Friday, July 31, 2009

On Struggle...

This morning was one of those tough ones. You know, the ones when you wake up tired of the struggle because its been going on too long with no perceptible movement. I lay there in bed, tears seeping out of the corners of my eyes, feeling helpless and stuck. But it didn't last for long. Thank God/dess! And it did get me thinking about struggle (stemming from that eternal question, "WHY?") and what it's all about.

There was a wise man on this planet who once said, "Struggle is the Meaning of Life. Defeat or victory is in the hands of God. But struggle itself is Man's duty and should be his joy."

That wise man was Aga Khan III. I've heard those words all my life and have struggled all these years just to understand them.

In a typical organized religion framework that sees God (or the the Source of All that IS, as I like to think of "God/dess") as an authoritarian figure that sits in the sky passing judgement and doling out punishments and rewards based on our behaviour, Humankind is positioned as powerless in the face of struggle, stuck with having to roll with the punches and like it. Where is the joy in that? How different would that be from being in a bad, relationship where someone has all kinds of power over you and your survival depends on your capacity to submit (or else) over working co-operatively?

This construction of God/dess feels more like a bad B-Movie script in which God is cast as the invisible mob boss who is going to order a hit, leaving you "swimming with the fishes" unless you do what you're told. Herein lies the recipe for most organized religion's "behaviour management" techniques. I can just see the meeting where this was decided: "Okay, so we'll break them down with some Threat, a little Shame, some Crazy-making and plenty of Guilt and we'll have 'em where we want 'em. Then we'll get them to beat themselves up with Self-Doubt and Self-Judgement! It's Perfect! We won't have to keep getting our hands dirty AND we get to keep lining our pockets. Bada bing, Bada boom!"

Yeah. It's enough to make an enlightened revolutionary turn over money lenders' tables.

That way of understanding the Source of All that IS just doesn't sit well with me. Where's the Unconditional love in all of that? Where is unity, wholeness, one-ness, or the river that runs through all of creation? I just can't see God/dess from that framework. So I can't really accept struggle as being a punishment or something that is my fault because I ate some fruit off a heavenly tree that had a big red circle with a line painted on it. No, it's gotta be something else. How about this? Let's try THIS on for size --- Struggle presents an enormous OPPORTUNITY.

Stuff happens that we mere mortals cannot control. "Struggle is the meaning of life" implies that there is a requirement that we roll with it. It's not so much powerlessness as acceptance of the way things are.

"Success or defeat being in the hands of God," is a way of saying, "Hey, you can't control everything, so don't even try. You're gonna have to learn to do your best and let go of the rest."

But how do we meet Struggle? In a dark alley with Fear, Guilt, Anger, Frustration, Shame or Blame? Or do we greet it on the side of the street that's sunny, with some Grace, Compassion, Joy, Gratitude and Love? Or do we do a bit of both? THAT is where the terrain of meaning lies. And one's capacity to embrace that meaning rests in whether or not one's heart is two sizes too small (Dr. Suess. Wisdom is EVERYWHERE!). That is, perhaps where the joy comes in. To accept that stuff happens and find a reason to joyously, raucously laugh anyway

The pay off for going through the struggle, for trying, no matter what is that we learn, we grow, we evolve. THAT seems to be the Meaning, the Opportunity underneath it all. Perhaps this is what was meant by "duty"--that we owe it to ourselves to keep on trying. And can we muster up some Joy and celebration for the tenacity and depth of the Human spirit? Yeah, dude. I believe we can.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

On Innocent Joy...

So this is it, I'm biting the bullet and entering the world of blogging. Okay, I have to confess that I was stuck when it came to trying to articulate what this blog would be about. I, naturally, sought the advice of friends, some who blog, some who read blogs and others who read about blogs. I was encouraged to write about my observations, ideas, events.

We were sitting at our favourite coffee shop, a place dubbed by one of my friends as, "Fate's Waiting Room". It's a place where people gather regularly, not unlike at the bar in Cheers. My coffee shop buddies are from different walks of life, races, experiences. What unites us is JAVA (of course!) and a left-of-center, humanist attitude that transcends many differences. Not to say that we are perfect and never have a judgmental, opinionated moment. We're full of opinions! But we do make the effort to understand each other. I value that because, frankly, we are all in this boat together and those moments of honest connection, and creative problem solving are infinitely more inspiring and nurturing than doing this life's walk in conflict, isolation and suffering.

As we talked, two adults in their 20's set up on the side walk with two skipping ropes. In the sweltering summer heat, they turned double dutch for anyone who was willing to have a go. My inner seven year old was itching to jump, skipping having been a great childhood joy for me. That and swinging. When I'd sit on a swing, I felt free, like it was the closest I was going to get to flying. And when I jumped rope, I felt holistically in tune, my body, mind and emotions working together harmoniously to produce....JOY!

But adult humans being what we are, we watched first, for quite a while before any of us made a move to join in. We went through our critique of what was happening. Funny how we do that, unable to just look at something for what it is and just trust it, enjoy it the way we would have as children. The critique centered on turning technique--"They're not using their whole arms, They're not in sync, They're not....They're not...." --all of it an excuse for hanging back and not participating.

My inner seven year old, of course, knew exactly what needed doing and proceed to the skipping ropes; my Adult following. When I got there, I heard the rope turners (no, actually now they are called "spinners") discussing turning technique. One was male and the other female. The male behaved as though he was the supreme authority on jump rope schooling his female turning partner. My Adult was thinking, "Does he really believe she's never skipped in her life? Or that she doesn't have a jump rope trick or two to teach him?"

While my adult was slipping into critique again, my inner Child decided on a much more immediate and authentic course of action. She got busy jumping! BUT the way she like it. No double dutch for her--one rope, old school, thanks.

They doubled up the rope, turned a beautiful circle and I jumped in. And Jumped! It was exhilarating! I didn't jump for as long as I would have at Seven (45 bringing its physical limitations) but i did have a glorious moment of remembering, in body, mind and emotion, JOY, the kind of JOY that only innocence and play can bring.

It didn't take much to revisit that place. No special, expensive high tech equipment required. Just a simple rope and a co-operative willingness to participate in this experience, differences of opinion and judgement set aside. Making magic is as simple as that.