyond battles abandoned in favor of reconciliation and cooperation in rebuilding relationships within the sustainable social ecosystem of humble love.

To rise beyond the battlefields into the Alternative Way that does not recycle its adherents into another round of conflict and renewed pain and suffering requires that we each let go of ego and its sightless habits.  We must learn to be increasingly more insightful in order to overcome the ego’s sightlessness and see the vision that emerges from the ego’s smoke and mirror battle tactics.  We must realize that pride and shame are flipsides of the ego’s coin and not truly alternatives to each other. They are inseparable, complimentary twins.  We are not better off by becoming proud instead of ashamed.  Our life is not improved by adopting stigmata of shame as badges of pride to flaunt before those who once shamed us.  In fact to do so adopts the very values, priorities and pride-shame duality of thinking that our prior oppressors believe in.  It is a mistake to adopt their orientation towards relationships and still expect not to join them in their loveless lifestyles devoted to competitive individuality and devoid of heart-satisfying intimacy.   Peace awaits those who shed our armor of pride and allow our wounds of shame to heal in love’s light instead of remaining hidden to fester in fear’s darkness.

In modern times, those once stigmatized and taught to feel ashamed for being a person of darker color skin, of non-heterosexual orientation, of non-mainstream gender orientation, of feminine qualities or of other labels low in social power and approval have tried to convert their badges of shame into badges of pride by rallying together and no longer allowing themselves to remain isolated from each other in hiding.  They have “come out” of hiding, claimed their social standing as legitimate and empowered themselves through the ballot box in a republic in which the right to vote offers illusions of power even when election outcomes are heavily swayed by the money of the dominant few.  Unfortunately, they have also claimed their legitimacy on the ego’s terms of pride as if ego sets beneficial terms.  Ego can never set the terms of love.  It sets the terms of fear, terror and atrocities inflicted by one upon another, individually or in groups. The ego offers no alternative to itself because it knows of none it can tolerate.  It is close-minded – a closed thought system from which there is no escape or relief unless one exits the system entirely.  We must shed our egos to be free of both pride and shame – and free to experience love instead.  Ego-dominated minds repudiate love.  Our hearts prefer to welcome it. Let our minds now agree with our hearts’ desire to know love by experience.  That is wisdom’s way.

The ego’s way is to set stereotypes and images upon the altars of our hearts and minds and worship them as false idols.  Ego claims that our failure to measure up to the “ideals” of its stereotypes and images defines us as failures – as shame-faced losers in the battle for popularity and prosperity.  Fame and fortune are two of the ego’s false goals by which it seduces us into following its dictates and considering no other power possible.  But there is another power that is not only possible but inevitable.  It is the power that ego fears and seeks to teach us to ignore and to avoid at all costs if we become aware of it.  In the presence of this power, the ego fades to nothing, not to black but to invisibility in its clearly spotted uselessness.  The ego justifies its existence based on our needing to be defended from threats of pain and suffering. Yet paradoxically only when we adopt the ego’s ways are we actually exposed to suffering as accumulated pain.  Without the ego we are invulnerable to suffering, not because we cannot feel pain but because we can always heal from every form of pain and rise free from pain again.  We have no need or desire to accumulate and retain pain as suffering.  Only the ego bids us to retain pain and store it up as suffering to serve as the motivation for lessons the ego teaches.  Pain drags us down into the ego’s realm of fear, including the fear that suffering is endless – as our form of hell in Time and/or Eternity, a punishment we somehow deserve and must preserve.  As fear’s alternative, love lifts us up where we belong – healed of all pain associated with guilt and punishment and free to soar as innocence personified.

The ego’s definitions of all things are false.  It defines freedom as enslavement to perpetual attempts to avoid pain and to escape from suffering by self-indulgence in mind-numbing activities that lead to heartless indifference to others and ourselves as well.  The ego teaches us to be blind to the reality that we cannot be indifferent to the pain and suffering of others without adopting pain and suffering as our personal experience too.  The Golden Rule always operates, whether we treat others well or poorly.  No amount of ego’s escapist ways (no matter to what extravagance indulged in) will free us from our confrontations with the pain and suffering that we carry around inside. Only by achieving inner peace through inner healing will we experience the freedom we desire.  Our hearts desire.  Our minds aspire.  When we set our minds to aspire after what our hearts truly desire, we will encounter wisdom and gradually become wiser in all our ways.  The Alternative Way is Wisdom’s Way taught by all the ancient paths of spiritually rooted benevolence and humble simplicity.

How long do you prefer to remain fooled by the ego into believing in a fruitless quest for the joys of deeper satisfaction where such joys and satisfaction do not await you?  The ego’s path of futility appears to be populated by many diverse choices.  But that diversity is an illusion so long as all choices are based on fear of strangers and fear of forgiving others (and yourself) for the pain and suffering you associate with them (and yourself).  All who have endeavored to live by ego’s teachings have fallen into the same pit of sightless battles by which we blind ourselves and others to the truth we might otherwise see. Our pain blinds us to the true reason for our suffering.  By trying to turn the tables to cause others to suffer instead, we are only perpetuating the suffering we all endure and adopting the ego’s way as if it is the only way.  We are mistaken to take pride in the suffering we endure or in the pain we avoid by transferring it to others instead.  We are mistaken to be ashamed of the pain and suffering we have endured as if we’ve done something so wrong as to never be forgiven for it.  We are mistaken to interpret pain as punishment for guilt we imagine is ours to carry for a lifetime.  Release from secret inner agonies of guilt arrives with shedding of our egos.

