Learners inheriting the earth: the politics of God

Posted by on 07.22.08 | 21 Comments
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In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. attributed to either Al Rogers or Eric Hoffer [quoted from How to Save the World]

This post is a SynchroBlog on The Politics of God hosted through the site Square No More. See the end of this post for other blogs that are posting today on this topic.

Politics seem to require a good/bad or right/wrong or even better/best duality of thinking. This post is not about unpacking specifics about politics or defining God. It is about a flash of non-dual experience that left a memory of insight.

Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.Jalāl-ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

In 2001 I attended a fire circle on Grand Mesa in western Colorado where I then lived. The fire was in conjunction with a class being taught by a shaman in the Huichol and Nahuatl traditions from central Mexico, named Eliot Cowan. I was new to this path of indigenous connection to the earth and the spirits that inhabit it. My spiritual life had been lived pretty much in the dry lands of religious belief and some mystical experiences that kept me going.

The evening started with excellent potluck, followed by a waiting period of drumming, walking about, laughter and anticipation. As Eliot came to the hearth, we all gathered. The jokes, as usual around these fires, were funny with some groaners thrown in for good measure. As we settled in, with good rich dark chocolate and homemade cigarettes, the plant spirit medicine class began to talk about some issues coming out of their studies, and then the topic shifted to the destruction of indigenous habitat, culture and religion. Along with the group, I was silently bemoaning the irreversible losses. We were talking about how even the world’s religions were being ‘infiltrated’ by outsiders, i.e. lineages of Buddhism now include westerners; indeed, the Huichol lineage now has as its leader Eliot, who is Jewish by heritage, but has spent time living with Hinduism, studying Buddhism, etc.

I was listening intently when something hit me, as if upside my head. All of a sudden, I heard what Eliot was really saying, at least to me. What I heard was him saying that it’s our attachment to how the world is supposed to be that keeps us from being engaged in what really is. Our preoccupation and conflict with the external ‘machine’ of the world (read: war, famine, rape of the land and its people, destruction of indigenous cultures/religions/habitat, politics, etc, ad nauseum) keeps us from experiencing the wonder of what, like the Phoenix, is being born out of ashes and destruction. He was not saying that we shouldn’t do anything about what’s around us to do, but that our awareness can be broader, deeper, in touch with rhythms that we can’t experience at casual glance. Our real work is not in the external world, but to see ourselves as part of a panoramic theatre that any one life, century, millennium or even epoch can’t change or even impact.

Eliot’s words were like a lightning jolt through me. In that instance I saw that my profound judgment of how the world is was keeping me from being free. My heart pounding, I asked the question that was like a wild bird thrashing against the walls of a make-shift cage: ‘If I see the world with larger eyes and feel with a larger heart that what is happening to the world is not only an end but also a beginning, part of cycles of existence rather than of linear time, will I be free? Will I be through the knothole of my grief in the space of one breath?’

Eliot puffed on his cigar for awhile, I’m now sure feeling the beating of my heart and said, ‘Yes. But don’t forget to grieve’.

I didn’t recognize it at that moment, but I’d had a non-dual experience of reality in those fleeting seconds. I saw the world as one piece of cloth, one groaning, travailing birthing experience–with no beginning and no end. No right and no wrong.

Since that night in fall 2001, I’ve leaned even more heavily into my grief about the world, and my inability to do much about it except to gather around the fire with my community to warm our hearts. The grief sometimes is crushing, sometimes light as a Canadian goose feather falling on my head as the goose migrates south for the winter. But I have not forgotten Eliot’s words. I am grieving with all my heart and soul. And will, as long as it takes. Freedom is on the other side of the knothole, the other side of this birth canal.

I do what I can: I recycle, reuse, try to be a healing presence, try to be aware of my footprint on the earth. But I now know with the deepest knowing available to me at this stage in my evolution, that it’s not about any of that. The mystery now lies in letting go of each attachment to the world–as it should, or even might be.

To be a learner is to know that the world as I knew it today–a second ago–no longer exists. And to let go of trying to categorize or familiarize myself with the landscape. Only in that letting go do I get a hallway pass for sweet respite into Rumi’s field.

I can’t yet live in that poppy-filled field but my soul thrives in those moments where life just is. And in those moments, knowing that Saddam Hussein is made from the same cloth as Mother Teresa…and President Bush…gives a rush of grief and pleasure in equal measure. And all of them live in me. And all of us live in the heart of God.

What would a political primary look like if nobody was right and nobody wrong? We may never know…or not at least on this turn of the wheel of existence.

Better luck next time’, I hear Rumi whisper in my ear.

All that being said, our shamanic and quite cool friends Alice and the Cat give us a hint of what such a political primary might maddeningly feel like:

from Alice in Wonderland
Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
Alice: …so long as I get somewhere.
The Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.

This post is part of a SynchroBlog for Square No More on ‘The Politics of God’ . This post is a re-take of a previous one on the Virtual Tea House in October 2007: Through the Looking Glass.

Please visit the delectable variety of other blogs that are also addressing the issues of ‘The Politics of God’:

Phil Wyman at Phil Wyman’s Square No More
Lainie Petersen at Headspace
Jonathan Brink enters The Political Fray
Adam Gonnerman explains The Living Christ’s Present Reign
Sonja Andrews at Calacirian
Mike Bursell at Mike’s Musings
Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes
Steve Hayes on God’s Politics
Matthew Stone at Matt Stone Journeys in Between
Steve Hollinghurst at On Earth as in Heaven
KW Leslie tells us about God’s Politics
Julie Clawson at One Hand Clapping
Dan Stone at The Tense Before
Alan Knox asks Is God Red, Blue, or Purple?
Beth Patterson at The Virtual Teahouse
Erin Word discusses Hanging Chad Theology




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