September 23, 2010

pesky plumage and the right to bear wings

Feathers grace my path. Like fuzzy talismans, like they are saying Yes, so far so good, keep going this way. So many, recently, that I almost feel like yelling back to the universe, “OK!  I got it, really. I GOT it!”  But, of course, I don’t completely get it. I believe in signs, but I feel them more than I really understand them. I am, like all of us, an unfolding spirit. I do seem to be “getting” things a bit more and more these days, but never fully. I am never finished. Nor are you.

We all are walking a spiritual path—whether we like it or not, and whether we admit it or not. Our existence, whatever this thing is we call our consciousness, is a spiritual unfolding in a material world. And what an insistent material world it is! A world of every distraction and distortion possible, what I think the Buddha meant by “delusion.”

I am a Buddhist now, but this blog is and will be by no means any attempt at explicating, much less advocating, that path. Rather, I intend only to connect a few spiritual dots, to attempt to remember how I got from a fundamentally Western, and for me, anxiety-ridden sense of self to a very different, very secure, and shockingly peaceful spiritual conception. And trust me. I am as surprised as you are!

I was born a nearly archetypal American child of the second half of the 20th century, complete with blond hair and blue eyes, economically aspirant parents, a Protestant baptism and an inordinate amount of anger in my genetic forbears. I was reared to accept things, not “get” them. I was taught to pledge allegiance, not to ask questions. I was told, not conversed with. This was The American Way. These were the “facts.”

God is Great, God is Good.

In God We Trust.  All others pay cash.

One nation, under God (added in 1954).

Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise.

And many more. Truly, I am not mocking, only witnessing. I dearly love this country. Such an astoundingly idealistic creation and such a phenomenally spirited polity, never perfect but always aspiring to be more perfect, and therefore always brave enough to change. So, how very American it also is to take new paths, to challenge and even leave traditions, to question and seek and then blend and integrate, somehow synthesizing old ways and new ideas, changing both in the process, so that we expand, we contain multitudes, we grow … but, again, we are never finished.

This is not only an American way. This path is known to any soul who wakes up each day with both a little light and a little fear about life and purpose and meaning, who still moves forward, step by step, and who at some level “gets” that we are all always in the process of getting it.

These feathers fell from wings unseen, and whether from mockingbirds or from angels, who knows, and is there really a difference? These words, well… I can guarantee you they aren’t from an angel, but they will fly off to other words, to other collections of words, to about twenty pivotal spiritual books (but not the usual ones!) that, over the past twenty years, have like feathery breadcrumbs led this one soul a very long and, now, happy way. I’ll also fly around to lots of personal stories, so please note that the abstract is about to come to a screeching halt here.

You see these words on a screen, little dots of light, like lots of tiny lanterns on your own horizon. Imagine them held high, being waved by many people who wrote many more glowing words before me. These little dots of light are apparently illuminated by even tinier streams of electrical intention, of zero’s and one’s, little yes’s and no’s, constant flickerings of presence and absence. Just like souls. Imagine all of that nearly cellular energy like the energies that have pulsed from and through many many people before you and I, like all of their stories ultimately enlighten ours in some quiet way. Imagine words as not just mere and more content strewn out upon the ether, but as a universe of feathers, enough to grace every path.

I wish you well on your path. If you stick around, I’ll be picking up a few of these feathers and, like quills, scribbling with them about years of comparative religious study alongside the usual achings for approval, affirmation and affection, in various and sometimes inverse order. About traveling the globe to “find myself” and invariably finding what I needed, and quite often not what I wanted, underfoot at home. About looking for love and, of course, only seeing it when I became more loving. And, about failing, over and over again, but failing better each time. Enough better to be good enough, now. How? It’s been a happy accident, and I’ve had to practice…
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Categories: Books, Buddhism, The Protestant Church

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