We are also mistaken to be afraid to face the stranger who hides within us as if our secret side is a guilt-ridden creature of shame (when this is not so!). We are equally mistaken to fear strangers we see around us as if they are the reason for our inability to feel free of guilt and shame (again not so!).  Our secret feelings of unrelieved guilt and shame compel us to try to outperform others to atone for our secret guilt and shame. This false need to feel guilty is all part of the ego’s game to keep us its prisoners for fear that the skeletons in our secret closets will destroy us if revealed.  To heap more guilt and shame upon ourselves for failing to outperform others overburdens our own hearts and minds with immense distress.  There is no relief or healing in competing ruthlessly to survive or come out on top.  Pride is not an antidote to guilt or shame.  It is a cover-up, not a cure. Only our devoted walk along humility’s centered path will lead us beyond the dilemmas of the internal civil war between two states of mind.  No matter how submerged beyond our conscious awareness it may be, an endless civil war between pride and shame (and guilt and blame) enslaves us all.   We can choose instead to be free by choosing consciously to liberate each other from the ego’s grip on our hearts and minds.  Liberty and justice for all depends upon our cooperation in each other’s liberation from the ego.

Xenophobia and unforgiveness are two symptoms of the ego’s unhealthiness that we can intentionally address regardless of our lack of health insurance coverage.  We need no one’s permission to master the arts of hospitality to strangers and forgiveness of all peoples (including ourselves).  We will eventually see the smokeless, unpolluted vision and surrender our former attitudes and practices once we tire of the insanity of repeating the ego’s varied ways of preserving our fears and avoiding true forgiveness for fear of appearing weak if we forgive.  The strong forgive.  The self-confident and secure offer hospitality to strangers. (Please watch this video if you might appreciate more evidence of forgiveness’ value: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSCx1XS0f8Y.)

We will win the final battle of the Civil War because it is a battle Love has already won for us.  All we need to do now is decide which side of the finished battle we stand on – the side of the winner or the loser.  The battle itself is over.  Love welcomes all to stand up as winners.  No one is a loser because all of us are lovers-in-training, never losers.  The battle was between Love and the Ego that demanded that pride and shame rather than humility and compassion should prevail as standards for humanity.  Love prevails within humility as we walk on Earth doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with Love as our God and the God of everyone.  There is no other God but the Love that endures all things, the tender-hearted Being of Divine Love whose grace, mercy and forgiveness is infinitely unlimited.  This is the One with Whom our hearts yearn to reunite and share life.  It is the One who stands ready, willing and able to reunite with us upon our wholehearted willingness to surrender our ego and all our ego’s habits of a lifetime to allow us to learn and practice for the rest of our lives the habits of Eternity’s Loving Alternative.

Once believers in Love acknowledge and accept Love’s Grand Design and allow Love to define whom Love includes within the scope of Its Design, Love will reign universal and supreme for all.  Only by our mistaken exercise of our free will in favor our own enslavement to the ego can Love’s Alternative Way be temporarily thwarted.  Once believers in Love embrace and implement Love’s Grand Design, none will be left out of Divine Love as shared here on Earth because those who live under Love’s authority will welcome all who may think of themselves as strangers to Love and help them to discover that they were wrong about being strangers to Love.  Every stranger who believes himself or herself to be estranged from Love lives that way only because of his or her mistaken belief in the permanence of that estrangement.  In Love’s eyes, there never has been any estrangement, only a misunderstanding on the part of each person who mistakenly believes that separation from Love is possible and must be endured forever as punishment for having somehow lost love’s favor by being wrong.  Being wrong does not offend love any more than being right guarantees love’s favor.  Favoring equally both the ones who are right (or believe they are right or fight to prove they are right) and the ones who are wrong (or accept the possibility of being wrong or cease to fight to prove they are not wrong), love invites us all to meet, share love together and reconcile our differences in peace.

Oneness with (non-separation from) Divine Love has always been the condition that exists between Love and every member of the human race.  Believers and non-believers in Love who do not yet “know by experience” of the eternal existence of this oneness or unity between Love and humans have allowed their minds to be clouded by battle-smoked beliefs and fears that temporarily disrupt their capacity to experience our eternal oneness.  The path towards such experiential knowing begins with a change of belief in the possibility of Love and Oneness with It.  Only when a person believes can he or she experience that in which he or she believes.  Believing precedes experiential knowing.

