Tag Archives: suffering

In Memory of Robin Mittenthal

Jay and Terri Mittenthal are friends who for several years opened their home to welcome students of A Course In Miracles to gather in their living room to talk about the course and share their life journeys.  In December 2017, they lost their son, Robin, when he was crushed under a tree that fell on him. As testimony to Robin’s impact among the people whose lives he touched, this GoFundMe account has gathered not only funds for his children but also a host of reflections to honor his heartfelt value to those who contributed and left comments.  https://www.gofundme.com/honoring-robin-mittenthal

Now I want to share with all who seek to live courageously with compassionate hearts this poem that Jay was inspired to write:

Grief
Tibetan flags stream on the cold air,
gusty flutter of surprise
like our son’s parka,
never again caught up to wear,
still in his apartment as we enter from the funeral home.
How can this be?  That’s the great surprise,
gone in an instant, back snapped like a limb
of the tree he was cutting down.
We are left behind, bemused, bewildered.
Weary of grieving, reluctant to stop,
we slide again into the abyss when once we start,
wandering in a labyrinth
where movement is a search
for what is not.

Within these lines may all who have ever been separated from loved ones by any cause see our common ground in our steadfast search for peace and love.  In resting motionless there we will find each other and our selves in the heart of Love.

The Blaming of the Screwed (Or Letting Sleeping Gods Lie)

It is the nature of the ego to twist the truth into pretzels well salted to cause more pain to those already wounded.  The ego produces both heroes upon whom to heap praise regardless of its unwarranted nature and scapegoats upon whom to heap blame regardless of its irrational nature.   To make sure that an ego-based culture appears to be balanced, the ego assigns some members roles of heroes and other members roles of scapegoats or anti-heroes.  In this way, the culture is divided between two opposing forces who play out their competing roles before audiences populated by the ego-culture’s majority of members who prefer to avoid being noticed as their best way to avoid taking the risk of being praised as a hero or critically judged and later blamed as a scapegoat.

The masses cower in fear of being singled out for the ego’s heartless judgment – to be praised or scorned – because they have noticed how routinely praise turns into scorn as heroes fall under the overwhelmingly unreasonable and unhealthy expectations placed on them by the masses.  Heroes desperate to please the masses overtax themselves to perpetually warrant praise and avoid scorn.  When heroes fail to live up to the expectations of the masses, the masses turn on them to convert them into scapegoats.  The feeding frenzy is brutal as hero-worshippers fall upon their wounded former heroes to tear from them every shred of human dignity.  From the perspective of the masses, it’s better to never ascend to the heights of public praise than to descend into the status of publicly scorned fallen hero.

Students of birth order identify the first born as predisposed to compete for the roles of heroes or standard bearers of an ego-culture’s most rewarded and idealized values – even when those values are myths honored more in the exception than in the rule.  Heroes are taught the value of keeping up their image to remain objects of praise as false idols regardless of the declining substance behind their image.  To cultivate and maintain their images as heroes, initially first born or otherwise born, the heroes must climb over others to ascend ladders of success they identify as theirs to top in order to tower over others by comparison.  Inflicting pain on their competitors is necessary to ascend most rapidly because pain causes competitors to be at least reluctant to challenge them if not crippled in capacity to challenge.  Thus heroes need wounded competitors to prevail as heroes.  What would be the significance of praise if it were not contrasted with scorn?  All the ego’s world is colored by such comparisons between winners and losers by whatever criteria winning and losing is measured.  In obedience to the ego’s rule, we heap praise upon winners, heap scorn upon losers and do all possible to distinguish one from the other!  Such is the fundamental order of the ego’s culture.

Those who are born into circumstances rich with opportunities to earn praise seek to preserve the culture into which they were born.  Those born into circumstances deficient in opportunities to earn praise naturally feel screwed by what seems like “fate” and suffer within the circumstances they did not cause.  The injustice of such suffering is apparent and yet prevails so long as the ego’s culture remains the status quo.  Changes that only change how circumstances favor one group over another group merely change how injustice is distributed and who is encouraged to become heroes most readily and who is encouraged to become scapegoats to keep the ego’s culture in balance.  The ego will always demand the existence of heroes/winners and scapegoats/losers.  Which members of society take up which roles is a matter of indifference to the ego so long as the clear distinction between the two is preserved.  Cycles of hero-worship and scapegoat-blaming will continue until the ego’s system is entirely replaced by an alternative that is based not on fear but on love – love as defined by Love’s Divine Source.

