On Change

Full readings here.

Is 43:18-19a
“Remember not the events of the past,San Francisco's Pier 7 (Pier to Nowhere)
the things of long ago consider not;
see, I am doing something new!”

We try to plan for the worst. We spend hours imagining disaster scenarios and we work to prevent them. We purchase insurance, we make careful decisions, we rehearse the interview and the speech and the confrontation. We strive daily to define immutability in the face of constant change.

Yet when the day at last arrives that puts a dent in our bumper, a lump in our breast, an airplane into our home we are stunned. As if the planning and the insurance and the rehearsal were enough to hold at bay the all-consuming whirlwind. Confused and bewildered by this sudden irruption of chaos into our once peaceful lives, we get angry. We do violence to ourselves or others. We seek to return what feels like a blow from the Outer World directed toward our private Inner World. We demand vengeance.

Perhaps, if we are quite mature, we channel our impulse to retaliate. We suppress, or we redirect. We work out. We clean. We get quiet.

And in that quiet we attempt to sort what happened. We seek the arc of destiny in our lives, to draw from our soup of memories a connection between what was and what is. Inevitably, eventually, we succeed and what emerges from this reflection is our life story: an invention, a fiction, a flight of fantasy undertaken to preserve our fragile ego.

Now it springs forth,
do you not perceive it?”

This is not the way of God, says Isaiah. Quite the opposite, in fact. God (or Nature, or Tao) flourishes in change. God does not plan a damn thing, not for a minute! God can’t be bothered, for He (or She, or It) is too busy manifesting, too busy BEING to bother BECOMING.

It is not that I have already taken hold of it
or have already attained perfect maturity,
but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it…”

I sat on a hill one summer, lysergic acid racing through my veins, and decided I would stare at the sun until I went blind (thankfully there are bodily functions such as blinking that cannot be overridden, even by the most determined druggie). I was young, the hill was soft beneath me and I was engaged in some kind of crazy Messianic trip, which is kind of my thing if you haven’t noticed.

Brothers and sisters:
I consider everything as a loss…”

As I stared harder, fighting desperately the urge to blink, I became aware of all the potential futures I was crafting for myself in that moment. I saw clearly that each of these futures contained pain, triumph, sorrow, joy, loss and redemption. I realized that whether I was a brain-burnt acidhead or a blind prophet, an award-winning playwright or a crank with a blog, my future would be unbearable and beautiful all at once. The story I would build for myself in those futures would inevitably fill in the cracks to keep my ego-self safe, and there would also be moments of great peace.

For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things
and I consider them so much rubbish,
that I may gain Christ and be found in him.”

I further realized that the difference between my potential futures had to do entirely with my emotional range. That is: in the futures which were full of pain, my ability to appreciate the simple things in life would be enhanced. Not only that, but the painful futures would also be the most rewarding, for they were the futures in which my safety-seeking ego would be most fully abolished and my true self most completely realized.

Tomorrow starts a new week. Will you embrace the familiar or seek the unknown?

Isaiah 40:6
A voice says, “Cry out!” I answer, “What shall I cry out?”
“All mankind is grass, and all their glory like the flower of the field.”

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