In an earlier era when most people believed the Earth was flat, explorers who believed that the Earth was instead spherical and then acted upon their non-mainstream belief encountered opportunities to experience the Earth’s spherical reality and eventually revealed its spherical nature to all who believed their reports. In the current era when many people believe that peace and love are flatly impossible, every person who chooses to no longer conform to a belief in the impossibility of peace and love will be free to explore Love’s well-rounded nature and encounter experiences of its all-encompassing reality.  Once the spherically holistic nature of Love’s All-inclusive Oneness is experienced, our quest for Peace and Love transforms from being an impossible mystery to becoming an ever more unfolding and enriching mastery.  It becomes mainly the challenge to change one’s mind about Love’s dynamic nature and choose to stand with Love in our shared Victory Celebration beyond fear.

Those who set aside their egos even for a moment glimpse a vision of a different possibility.  To dare to be that different and no longer honor the ego takes courage, the courage that every one of us can find within our own hearts as we dare to believe that there is a better way than our ego’s dreary day. The ego cannot offer us The Better Way.  Love can and does – even here and now as heaven’s presence on the Earth.  By exercising our courage and compassion as cooperative, curious, creative and committed members of the human race, we all win the final battle of the “us” civil war.

Share with me not the gift of a piece of your mind but the gift of the peace of your heart!

© Art Nicol 2015

Higher Technology Cannot Insure the Integrity that Higher Wisdom Offers

In the modern view, the best way to address every problem is through a new or upgraded product.  This is the default reaction of a materialistic society governed by profits instead of by prophets.  By referring to prophets I do not advocate for a religiously oriented, legalistic society.  I’m in favor of an open, faith-based society that also tolerates those whose faith in a higher power has been so shaken as to cast the possibility of such a faith out of their lives entirely.  We who continue to cling to our faith in a higher power have our reasons for living that way. Those who reject faith in a higher power have their reasons for living that way too.  Let us celebrate our capacity to reason and even share our reasons openly.  And let us embrace the integrity that may yet arise from such open-minded sharing instead of embracing the idea that every problem requires the introduction of a new or higher level of product or technology.  If our society’s violence is rooted in dishonesty (lack of integrity, hypocrisy, whatever label), as I believe it is, then no amount of new technology will restore us to the integrity we need to resolve all problems without violence and instill peace and healing throughout our land.  Video-graphing violence will not prevent it.  Blaming others for it will not diminish it.  We must admit our responsibility for promoting it as a symptom of our collective lack of integrity.

I am inspired to address this topic by recent proposals that more cameras be trained on police officers as they perform their duties so that we can hold them accountable for their actions in case their actions fall short of integrity when they face violence. Surely those who make profits from the sale, installation and maintenance of video equipment will be glad to have their businesses prosper under such proposals.  Police officers who already operate with integrity will adjust to having their actions video-recorded.  Police officers who already operate without integrity will also adjust – by developing ways to manipulate the records made by audio and visual recordings and to avoid their completeness by turning them off when it’s convenient for them to fail to make a record. If wardrobe malfunctions can occur, so can equipment malfunctions of other kinds by accident, neglect or intention. Nixon is not the only public servant who showed all of us how to manipulate the record. Technology is not infallible.  Humans can brazenly manipulate it to create whatever outcome they prefer. If they have something to hide, it will remain hidden at all costs.

Accountability for being men and women of integrity applies to all of us.  Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream was not of a nation that prospered because of how our profits rose but of a nation that prospered because of how our integrity rose.  He dreamed of the day when we would judge ourselves not “by the color of [our] skins but by the content of [our] characters.” When our characters are filled with the content of integrity we will all be free at last.  Integrity matters.  Authenticity and Integrity Matter – AIM must become our highest purpose and ideal. No recordings audio and visual will insure our achievement of that goal.  If we want to achieve it, we must allow not profits but prophets like MLK Jr. to guide us.

We live in an age awash with profit-making enterprises and especially devoid of prophet-honoring ones. We teach our young people to pursue careers that are profitable without teaching them to do so with enduring, unshakeable commitment to integrity.  We teach our young people a compromised, lukewarm approach to life because that’s how we live.  We’ve settled for mediocrity as the lowest common denominator by which to add up the fractions of our disintegrating society.  We find common ground all too often in reassuring ourselves that everyone lacks integrity and no one stands up for being a whole person instead of a fraction.  We will continue to fall into the void where fractured souls lacking in integrity huddle together in the dark until we decide to honor our shared need to be here as musketeers, standing one for all and all for one – each as a life worth living and as a person worth standing alongside of with gratitude.

Who will insure that our police officers are armed with integrity and not merely armed with the latest weapons and video-recording equipment?  Who will stand alongside officers who dare to live as men and women of integrity amid the physically dangerous and emotionally harsh environments where we expect them to pursue their careers without sacrificing their health and well-being?  Who will make it possible for us to entrust our communities’ welfare to men and women who bring to the challenges of law enforcement and protection of all citizens the integrity we need them to embody?  We need officers to be protected by bullet proof vests but not by case-hardened hearts and coldly manipulative minds.  If we entrust deadly weapons into the hands of those whose hearts and minds are not empowered by integrity to guide them in their use of their weapons, we will suffer the consequences we now witness – and more severe ones yet to follow.  Violence will continue to escalate until we cultivate the courageous integrity needed to de-escalate it.