A sure-fire way to disrupt the ego’s system is available.  All we need do is to no longer allow sleeping gods to lie.  Every person who survives in society by masquerading as an ego is in truth a sleeping god.  While asleep every god who adopts the ego’s roles as his or her means of survival is lying.  He or she is participating in twisting the truth into well-salted pretzels by twisting the truth of his or her genuine, divine nature into a false image of a human being who values social approval over authenticity and personal integrity.  All of us hunger for the freedom to be and express authentically who we are as children of God.  That’s what being a “god” means.  So long as we remain too afraid to explore and express our authentic nature as God’s children amid the ego’s pressures to conform or be scorned, we will suffer (often in silence but suffer nevertheless). When we dare to be true to ourselves as God created us, we will cease to suffer.  We will still feel pain as inflicted by those who inflict pain on others as their means of climbing ladders of social success as rewarded by the ego.  But we will need no longer endure the chronic suffering of one who has betrayed himself or herself out of fear of the ego’s methods of enforcing conformity upon the masses.

Our choice is not to avoid pain.  It is to embrace the pain of standing out among the ego-conformists to be neither hero or scapegoat and no longer value “winning” or “losing” on ego’s terms.  The ego-enslaved will characterize us as “losers” but little do they know because they have yet to discover the relief of release from fear’s pretzeling  social pressures.  Being twisted by our own lies causes our own suffering.  We have the choice to awaken as God’s children and rise beyond ego’s enslaving twisted definitions of happiness and success to explore, embrace and enjoy freedom to be ourselves.  No longer hero, scapegoat or cowering member of the masses, we are free to envision the alternative to the ego’s fear-based culture and flock together as birds of a feather – as eagles who soar where the sky is no limit.

Let’s stop blaming the screwed for the ills of our society or holding heroes accountable for “fixing” those ills we are helping to produce and maintain.  Let’s instead no longer be sleeping gods and awaken to our true nature as God’s children.  Let’s move forward together as co-creators of a culture rooted in the soil of God’s unconditional love for all humanity, rising up relentlessly beyond ego’s hard-heartedness and branching out in all directions to welcome all who would take up our common cause – the call of our hearts to end the interpersonal violence and planetary exploitation that distresses us all.  No matter how much praise we offer to heap, no hero can do for us what we must do for ourselves.  No matter how much scorn we offer to heap, no scapegoat can be blamed for not substituting for the responsibilities only we have the power to carry as we contribute to our society’s freedom from fear.

United in Opposition is Not United

Current dynamics at work in US politics highlight the false idea that our nation will ever be truly the “United States” while the call to unify is based on opposition to some identified opponent, here or abroad.  Check out the pattern prevalent in US history. You will see example after example of groups of various descriptions supposedly uniting in opposition to the identified opponent of their day only to have their “unity” disintegrate once the occasion for opposition ends.  Today we see this pattern at work in our presidential election as two main parties call for unity within themselves by clarifying and rally around their opposition to the “other” party.  Within our republican form of government where one vote more than 50% wins all the marbles, this practice works temporarily to put some people temporarily in power but is not a sustainable practice for the welfare of the nation or the world we so heavily impact.

We have become participants in this pattern as if it is the only option available. The media hypes this pattern in order to gain market share and profit from the controversies it helps stir up by sensationalizing them moment by moment as entertainment.  Are we truly entertained by watching our nation cycle through this pattern of futility decade after decade?  Do we truly want to elect and empower men and women to lead us around and around in this pattern without hope for any alternative of true, universal, national unity?  Where might we find the common ground for sustainable unity not based temporarily on identifying an enemy abroad or at home?

