I am sorry.
When I left the seminary I stopped believing in you. You were the symbol of a crumbling out of touch institution that I could not be a part of anymore. There were too many contradictions and hypocrisies to the truth I was learning about you. I liked your message but it was wrapped up in too much bad theological execution. I did not realise you are not the institution. I could not see through the bullshit and the noise.
I literally threw the baby out with the bath water. Trying to throw away something of no value, I threw away you. I am sorry. Because the institution using your name could not pass theological or academic scrutiny, you were abandoned. The pain in my life was too loud for me to find solace in you. I was running from the noise.
This may sound funny but I never stopped believing in you. Now don’t get me wrong I am still struggling with all that has been said about you and who or what you are suppose to be. I guess that is what this life is supposed to be, a struggle to become something, a struggle to give shit meaning Birth is messy; death is messy; so ergo the in-betweens are messy. Shit all over the place. Not by fault but by design. You know somehow I thought things would be a little easier by now but it is still as messy as ever.
So it has been what, 17 years since we chatted? A lot has happened since 1993. I am still crazy – sometimes very crazy. I’ve been searching a lot. I started searching and searching for something new. Something to replace you! Humanist philosophy, Greek mythology, Theosophy, Confucian thought. All end in codes of living life based on respecting life and caring for life.
About four years ago I started exploring Buddhism and in particular the Zen variation. I found it very helpful with turning off the noise. For the last three years I have been exploring the big world of yoga. Those eight limbs are one big to do list. But the biggest gift of yoga has been the quieting of the mind. It has taught me that the noise outside me does not have to be the noise inside me. It is I who disturb the peace inside me. The noise is simply a distraction.
Funny thing is that when I turn off the noise I am able to listen. There is a lot to listen to in the present moment. This past year I heard something wonderful. While listening to Buddha he asked me if I met his friend Jesus in my travels in the West. While listening to Patanjali he asked me if I was familiar with the words of the Jewish teacher Jesus.
And here is the funniest thing; a monkey leaping a sea is no crazier than you walking on one right? When you strip away all the smells and bells, pomp and circumstance, elephant children and purple godheads, and the occasional ascension, you guys pretty much agree with each other on the nuts and bolts of daily human cohabitation. And you all have a thing for tree metaphors.
And in the end I saw that this too is all bullshit. All the philosophies and religions are the creations of their believers rising out of their messy struggles to live with the shit, find meaning, and become something. Then if all is bullshit then I am full of bullshit. My bullshit is the culmination of all the bullshit I have been taught. All I have done is re-digested the shit and excreted it out again.
Now don’t get me wrong I think it is all pretty good shit. Shit is how things grow after all. Fertilizer is shit with purpose. But I think there is still a piece that we are all missing. That piece will make it possible for all this shit to make sense. What that piece is I have no idea. This is where the agnostic in me arises.
Though I have moments of being awake I find it so easy to drift off into sleep again. Staying awake is constant practice. Some days practice is effortless and some days practice is a real bitch. Those forty days in the desert you all ascribe to are a real pain. I’ve done a few. The systems work – but still a bitch.
Two things all systems demand are faith and discipline to be of any use. Faith is the ability to trust in someone or something even if there is no physical proof to observe. Faith is to trust we are connected to something greater than ourselves and we all share this holy connection.
Each path of faith demands one form of discipline or another. That practice takes constant effort. I think most days I fail when it comes to my personal practice. My ego does not like discipline. But that is why it is called practice. We keep doing it and hopefully listening to what is there to be heard. Practice is no longer right or wrong or good or bad, practice is what this body and mind can do in this moment. Practice is simply the daily motion done with mindfulness.
Christianity, Yoga, Buddhism are not a path, they are instructions for a path – my path. They are instructions that have stood the test of time to be elevated to science. These instructions are to help deal with the messiness of life. If I follow these instructions then perhaps the path will be more peaceful for me and all I encounter. But there is still a lot of bullshit.
Jesus, every year I return to my computer to write a Christmas message. This is the first time it has been about our relationship, which is kind of funny since your Christ designation is in it and all. Though I am surprised you were not lost forever. I went to get my coffee at the Cup today and their holiday decor theme is a red background, a white bird perched on a brown stick with a white dot for snow. When I was growing up there was overkill on the nativity scenes wherever one would go. It seems we have let your birthday go to crap. Now it is some reinforcement of value via material possessions.
My return is of more surprise to me than you I am sure. Though my studies have given me a greater appreciation for various belief systems, I never thought I would reconnect with you on such a personal level. It is funny that it was yoga that brought me back. I guess what I am saying is I am no longer a Wandering Aramean. Now don’t get ahead of yourself, you won’t see me in a pew anytime soon. As we reconnect I find the words of Eliot haunting me again,
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
I know who you are now. Or better still I can see you again. You are a person who struggled with the messiness of life. A person who awoke and stayed awake through constant prayer to stay connected to the divine. You were a teacher, a healer, a peacemaker, aware that all is god. All you ask is that I love with empathy and compassion and be a good steward of life. You told me I was perfect and holy. You told me to be not afraid for you know the path I am trying to walk and you have guidance. I need only listen.
In moments of quiet and stillness I can see all the beauty and I can see all the suffering and how I contribute to each. As my faith and practice grows I am compelled and obligated to add to the beauty and ease the suffering. Thank you for being a symbol of faith and practice. A nice Jewish boy who loved his mother and tried to bring peace is not such a bad role model – Happy Birthday Jesus.
Peace and love,
PS. Check out Mary J Blige and Andrea Bocelli do a kick ass version of one of your tribute songs.