Education



Religion dictates the desirable outcomes
of its teachings
 in the life of the faithful.

It uses religious tradition as a template
against which the ideas, beliefs, and behaviors of believers
are to be measured.

The goal of religion
 is to shape people to the template
with no additional education needed.

But that sort of education is no education at all.
That kind of spirituality is no spirituality at all.

 Authentic spirituality
wants to open us to truth
 whatever that truth may be,
wherever truth may take us.

Spirituality does not dictate where we must go,
but trusts that any path walked with integrity
will take us to a place of transformation.

Spirituality welcomes diversity and conflict,
 tolerates ambiguity,
and embraces paradox.

Spirituality is not about dictating ends.
It is about examining and clarifying
the inner sources of teaching and learning,
ridding us of any religious toxins
that poison our hearts and minds.

 Authentic spirituality addresses the fear
that so often permeates religious teaching and learning.

 Fear, not ignorance,
is the enemy of learning,
and fear is what gives religion its power.

To grow Spiritually
 is to create a space
in which obedience to truth is practiced,
not obedience to some set of
religious rules, regulations, rites, rituals,
doctrine and dogma.

Religion seems an end of itself,
Spirituality, a beginning, a journey,
the Quest.


Ask, ask, ask again

Life is not like an onion 
that I strip away layer after layer 
to get at some core, central, fundamental truth. 

Rather it’s like the magic well: 
no matter how many buckets of water I remove, 
there’s always another one to be had. 

Or even better, 
it’s like the widening ripples on the surface of the sea
the ever larger circumference 
in touch with more and more 
of what’s outside the circle, 
the unknown. 

It was a mistake for me
 to bob around in the circle of dogma and doctrine,
rules, regulations, rites, and rituals 
instead of riding a ripple
to the great expanse lying outside the religious circle.

Instead of religion 
where the promulgation of truths is an end, 
where truth is resident in the hierarchy, 
where doubt is rarely discussed, or even allowed,
I tasted the edge of the widening circle of doubt, 
an important connection to the unknown
and to the Creator.


I had to learn how to think in questions, 
how to manage and exploit my doubt. 
I discovered that true education 
is not the filling of my pail, 
but the lighting of a fire within me.

Living fully
produces doubt, 
and doubt fuels growth. 

The value of religion can be judged,
not by the answers it provides,
but by the Questions it raises.

 Questions can be big or small, 
tractable or challenging. 


Joy in life, 
either living it or understanding it, 
depends on developing comfort 
with doubt, 
and with unanswered Questions,
not pat religious answers.

Jesus said,
Ask,
and you shall receive.

I think
not answers,
but more Questions
to Ask.




Sorrow

Each of us
has great sadnesses
which pass
with even the passing difficult.

Great sadness goes right through to our center.

In suffering,
much of us is altered, 
 undergoes a change.

 If it were possible for us 
to see further than our knowledge reaches, 
a little way beyond the pain, 
perhaps we would endure sadness 
with a greater confidence. 

Sorrowful moments 
are when something new enters into us, 
something unknown; 
our feelings grow mute in shy perplexity, 
everything in us withdraws, 
a stillness comes, 
and this new thing stands in the midst of us
and is silent.

Almost all our sadnesses 
are moments of tension 
that we find paralyzing 
because we no longer hear our feelings. 

Because we are alone 
with the alien thing that has entered into us; 
because everything intimate and accustomed 
is for an instant taken away; 
because we stand in the middle of a transition 
 we almost cannot remain standing. 

Sadness passes: 
the new thing in us, 
the added thing, 
has entered into our heart, 
has gone into its inmost chamber 
and is not even there any more, 
is already in our blood. 
And we do not learn what it was. 

We could try to make believe 
that nothing has happened, 
and yet we have changed, 
as a house changes into which a guest has entered.

We cannot say who has come, 
perhaps we shall never know, 
but many signs indicate 
that the future enters into us in this way 
in order to transform itself in us. 

And this is why it is so important 
to be lonely and attentive 
when one is sad: 
because the stark moment 
at which our future sets foot in us 
is so much closer to life 
than other noisy and fortuitous points of time 
which happen to us from outside.