We will find that common ground buried beneath the rumble of painful emotions we harbor in our hearts.  We harbor them out of ignorance.  We neither know how to release these painful emotions and the memories seared into our brains by pain or to establish the noncyclical stability of peace we’d prefer “if only.”  But we can overcome our ignorance if we truly want to.  We can learn what we need to learn.  It is not beyond our capacity to learn.  It’s actually child’s play, more natural to children than to adults but still within the capacity of adults to relearn.  Adults do struggle with issues and responsibilities by which children are not typically burdened, although many children are bearing such burdens these days in earlier and earlier years.  In failing to release our emotional pain in caring, healthy ways so as to discover how to enjoy sustainable peace (domestic tranquility instead of domestic violence in all its forms), we are dumping our buried pain on children and expecting them not to be harmed by being dumped upon.

Buried pain, like harmful toxic waste, leeches from the dumps where we think we safely bury it to contaminate the waters of life within which we expect our children and ourselves to swim and find clean water to drink and bathe in.  Our buried pain poisons our lives and robs us of the most enriching qualities of life we’d otherwise enjoy.  We must cease to use our hearts as waste dumps for toxic emotions.  To cease to participate in this pattern, we must learn to grieve through our pain and find peace again beyond it.  In our present state, our society allows no one to avoid experiencing pain.  Thus, we all must learn to release pain as a necessary life skill. To fail to master this skill means to guarantee that the pain will pass along to the next generation for them to deal with.

We adults must stand up for protecting our children from the pain we’ve not yet processed, stand up as adults before us likely did not do for us.  In some period of our history, the cycle of pain must stop.  Our current generations of adults can be that time.  The cycle can wind down and be replaced with healthier conditions if we are willing to participate fully in those conditions.  It’s up to us to have the courage, compassion, commitment, creativity and curiosity to discover again how to cooperate with each other in unity about this process.  It is a process that requires no opponents and instead welcomes all to participate.  By definition, grief is universal to us all.  We can stand together not in opposition to pain but in unified commitment to learning how to release pain in all its forms and reasons for existing.

Pain need not be as prevalent as it is.  It need not be endured forever as we’ve been taught to believe.  We can learn to stop perpetuating it.  To release our personal pain one person at a time releases the nation from pain.  Let’s help each other enter into a process of grieving through the lifetime of pain we’ve endured as dumping grounds for other people’s pain and unite in peace beyond our pain.  Peace will not come immediately because the process of grief must allow time to identify, express and share our buried pain for healing and release to happen.  But our commitment to the process of grieving is enough to ensure peace will come in time.

Peace is actually our natural state of being.  It is the tender condition that exists within our hearts but is now buried beneath the rumble of the patterns of opposition we’ve endured.  We have the power within us to seek no longer to engage in artificial reasons to perpetuate our pain and instead to free ourselves of the rumble and return to our natural state of peace and goodwill among all peoples – of every age, gender, station in life and other demographic parameter by which we measure ourselves.  Let’s now measure ourselves as peacemakers and peace-sustainers instead of as participants in the internal warfare to which politics currently calls us under the mistaken notion that that’s the only way.  There is another way.  It leads to the end of suffering for us all.  Might not that outcome motivate us all to explore this possibility?

© Art Nicol 2016

Arbitrary Power Expresses Maximum Powerlessness

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Art Nicol 2016

Humanity at the Center of God’s Will – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Art Nicol 2015

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

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

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

 

A Topic of Interest to Men: When Will God Man-infest?

The possibilities of how God will resolve the tendency of male human beings to resist surrendering to Divine Authority while preferring to assert their own ego’s impotent but prideful authority are numerous, perhaps infinite.  So, if you don’t like the ideas I offer here, please don’t fret.  Make up your own alternative solution.  If you use your imagination to listen intently to the Spirit that is always sharing wisdom and truth about love within your heart, you’ll find your own story to tell of how God will with men indwell.

My idea is based on looking at things oddly.  For example, most people have interpreted the fact that Jesus came into the world as a male as indicating that God favors men over women. Many interpretations of sacred teachings from many paths of faith have indulged in this same kind of error to justify male dominance of human societies (and, not surprisingly, to justify reserving to men the role of interpreting sacred scriptures as extra protection against loss of male privileges). I interpret the fact of Jesus’ human maleness differently.  I see in that fact a God who tackles the most challenging, stubborn problems head on and does not avoid them.  I see a God who seeks to lift the whole of the human race out of our attachment not to sin but to suffering by converting traditionally aggressive members of the race into superlative healers of all forms of harm.  We’ve been suffering escalating pain for so many millennia that we are psychologically bonded to suffering as if it is part of our identity.  Unless we’re presented with a clear alternative we cannot even imagine living without suffering. The best we can imagine is avoiding as much suffering personally as we can avoid while shifting suffering onto other people’s plates and off of ours.  We cannot imagine an end to suffering for everyone.