We must prepare officers to respond with integrity even in the midst of emotionally stressful conditions that threaten to escape their control and make them feel inadequate, foolish and at risk of harm.  We must invest in their adequately empowering training and back them with adequately encouraging emotional support or they will not believe they matter to us enough to serve and protect us as we expect them to.  We cannot lay upon them our most challenging emotional burdens while providing them with only limited emotional resources.  And we must take care not to assume that a man or woman experienced in the use of weaponry under conditions of war is necessarily well-prepared to wield weapons in times of relative peace.  The heart-rending hardship of war-torn battlefields does not necessarily translate well into the leadership needed on our embattled streets.  Battlefield reflexes do not necessarily translate into responsible actions when confrontations take place between officers and citizens.  We must be careful not to reap at home the violence we’ve exported abroad.  Men and women who have served abroad may well be the best prepared to serve at home once we have honored them enough to help them heal and be restored beyond the emotional wounds of overseas service.  To help them to heal reflects our commitment to peace at home and abroad. To fail to help them heal reflects our callous disregard of heroes we put up on pedestals while we pretend they have no sensitive human emotions worthy of our notice and compassion.

If we are to expect integrity and self-control from our men and women who are armed with weapons of warfare and charged with protecting those of us who are not so armed, we must stand with them with the same integrity we expect of them.  We cannot expect of them what we do not expect of ourselves in less stressful situations. Loss of control under the duress of intense fear is a common threat we all face. If we cannot live as men and women of integrity while we enjoy the protection that police officers afford us, how can we expect our protectors to live up to higher standards while they are directly exposed to harm?  Our protective heroes need our wholehearted support every day of their lives. Token praise at award ceremonies and eulogies at funerals are not all our protectors deserve.

If we are to invest resources in the lives and welfare of our police officers, let us invest wisely in their integrity and help them to feel our support for their health and welfare throughout every fiber of their being.  Let us reassure them that we don’t take them for granted while sending them out onto our violent streets by day and night as we go about our routines as if we’re entitled to be safe but not responsible for their safety too. Let’s help our officers face the dangers of our out-of-control society by taking risks ourselves.  Let’s risk stepping into the flow of violence and pluck from its flow those young people whom we see to be at risk of being confronted by police officers.

Let’s reduce the stress on officers who police our streets by tackling the cause of violence at its root. Let’s be men and women of courage and integrity who show young people who doubt that anyone cares about them how wrong they are.  Or we risk confirming that the abandoned, rejected and neglected youth of modern times are right about the rest of us. As we witness solitary young men being confronted by police officers, might we ask ourselves why those young men are so alone and lack the high quality companionship that might well make all the difference in their lives?  Do we have the integrity to do the right thing and care enough to be in their corner with them to help them know that they are not alone uncared for?

Why are we first meeting young men at risk of confrontations with police officers when they star in YouTube videos?  Why did we not meet them earlier and let them know that they could star in our lives in more productive ways?  How might it make a difference for us who are protected to let our protectors and the young men from whom we feel the need to be protected know that we care about every one of them and leave none out of our protected circles of protective care? Might our own intentionally cultivated greater integrity overflow to lift us all to higher ground together?  A rising tide of integrity might float the boat we share and free us from the storm-tossed reefs of violence upon which our Ship of State is floundering.  Before we abandon ship let us consider how we might voluntarily contribute integrity to seal the hull and add ballast to keep us upright.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

Deliverance from Suffering Delivers Us from Sin – Jesus’ Vision of the Way – Part 2

Human authority figures often misrepresent the nature of God by demanding (as egos do) that those socially subordinate to them serve them rather than humbly offering to serve those who appear on social terms to be beneath them.  Pyramid-shaped structures of social power convey the idea that those at the bottom serve those at the top. We need only turn the pyramid upside down to see the truth of the power dynamics at work within God’s kingdom.  It is true that “He who would be greatest in the kingdom shall be servant of them all” because that is how humbly walking with God works miracles of mercy and justice by grace for those Jesus calls “the least of these.”

A chain mail of service extends from God to interconnect all who serve others on God’s terms of humility and grace. This chain does not restrain the freedom of God’s servants. Its links join every servant-child-of-God to the power that sets all of us free to serve ever more effectively on God’s behalf as agents and ambassadors of God’s realm of mercy, forgiveness, healing, justice and liberation from bondage to suffering and sin. This is the chain mail that offers all participants in God’s kingdom of mutual service constant relief from suffering because it heals pain on an on-going basis. To belong within such a network of servants requires that one participate in it as both giver and receiver, not just passively ride on its coattails as a parasite or wastefully dispense power through co-dependent activities as a host to parasites.  It works for all who serve with both heart and head made fully available to God: 1) hearts open to and connected with each other and with the Source of All Love with empathy, compassion and wisdom and 2) minds open to intuitions, insights and understandings conveyed by the Holy Spirit.  God is the Great Innernet Provider for this mutually supportive, interactive network within which every participant has his or her own mailbox through which to give and receive all the power needed to enjoy life as a rewarding experience to be celebrated with deepest appreciation and affection.  Not a pyramid of scared power seekers, God’s kingdom is a paradox of sacred power sharers that includes God Himself/Herself.

