Aim upwards and speak true words.
Let me tell you folks…you never know which direction life is going to take you. I am endlessly stunned, fascinated, awed by the fact that I would have never conceived a year ago that I would be sitting where I am now and doing what I am trying to do. A little back story might be in order…
This time last year I was a married man, I thought I was a happily married man. I was living with the woman that I loved in a really cool part of Dallas Texas, in a condo that I liked, with my lovely wife and our two cats. I thought my life was stable, I thought I knew the trajectory of things…not exactly of course, but generally. I thought I was with the partner that I would grow old with. I thought we would be in Dallas for the foreseeable future. We used to walk our neighborhood and look at places that were for sale and think about whether or not we should buy a place. I thought my life was settled.
Right now I am sitting in the house of friends half way across the country. I am living temporarily in their spare room, in a city I have never lived in. I am in the process of being divorced, and the woman that I loved so much doesn’t even talk to me anymore. Life can change fast, very fast.
Without going into too many details I will tell you this: my life was upended in the kind of way that forced upon me the realization that the territory that I thought I was inhabiting, that I thought I had (somewhat) mapped…well the map no longer matched that territory. My partner was no longer the person that I thought she was. My home was no longer my home. I was a stranger in a strange land.
When this kind of thing happens it doesn’t just change the present. It changes the past, present and future. Here is what I mean: everyday when I get on Facebook and it brings up the memories from previous years, and I see what my life was, and I look into my eyes in those pictures…I look in my eyes and I realize that that person thought they were moving in a certain direction, thought they knew what the broad strokes and patterns of their life would be…that person had no idea. The present can change the past.
The last year and half have been incredibly transforming for me. I abandoned my Buddhism and my marriage dissolved. I had been a Buddhist of one variation or another for nearly 20 years and I had been married for 8 years. I struggle to find the words, the true words, for what propelled me beyond Buddhism….I think it is something like this: my soul could no longer abide its denial. Further…and this only began to dawn over time…neither could God.
Ever since I was a child I heard my grandmother, my mother, my aunts saying that, “God works in mysterious ways”. I used to laugh at that. It seemed simplistic and even superstitious. What a bloody fool I was. Now I am not about to say that God dissolved my marriage or brought me out of Texas or anything like that…but, paradoxically, I am not going to say that this is not what happened.
It seems to me that when tragedy strikes there are a few options. We can become embittered and retreat. We can close the walls around us and solidify the hurt. Or we can pick up our cross and bear it. We can venture forth into the chaos and pain and attempt to create new, habitable order out of the chaos that has laid us low. From what I have observed, in myself and others, the first option absolutely leads to a place that you wouldn’t want to go. I do not think it would be inaccurate to describe this as a road to Hell.
The second path is the path of the hero.
Perhaps the oldest story that humans tell is the story of the hero who goes out to voluntarily and directly confront the dragon of chaos. And maybe the dragon eats the hero. That is a possibility, failure is a possibility…it has to be. But maybe the hero defeats the dragon. Dragons hoard treasure. If the hero defeats the dragon the hero reaps the reward and then he returns to his community to contribute something of absolute value.
There is tremendous spiritual power in actively identifying as the hero. It is the fundamental story of Christ and our call is the embodiment of the spirit of Christ., to become Christ-like.
But how do you do that?
Aim upwards and speak true words.
If you don’t know where or how to start, you can start right there. You can try, despite your pain, despite your confusion and suffering, despite your obvious flaws and weaknesses, despite all of that, you can try to aim upwards and speak true words.
Do something everyday to make your world and the world of those around you better. Give a higher percentage of effort at work, do some chore that you have been putting off, help someone…do something that aims upward, something that makes things better.
And speak true words, or at least don’t lie.
This is an act of faith…it is a faith that the kind of world you create by speaking true words is fundamentally better than the kind of world that is created by telling lies. Remember when I wrote that the first way of dealing with problems, the way of bitterness and retreat is a road to Hell? Well, in the same spirit I think it no real exaggeration to say that the path of the hero is a path to Heaven. But it is a leap of faith, and I do not know what the end will be…but I do have the faith that aiming upward and speaking true words is the best hope, the best chance.
So hear I sit in a strange city. But it is beautiful. It is full of unknown potential. And I am acting on my faith.
These thoughts are not new or original to me. Over the past year and a half I have been deeply influenced by Jordan Peterson, Israel Regardie, Jung, aspects of Pragmatism, Stoicism, Platonism, CS Lewis, Richard Smoley, Gnosticism, Valentine Tomberg, Alan Chapman and many others. This feels to me like a budding resurgence of something I am thinking of as the Western Tradition. Something like the marriage of Greece and Jerusalem.
I am endlessly fascinated by these ideas and if you are too then we should get in contact and help one another think about these things. I hope I hear from you.