Yet, God can imagine it.  In fact, God wills an end to suffering for everyone and has set a plan in motion to bring that end into reality here on Earth.  We might call it God’s totally (that is, free) Affordable Care Act or Universal Healthcare policy.  God’s plan involves sharing God’s immunity to harm and suffering with us, all of us.  To set the Divine Plan in motion, he introduced an example of a starkly clarifying alternative into the human experience that stands in complete contrast to the human race’s normal experience.  That contrast is Jesus, not a contrast because he’s God while we are not but a contrast because he’s totally one with the human race while refusing to be a clone or copy of stereotypical maleness as defined by any human culture.  Witness, for example, that unlike men in most cultures, Jesus did not try to prove his masculinity by fathering children or prove his superiority by running roughshod over others.  Instead he showed that we are all God’s children and demonstrated what that looks like.  He exercised his power not to show himself off as superior but to show us all upward to God as our unconditionally loving Superior Parent.

Normally, male humans are more likely to inflict physical pain and suffering on others than women are. Because men are, on average, larger bodied than women, they tend to cause more pain, sometimes out of awkwardness towards smaller bodied humans such as women, children and smaller bodied men and sometimes quite intentionally to try to demonstrate external superiority while internally (in their secret heart of hearts) feeling quite the opposite in their undisclosed feelings of inferiority. Jesus confronted male stereotypes of social superiority by showing what true superiority on divine terms looks and acts like and teaching that all men as well as women and children have equal opportunity to access the same Diving Power.  God is an equal opportunity deployer of Divine Power, so Jesus says.

In human cultures, women are more likely to be involved in comforting the “little ones” and those who suffer and trying to relieve pain and suffering if they can.  Most human cultures distinguish masculinity and femininity based on factors like softness, gentleness, compassion and cooperation.  In most cultures women are permitted to be softer, gentler and more compassionate and cooperative than men.  Social training reinforced by rewards of social approval for successfully conforming to stereotypes shapes men into inflictors of pain because socially aggressive males are rated as more manly than less socially aggressive ones.  Most societies reserve derogatory names like “wimp,” “sissy” and “coward” for those boys and men who are reluctant to engage in aggressive behaviors and shy away from inflicting or experiencing pain.  To be a “real man” means to inflict and endure pain without flinching – and without crying.

To counteract this social prejudice in favor of casting men as sources of pain and suffering, God decided that the expression God would use to exemplify Divine Love and Grace in human form had to be a male.  God chose the least likely candidate through whom to express Divine Grace and Mercy – a man.  Had God chosen a woman to reveal Divine Qualities and Power, the human race would not have been so shocked.  It had to be a man through whom God manifested the Divine as a Supremely Gentle Nurturer and Healer.  So, in the man Jesus, God man-infected the human body to start the ball rolling. God infected Jesus with the power to not only “do no harm” but also to heal all harm that had already occurred.  In doing so, God challenged the human race to think differently at the core of our assumptions and social constructs about issues like gender identity and stereotypes of masculinity and femininity.  He emphasized the absurdity of casting God as a stereotypical male figure as if God has a human body.  (Given God’s lack of a body with sexual traits, God’s qualities are more likely to be associated with androgyny than with either extreme of masculinity or femininity.)

Since being confronted by the Jesus model of manhood, men have variously faced and/or avoided the challenge of being like Jesus in all of his qualities and letting go of all socially reinforced but nevertheless incompatible ideas about what it means to be a man.  That challenge goes right to the heart of social assumptions that are rooted in the greater size and physical strength of the average man’s body in comparison to women’s bodies and in the fact of penetration by men to accomplish the act of sexual reproduction.  Women by physical nature and reproductive function are defined by their bodies as softer, smaller and more receptive of penetration than a source of penetration. When men identify with their bodies’ traits and functions, they are led away from identifying with the process of submitting or surrendering their lives to God in service according to God’s will.  Yet, the opportunity of men to serve God awaits in our allowing God to be in charge and allowing God to plant seeds of inspiration to gestate and come into fullness of time through male lives.  Images like being the Bride of Christ simply offend the socially reinforced standards for being a “real man.”