Once we realize that we only live in “sin” when we suffer and believe no relief is available, we will see the wisdom of God’s Plan to relieve all suffering through mutual appreciation and service in order to relieve all motivation to live the isolating, hypercritical and hypocritical lifestyles we label “sinful.”  In the final analysis, all actions declared by religious leaders and other judgmental folks to be sinful are actually symptoms of unrelieved suffering, unhealed pain and unrecognized loneliness.  The same suffering and pain that drive people to be hypocritical and also drive them to be hypercritical of others and themselves – and both conditions foster loneliness.

Let’s see how suffering and sin are linked by the Law of Cause and Effect.  Of the seven deadly sins, Anger (or Wrath) is merely an early stage of grieving, not a sin at all but rather a symptom of underlying pain and the fear that the pain will never go away.  Unresolved emotional issues give out false signals that healing is impossible and cause those in chronic pain to conclude that they will never find relief and must instead accept perpetual suffering.  Since the state of perpetual suffering feels like hell on earth, it can convince sufferers that they are destined to remain in hell forever and may as well stop struggling to live lives worth living.  Spiritual practices taught by Jesus relieve anger and its associated pain and suffering, both chronic and acute, because these practices connect practitioners to renewed awareness of their natural oneness with the Source of All Well-Being, a connection which feels much like heaven on earth. Renewed awareness of one’s natural place within God’s realm of inner peace and health is the antidote to anger because peace of mind and anger cannot co-exist. Anger along with all other symptoms of unhealed heartaches must disappear as heartaches heal in oneness with the Master’s heart.

Sloth, Gluttony and Vanity (or Pride) are likewise symptoms of unresolved grief, as depressed people lapse into inaction, eat to drown their emotions and busy their minds with distracting images and activities in order to escape from awareness of their pain.  Similarly Envy, Greed and Lust (for pleasure and for power over others) are symptoms of pain that manifest the sufferer’s desire to have what others pretend to have and amass material wealth, physical pleasures and power over others as false substitutes for true relief from pain they feel powerless to overcome on their own.  In sum, all “sins” are symptoms of the ego’s dominion of perpetuated pain, suffering and fear.  The ego presides over the illusion that earthly existence must eventually become a lonely hell on earth.

At the core of all “sins” is a “State of Sin” in which one who acts out due to pain believes and experiences himself or herself to be separated from God.  The perception of separation from God is the mental/emotional state called “Sin.”  Under the influence of such a state of mind and heart, acting “sinfully” becomes “normal” as the product of a mind driven to unhealthy means as well as unhealthy ends by pain. To believe that such a separation is permanent (a belief that the Church promotes for many people of whom Church leaders personally disapprove) causes agonizing fear of eternal condemnation to a state of perpetual separation from love and loved ones. When we suffer alone, we will not overcome the pain we’re holding onto because relief comes only through daring to share our hearts within the Innernet and letting others know about the emotions that are brooding and broiling around inside of us.  Jesus modeled a humble lifestyle of transparent connection with the Father as he allowed others to be aware of how he felt about life’s painful experiences, both in regard to his own pain and in regard to the pain he saw others suffering. He modeled how pain is released through grieving within a sacred community.  The ego’s pride, shame and denial of emotions arrest grief’s honest process that heals our hearts and actually matures them to be all the healthier, more resilient and stronger.

As an ego-free person, Jesus was and still is well acquainted with grief and the process of relief we call “grieving.”  He did not judge as “bad” and hold in contempt those who acted out their pain in ways that moralists and legalists judge to be “sinful.”  Instead, sensitively empathetic to the pain others carried within them and motivated by compassion, Jesus extended himself and the ego-free kingdom of God to those who suffered – offering to heal their wounds and illnesses and relieve them permanently of all their symptoms, including those symptoms that others labeled “sins.”  Jesus did not stop to see the symptoms. He saw beyond them to the pain and suffering, to the causes of the grievances that plagued those around him and to the reality of health and wholeness that remained restorable within each person to whom he ministered.  He gave his all as well as all he could download from God to aid those who believed in him, helping them to find relief in the form best suited to their needs and personal dispositions.

Rather than to cozy up to socially powerful elite, Jesus kept company with those the socially elite assumed to be out of favor with God and consigned to society’s lowest classifications. To each person of any social classification whom he encountered, Jesus offered permanent residency as a citizen within God’s unified realm on earth and heaven if only each would repent of ego’s perspective and seek first that kingdom and the “righteousness” or “native holiness (health)” of the One Who Created the Kingdom of Love.  To follow Jesus’ example, we must likewise seek that kingdom and its holiness as if it were as native to us as it is to Jesus and the One Who Created Us in the Nature of Divinity.  We cannot hold ourselves apart from God and God’s Plan as separate egos and still expect to participate in God’s Plan, manifest its power as God’s servants and reap its benefits.  We must make the choice to accept that God is reasonably and helpfully making the offer our hearts desire to accept and receive.  Grace is God’s gift to us but no gift is fully delivered until the recipient accepts it fully. Full acceptance of God’s gift of empowering grace is both our responsibility and our privilege.