The more still, 
more patient 
and more open we are 
when we are sad,
 so much deeper 
and so much the more unswervingly 
does the new go into us, 
so much the better do we make it ours, 
so much the more will it be our destiny, 
and then on some later day 
we shall feel in our inmost selves akin and near to it. 

It is necessary
that over time nothing strange should befall us, 
but only that which has long belonged to us.

We gradually learn to realize 
that that which we call destiny 
goes forth from within people, 
not from outside them. 





When we do not absorb our destinies 
transmuting  them within 
while we are living with them, 
we do not recognize 
what has occurred;
it seems so strange to us that, 
in our bewildered fright, 
we think it must only just now has entered into us, 
for we swear never before 
to have found anything like it 
in ourselves. 

In reality
the future stands firm;
 It is we who move in infinite space.

If only we could arrange our life 
according to the principle
that we must always hold to the difficult, 
then that which seems to us the most alien 
will become what we most trust 
and find most faithful. 

Perhaps everything terrible 
is in its deepest being 
something helpless 
that wants help from us.

We must not be frightened.
 When a sadness rises up before us 
larger than any we have ever seen; 
if a restiveness cloud
passes over our heads 
and over all we do,
and we think that something is happening with us,
life has not forgotten us, 
it holds us in its hand;
 it will not let us fall. 

Why do we want to shut out of our life any agitation, 
any pain, any melancholy, 
since we really do not realize
the ultimate truth
these states bring us.

Here and Now

One of the most insidious
and damaging aspects
of my early religious life
was its focus
on life hereafter.

Much of my youth
was spent 
trying to comply with
all the rules, regulations, rites, and rituals,
doctrine and dogma
required for me
to pass through
The Pearly Gates
after I died.

Even worse,
I spent many moments of my life
in fear and in guilt
for having trespassed into sin
risking eternal damnation
in fiery hell.

Even after attaining 
some degree of Spiritual maturity
and seeing that 
those things I was told to do,
those things I was told not to do
were simply tools
of a Clerical Hierarchy
designed to control people,
thoughts of Life Hereafter
remained with me,
despite Jesus' exhortation 
that
The Kingdom of God
is at Hand.

The tragedy
for so many
focused on Life after Death
is completely missing the wonderful Gift of
Life with the Living.



Thank God
for the guidance
and inspiration
to avoid that trap,
albeit late in my life,
with my taking Joy simply
in Being,
and not just Being,
but
Being in Love.

For God
is
BEING-in-love
and
by my Being in Love,
I am
One with God,
the only time and place
that I can be so:
Here and Now,

not through some pearly gates
after I die.





Selling Out is Buying In

I’ve found that
the only way I can keep writing every day,
year after year,
is to let my mind wander into new territories.
To do that,
I’ve had to cultivate a kind of mental playfulness.

I have had to find the inner motivation
to search for new ideas on my own.

Letting my mind play is the best way.
A playful mind is inquisitive,
and learning is fun.

When I indulge my natural curiosity
and retain a sense of fun in new experience,
I find it functions as a sort of shock absorber
for the bumpy road ahead.

I’ve not really been taught
how to recreate constructively.
I needed to do more than find diversions;
I needed to restore and expand myself.
 Shutting off the thought process is not rejuvenating;
my mind is like a car battery;
 it recharges by running.

The truth is,
 most of us discover where we are headed
when we arrive.

At that time,
we turn around and say, yes,
this is obviously where I was going all along.

 I try to enjoy the scenery on the detours,
because I have taken
and will take many.

To endure inevitable rejection along the way
required a faith in myself that bordered on delusion,
or a love of writing.

I love writing.

Selling out
would have been more a matter of buying in.
 Selling out was really buying into
someone else’s system of values, rules and rewards.
I faced having to give up my individual voice
for that of institutional religion.

 It would have meant
my purpose in writing was to sell things,
not say things.

My pride in craft
would be sacrificed
to religious doctrine, dogma, rites, rituals, rules, and regulations.

My authorship would be regurgitation.
 My creativity would be subjugated to obedience.
 My art would be akin to rote prayer.

For me, it’s all about
creating a life that reflects my values
 and satisfies my soul.

A person happy doing his own work
is usually considered an eccentric,
if not by Church, a subversive.

The best preparation for the real world
I received from the Jesuits,
not in the answers I’ve learned,
but in the questions
I’ve learned how to ask myself.