The ego, not exclusively a male tradition but prevalent throughout the human race, can be seen as a set of defenses against the truth of God’s plan to call us back home as Divine Children.  In 12-step programs, it is said that EGO stands for “edging God out.”  Jesus demonstrated how to allow God to edge back into our lives by opening our hearts and minds to the transforming power of the Spirit of Truth and Love that Jesus promised would be ever present with us to guide and comfort us.  Often this Spirit is cast as feminine in nature.  Imagine how contrary to a male’s upbringing it may be to allow a feminine power to be in charge and to enter into the depth of his being to create new life!  I believe that such a total reversal of male functions is a major obstacle for men in our quest for experiences of God.  We simply desire to be in charge and have a hard time admitting that God already is in charge.  Let us ponder in our hearts the reality of the Spirit’s abiding presence there and keep things simple by accepting as truth what is already true.

As I said at the beginning, if you don’t like my ideas, please feel free to contemplate at length to come up with ones of your own.  It’s worth our weight in gold to come forth as gold after suffering as Job suffered.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

Intellectualism: Its Harmful Nature and Its Cure

During one of her talks, Esther Hicks presented her Inner Voice as saying, “Your Inner Being likes to skip and laugh and think about things; your Inner Being likes to offer compliments and feel appreciation and contemplate something that is not fully understood and then feel the understanding come forth.  Your Inner Being is just like your frisky two-year old who is eager for life experience.  To meet up with your Inner Being just be more like that now.”  That quote shares one angle on how to avoid the pitfalls of intellectualism.  For a corresponding observation we need only turn to Aldous Huxley who said, “The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.”

Intellectualism is the practice or habit of using the mind to conceive of ideas that are heartless and cruel in their impact on others, consider them viable options and logically explain why they are most effective.  It’s the byproduct of a mind trapped in ego.  The ego requires that we deny our emotions and become progressively insensitive to own heartfelt emotions and the hearts and emotions of others.  When we cultivate our egos as our false identities, we must tune out our natural capacity for empathy to avoid being overwhelmed by the obvious messages of pain that ego causes us and others to endure as if suffering is inevitable.  Intellectualism assumes that suffering is inevitable and that the primary purpose of human life is to decrease the pain and suffering we encounter no matter what the cost of our decisions may be in pain and suffering that others endure.  To avoid pain and suffering, a person guided by ego can decide to climb over others on the way to the top because the top looks freer of pain or insulate oneself from others because separating from others looks like a way to protect from pain or at least from awareness of other people’s suffering.  Ironically, the ego’s tactics end up isolating us from one another, increasing our agonizing loneliness and leaving us feeling confused, betrayed and powerless.  In teaching us to be emotionally uninvolved with ourselves and others, the ego teaches us to avoid forming bonds of love, be alone and accept loneliness as our inevitable lot in life. It’s not our only option.  We can choose to reverse the ego’s trapping logic and let the truth in our hearts set us free.

The quotes by Hicks and Huxley emphasize the value of retaining our wholeheartedly childlike (but not childish) nature as we develop into maturity.  They underscore the truth that healthy maturity is not discovered in denying our childlike qualities but in extending ourselves beyond childhood into adulthood while retaining the best qualities of childhood.  Children are naturally curious, playful, care-free, sensitive, compassionate, innocently trusting and open to love’s natural flow.  Adults who abandon those traits in order to survive in the adult world impoverish themselves and help to fabricate an artificial adult world that inflicts pain and suffering on children and others as if to punish them for being childlike.  Such emotionally impoverished adults adopt intellectualism’s emotionless logic in some form to “explain” or “justify” their repeated decisions to abandon their own “inner child” in favor of neglecting and abusing it as they neglect and abuse themselves and others in order to prevail as an adult in competition for ego-valued rewards.   What’s really being “explained” and “justified” is the ego’s preservation of itself.  When one mistakes one’s identity for being an ego, one can only logically fight to preserve that false identity, remain trapped within its blindly clawing attempts to survive and intellectually excuse and rationalize its fight for survival as “survival of the fittest.”  In truth, no ego is fit because no ego can experience and share love.  Ego is the antithesis of our capacity to experience and share love.