In Part 1 of this essay, I described how the Church that followed historically after Jesus’ life on earth gradually turned his presentation of God’s generous gift of grace on its head and made a mockery of Jesus’ teachings.  The Church leaders converted God’s wisdom once again into human foolishness because they were afraid to suffer openly and honestly and instead indulged in what today psychologists call the “Stockholm Syndrome.” The Church leaders came to identify their safety with cultivating the favor of those who threatened their safety most. In this manner, they became unwittingly co-conspirators in perpetuating and exacerbating cycles of neglect (passive violence) and abuse (active violence). They cozied up to their abusers and made heroes out of bullies by offering the one aspect of life that the abusers believed they deserved the least.  Without first requiring repentance from their lifestyles of violence, the Church offered bullies a free pass into heaven that no violent person ever truly believes is open to him or her.  The bargain was that the Church would speak to God for favor for the bullies and abusers if the bullies and abusers would direct their violence towards others and stand guard over the Church’s accumulated wealth and social status too.

Unlike Jesus who conditioned entry into awareness of God’s kingdom within us upon repentance (choosing a new way of thinking based on forgiveness), the Church conditioned entry into a false heaven somewhere outside of us upon the bullies’ redirecting their violence towards those it considered mutual enemies (maintaining the old way of thinking based on revenge).  In doing so, the Church made those enemies into scapegoats to counterbalance the hero status it assigned to its violent allies. To preserve themselves in their state of perpetual fear of those they perceived to be threats to their hegemony, Church leaders made a pact with society’s leaders who believed that violence solved problems.  Once the pact was sealed between socially powerful bullies and the Church the system spun along on its inevitable course to become totally out of control – as do all dysfunctional social systems based on illusions of power behind which powerlessness and unmanageable lives (addictions and co-dependency) inevitably hide.  No one among monarchs, merchants, military and missionaries saw a need to repent so long as the system of deceit appeared to work for them because they did not examine it too closely and avoided noticing its inherent shortcomings and failure to provide long-term, sustainable benefits even for their own children and grandchildren.  Having chosen to rely upon the Emperor of Roman (and all subsequent empire builders) to protect them, the Church failed to point out that the Emperor had no spiritual clothes on.

In his time on earth, Jesus was aware that the socio-political system in place in his homeland was no different from all such systems that had been and ever would be in place around the globe. He saw the nakedness of raw power exercised for the benefit of the few rather than for the benefit of all.  The details might vary but the ultimate dynamics by which social power was and is distributed would remain the same.  Disregarding Jesus’ insights into the futility of politics as usual, Church leaders became stuck in the stage of grief called “bargaining” as they negotiated pacts with politicians. To maintain their bargains, Church leaders attributed to God the ego’s characteristics of violence and revenge that abusers and bullies exemplified and cast such politicians as doers of God’s will. To do so, the Church had to downplay Jesus’ teachings regarding forgiveness and love towards family, friends, neighbors and enemies alike.

It is a wonder that so many of Jesus teachings about forgiveness and love remained in the sacred texts that the Church authorized to be preserved.  To counterbalance the passages about the power of forgiveness to heal and bring peace that remained in the Bible and to temper their authority with contradictory positions, the Church found ways to put words into Jesus’ mouth that compromised the radical qualities of forgiveness and love he expressed throughout his life, death and resurrection.  Social elites have made good use of the confusion generated by these implanted contradictions and inconsistencies to maintain and justify their preservation of any status quo that favors their retention of power over others.  So far at least, people who are, in the main, unconsciously under the influence of pain-generated anger, sloth, envy, vanity, gluttony, lust and/or greed – and fearing themselves to be perpetually at risk of being powerless victims of suffering – have successfully conspired to suppress the gentle rebellion Jesus started. Instead of honoring his teachings, they turn distortions of them into propaganda in support of their campaign to dominate the world by violent means and maintain political institutions rooted in mistrust and awash with emotional dishonesty.

Jesus presented God’s kingdom as the one truly different social dynamic rooted in trust and awash with heartfelt emotional honesty and the divine power “victims” deny they can access while they remain trapped in unresolved grief.  So long as Jesus’ leadership of his gentle rebellion is ignored, ignorance-based violence and its consequential suffering will prevail throughout humanity. This is the will not of God but of the preservers of the status quo who fail to see the wisdom of resolving their grief, accepting emotional healing and submitting their wills to God’s will as Jesus did – and of those seekers of social approval who cozy up to the socially elite in hopes of currying their favor and avoiding their disfavor.  It is emphatically not the will of God that any man, woman or child should suffer.  But it is the will of God that the free will of every individual be honored with utmost patience while he or she is allowed the privilege of choosing freely for himself or herself to which realm on earth to pledge allegiance and dedicate his or her life without compromise. It is our responsibility to learn how to reconcile all of the implications of the gifts of grace, free will and the opportunity to complete our grieving and rise beyond suffering. Those who fail to forgive harm done to them harbor ill will, seek to turn the tables and march them themselves (and others) into a hell of unforgiveness of their own making.  Each of us has the power within us to march against this tide by forgiving those who trespass against us and not identifying with the ego which claims territory that is in truth neither its nor ours to claim.

So long as our grieving remains arrested at various stages, complacency and compromise will reign as social norms.  Whether compassion and commitment as Jesus modeled ever reign supreme will be decided by each of us one by one.  Perhaps in time compassion and commitment will become the new norm if Jesus’ followers all support each other in finding the courage to repent of our complacency and compromised positions and follow Jesus wherever he leads us in completing our grieving and in serving others in their grief and loneliness. Until this change occurs, we can only reasonably anticipate that suffering will continue to plague humanity and be excused by the Church as inevitably endless.  Suffering’s end awaits in the heart, head and hands of each of us. Even when social institutions discourage us from daring to believe and implement Jesus’ teachings about

  • forgiveness      as the pathway to peace,
  • faith      as the pathway to hope and health and
  • friendship      as the pathway to shared, ever-enriching freedom, power, joy and love,

we remain free to choose as individuals to implement them within mutually supportive, informal social networks that help us to finish grieving and to love ourselves and one another as God loves us all.  Perhaps that’s how Jesus intended for us to relate all along – informally as if it’s only natural to comfort, heal and bless each other that way. We can do so without the formalities and costs of religious institutions.  Religion without institutionalization may have its merits and be the baby we can wisely not throw out with the bathwater of unforgiveness.

Perhaps we need no social institutions with their rules, roles and rituals to impose upon us what is already natural to us and native within us. Only our egos resist such an outcome, urging us instead to obey fear’s dictates and maintain egos as our artificial concepts of who we are.  When we elect to come out of the closets of our egos and finish grieving, we will discover that God’s kingdom has been waiting patiently to welcome us all along. Only our egos justify the perpetuation of grief’s inner conflict and interpersonal violence in place of relief’s inner peace and interpersonal domestic tranquility with its resulting voluntary collaboration in nurturing the soil of unconditional love as our social norm. The ego resists God’s Plan because in the Presence of God’s love the ego fades like darkness fades in the presence of light.  We will cling to darkness only so long as we identify with our egos. Beyond our egos the Light of Love awaits.  To Divine Love’s call we hunger to respond as fully as our courage allows us to set aside our egos and be free – “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty we free at last” as the words of Martin Luther King Jr. cry out to us to join with each other in liberty and justice for all – no matter what our respective religious affiliations (or none) may be.

© Art Nicol 2013

 

What Might God Want Us to Know Most of All?

Buried beneath centuries of rhetoric “about” God is the reality of God.  For many centuries, religious leaders, parents and others claiming to speak for God published accounts of God’s nature and attitudes towards us by word of mouth — through only the spoken words of authority figures who had the ear of audiences who could listen and repeat what they had heard.  Since most people fear authority figures because the authority figures control their society’s resources and power to reward and punish, include and exclude and degrade or upgrade the quality of life for individuals and their loved ones, the masses will not question what they hear authority figures report about God.  Instead, they will soak up all of the messages unquestioningly, memorize the messages as if they are all true and repeat them to others to prove that they were listening and remain loyal to the authority figures.  Verbal traditions have been handed down generation after generation by this method as newcomers heard, accepted, believed and adopted as true whatever their forebears declared was true. By this chain of traditions, humanity has largely been held in slavery to the “higher ups” in the social chain as if there’s a food chain by which humanity is consumed by its own fear of error in regard to our relationship with God. Woe be to the heretic who dares to think differently!  Bemoan the fate of any whose heresy reaches the ears of the authority figures!  Heretics must repent or be doomed!

(By the way, “heresy” only means that you risk daring to think for yourself rather than automatically conform to the ideas of others around you.  If you’re reading this blog, you may be a risk-taker too!  Perhaps you are considering being a nonconformist or even now emerging as one.  If that scares you too much, stop reading.  If it excites your curiosity, you’re welcome to read along with me as these words pour forth for our consideration.)