Moralists try to counteract the “evils” of ego’s intellectualism by arguing for ethics and laws that control everyone’s actions by confining our permissible actions within limits that supposedly minimize the harm of pursuing ego-valued rewards.  Moralists argue in favor of drawing lines and enforcing them through systems of reward and punishment primarily because moralists are themselves limited by their cognitive development to thinking in terms of reward and punishment as the top level of adult maturity.  They conceive of “adults” as those qualified by age, longevity of service or elegantly and subtly manipulative (or mere brute) force to administer the systems of reward and punishment.  It’s understandable that those whose thinking is not yet developed beyond the reward-punishment duality will think in those terms and not realize that there is a more highly evolved alternative.  But it is not necessary that a whole society be run into the ground by the limited capacity of moralists to think simply because, in their fear of the unknown and uncontrolled aspects of society’s emerging diversity, they demand conformity, are persuasive and present their arguments forcefully by invoking religious texts to back them up.

Since moralists wrote most of the religious texts, of course these texts back them up.  Their argument that God totally agrees with them amounts to their citing dead authors’ claims to speak for a living God.  A living God does not need dead or living authors to speak for the Divine Truth that God shares with every one of us within our hearts.  If only we would learn to listen and receive what God shares in our hearts we’d know.  Hick’s quote makes that point by noting how our understanding will grow into increasing clarity through our life experiences not through memorizing or quoting dead or living authors.  As a living author, I encourage you to be frisky, take risks and encounter God and Divine love within your experiences, even those experiences that others may counsel you not to have.  Surely wisdom does seek to guide you but the fears of others are not necessarily the Voice of Wisdom.  It’s your responsibility to listen and decide for yourself what Wisdom is saying to you. Don’t take my word for it.  If you prefer to jump through other people’s hoops and submit yourself to their authority, by all means do so.  Perhaps in this stage of your life that’s what’s best for you.  I did that for many years in my life.  Fortunately, I was blessed to have teachers, mentors and other authority figures worthy of my attention and cooperation until I ran out of them and had to learn to listen to God as my eternal and internal Authority Figure.  God, as it turns out, is the only infallible source of Wisdom and Guidance.   Stop, look within and listen.  God is speaking to you in your heart even now, as you read this sentence . . .

It is one of the natural results of moralism for moralists to gain control of social institutions and use traditions to climb higher within those institutions so as to gain the power to write and enforce the rules as if they should apply to everyone.  Moralists are accomplished social climbers – and conformist and apologists for rigorously enforced conformity.  By imposing external rules on us all, they would make clones of us as if manufacturing Model-T Fords to roll off a single, rigidly controlled factory line.  (Witness the super-conformist Common Core Curriculum generated by intellectualism in service to a conformist society’s demands for more clones to fit into predetermined slots in a modern mechanistic economy – whether capitalistic, socialistic, communistic or otherwise defined by values that are materialistic.)  In fact, metaphors idealizing the mechanistic, replicative processes of the industrial age have heavily influenced the power of conformists to insist that theirs is the only way that works.  They can mask all of their inner conflicts and struggles behind their egos’ facades and pretend to qualify to be in charge of our materialistic, factory-like consumerist society.  When one of their club members reveals a moral lapse, the moralists gasp in surprise and oust the offender as their way of purifying their club and retaining claim to power over others.  Few among the intimidated masses notice or dare to point out that the emperor has no clothes on – in fact, that none of the emperor’s counselors and hangers-on are clothed with true authority to govern.