Then in our story of idea-sharing along came the printing press and subsequent advances in the technology of recorded words and their sharing through mass production — until now, in the days of the Internet, mass media is available to many individuals with relatively little censorship by authority figures of publishers or audiences.  Instead of censors successfully marginalizing and silencing heretics, opinionated heretics are marginalizing and disempowering the censors.  Presses that printed a few copies on paper soon gave way to presses that mass produced copies on reams and rolls of paper which in turn gave way to electronic media that advanced from radio, silent movies and black-and-white TV to the Internet that is not only never silent but speaks in millions of voices to millions of minds moment by moment with little delay between thinking of a thought and its widespread publication.  Ideas held by self-declared authority figures pour forth into the minds of massive audiences of every kind.  And so do the ideas of others. The merit of the ideas of both authority figures and nonauthority figures rarely plays a role in determining whether an idea is widely published.  In fact, the more absurd an idea may be, the more it may draw attention.  There is no end to the streaming and often screaming messages that bombard our minds, many of them enhanced in their impact by seductive visual images and music.  Singing, dancing, acting . . . so many forms of performing and graphic arts are now employed to get a persuasive point across and make it unforgettable.  Politically connected figures, paid publicists and advertising agencies no longer monopolize mass media nor control its contents.  As traditional rules, roles and routines dissolve, the battle for attention of our minds rages on as if chaos and confusion are valued over orderliness and reason.  Perhaps it is time ask, “To whose advantage do chaos and confusion work?”

Amidst centuries of published ideas, there are now many unforgettable misrepresentations about God beneath which the reality of God is buried because it has for millennia served the purposes of society’s authority figures, and now others, to enhance their position, prestige and power by associating their values and priorities with God’s.  To the extent that the masses have allowed authority figures and others to tell them all they know about God, the masses have allowed themselves to be duped into believing about God what serves elite authority figures and other attention-grabbers for the masses to believe or at least hear for entertainment value if nothing else. In democracies where personal opinions are honored as automatically of value, the truth about God is buried deeply because it does not serve egos that it should ever surface.

Yet it is only the ego that fears the truth about God because it is only the ego that disappears in the Presence of God.  The reality of who we are as human beings beyond our egos shines ever brighter in God’s Presence, not diminished but empowered to increasingly more radiant brilliance.  As we learn to forget the supposedly unforgettable misrepresentations “about” God and instead experience God’s Presence directly, we shed our egos and our encounters with divine love draw us ever closer to the core of our true selves where we surrender to God’s loving embrace and are finally aware of being once again home within our hearts where God has been waiting to welcome us all along.

Some of the core misrepresentations about God that society’s elite authority figures and other attention-grabbers want us to believe are true (or at least entertaining) include:

1) God has entrusted exclusively to society’s elite authority figures truths that God does not entrust to common folks.

2) God has entrusted exclusively to society’s elite authority figures the power to determine whom God favors and whom God does not favor, including to whom God grants the ultimate reward of an eternity in heaven and whom God condemns to the ultimate punishment of an eternity in hell.

3) God has a default setting that presumes we’re defective, never will get it right and might as well forget about winning divine favor. It’s nearly impossible to overcome God’s presumption against us. The best we can do is suffer all of our lives to prove how much it matters to us to somehow win God’s favor and avoid eternal condemnation to hell.

4) God has actually created a form of eternal condemnation and punishment or at least allowed some power nearly as great as God to do so.

5) God is in some kind of pitched battle for supremacy with a form of power that is a close rival for God in terms of power by whatever standards we measure power.  God barely has the edge in this battle and seems sometimes to lose it for reasons unknown to us but largely assumed to be beyond us to understand or address because, after all, we are powerless compared with God and this other powerful being.  We are mere collateral damage and bystanders on this divine battlefield and may as well duck and run for cover behind the walls of our egos.

6) Winning God’s favor is a lifelong struggle that we’re not likely to win without the approval and encouragement of those who claim to speak for God in our current times.  So, second best to winning God’s favor is winning the favor of the authority figures who rule our society and dispense its rewards. With their favor under Plan B, perhaps we’ll slip into heaven on their coattails. We can never know for sure so it’s best to keep their favor for life rather than risk exploring on our own.

7) Being “good” in God’s eyes and welcome in heaven = being socially approved of and escaping the notice of critics who search for targets to condemn.

8) There really is no divine Supreme Being and we may as well become accustomed to living life on our own terms, surviving as best we can on our own before our bodies decline and snuff out.

9) Our gender, race, religion, gender orientation, sexual preferences, history of misconduct or some other insurmountable obstacle(s) will always prevent us from ever winning God’s favor and experiencing divine love so we may as well become accustomed to living life on our own terms, etc.

10) Although others seem to be free to overcome the obstacles between them and God, I’ll never overcome mine.  I may not ever become other than vaguely afraid and may always fail to clearly identify what those obstacles are for me. Instead of gaining clarity and being shown how to overcome any obstacle, I’m more likely to remain perpetually confused and in doubt all of my life because, for reasons unknown and unknowable, I’m convinced that God’s out to get me and won’t ever give up trying to find fault with me. Regardless of how merciful and forgiving God seems to be towards others that will never happen for me.

Freedomwise.com is one of many sites now available on the Internet to allow us all to explore the truth about God so as to allow God’s Presence to surface and be known to us in our own personal experiences.  I hope you find the sites that help you best in this quest for the truth that sets you free to know God and be known by God as your heart yearns to know and be.  To be or not to be you is key.  If this site can assist you in discovering the truth about yourself as a divine loved one of a most loving Supreme Being and to enjoy the fullness of that experience for the rest of your life, I will be blessed along with you.

© Art Nicol 2013