As the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes reveals, it takes a child to notice and speak the truth about the nakedness of those whose actions are motivated by their desire to have power over others that they acquire through competition.  The capacity to see with one’s heart and have the courage to speak up is a childlike trait that conflicts with survival in the adult world as a seeker of ego-valued rewards of competition.  The truth offends the ego and those who subscribe to the ego’s way of adulthood.  Most children learn to keep their thoughts to themselves for fear of losing rewards and reaping punishment.  Fear censors and silences the truth that we’d otherwise naturally observe and talk about if we were feeling safe to risk sharing what’s on our hearts and minds.  Intellectuals masquerading as moralists want us to feel unsafe so that we rely upon them to protect us from making mistakes and taking risks that might result in adverse consequences imposed by them.  Their logic is circular but fear often keeps us from noticing.  Bullies cow the rest of us into submission unless we simply don’t value what the herd heard and instead listen inwardly to our own Inner Voice.  The Inner Voice of our Inner Being or Inner Child conveys the wisdom of the ages to each of us but most of us have tuned it out.  No one warns us that tuning out our hearts and learning to be progressively less sensitive, less empathetic, less compassionate and less altruistic carries a price – a high price.  That price is the loss of the most rewarding qualities of life that wisdom would preserve, uppermost of which is Divine Love.

If you want to investigate the possibility of regaining your capacity to see life through the heart and eyes of a child and experience and share divine love, I highly recommend reading It Will Never Happen to Me by Claudia Black.  Read the second edition.  She applies her principles to all of us in that edition after describing them as applicable to survivors of alcoholic families in her first edition.  She espouses a simple solution to the dilemma imposed upon our minds by ego’s roles, rules and rituals.  She encourages us to risk violating the ego’s rules and learn again to trust, feel and talk about things that matter.  If you’ve appreciated reading this article you’ll likely find great value in reading Ms. Black’s book, not because she necessarily has all the answers but because she knows the truth about how each of us can regain our natural access to answers supplied to us in our hearts by the unconditionally loving Divine Being who leaves no one out of His/Her family.  We are all – every single one of us – a child of God favored by God, unforgotten and unforsaken by God.  Whether you prefer to refer to the Divine Being by God, Goddess or any other term, Divine Love awaits you as an experience as you turn inward to allow your heart to awaken and blossom under the influence of the energy of the Lovelight within you.  Perhaps it’s time for you to be under its influence instead of under the influence of any alternative mood-altering substance, experience or intoxication.   Try being high on Love.  You’ll enjoy discovering and returning to that high as the healthy alternative to all others.  It’s the only true cure for intellectualism.

As innocent children know it so can you.  Learn to let go of ego’s teachings about guilt and shame as if those painful features of your experiences are permanent.  They need not be permanent.  Suffering is perpetuated by the belief that pride is the antidote and cure for shame and blame directed at another is the antidote and cure for guilt.  Such nonsense only perpetuates suffering by recycling it.  Forgiveness lets it go and releases you from the cycle of suffering.  Only you can choose to forgive.  And no one else can prevent you from forgiving if you desire to follow your heart and be free of all the past that the ego says you’ll never be free of.  You may feel afraid of stepping beyond your ego. That’s understandable and only need be shared to be overcome.  By sharing your fears you’ll find within you the courage to overcome them.  By sharing your heart with others you can trust and talking about all that matters most to you, the True You will come forth from behind the ego’s shadow and discover that like the moon’s shadow the ego’s shadow only temporarily blocked the Lovelight of the Divine Son or Daughter you are.  Once you’ve tasted the Lovelight you’ll never really want to retreat into your ego for long again.

To quote another source of wise spiritual guidance on this topic, let me set out the text of Matthew 18:1-4: “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'” (English Standard Version.)  To turn from the heartlessness of being an intellectualizing adult and once again embrace the endearing qualities of childhood allows us to resume our natural relationship with the Creator of Heaven, who is our Father.  As beloved dear ones of the Creator we know the qualities of heavenly love are ours to cherish and honor within our hearts and share with one another as sisters and brothers in One United Divine Family.  Intellectualism is one path by which we forget who we are and blindly stumble into treating each other as if we do not all belong within our Father’s family household.  By the power of paradox that defies our human capacity for reasoning, every one of us is greatest in the greatest kingdom.  No superlative outshines our Father’s love for each of us who stops thinking of himself or herself as an ego and instead humbly accepts his or her nature as a Divine Child. Within God’s family of sibling rivalry there is no need or cause because each is greatest.

© Art Nicol 2015