Thursday, April 23, 2009

Work as Custody and Stewardship

We all have this conviction that our life belongs to us.

From an intellectual standpoint, there may be considerable understanding that this actually isn't true, at least from a metaphysical point of view. But the reality is that we all experience our life as belonging to us, because that is how the ego functions.

The dialogue is all too familiar in me. This is "my life." I want to make my life more complete. I want to live my life fully. I want to do this and do that. The choices are up to me, and I can do as I wish.

In the end, nothing could be further from the truth. In the Lord's prayer, the phrase "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done" is meant to be a specific confession of the fact that life does not belong to the individual. Life itself is a force, a force that cannot and does not belong to the vehicles that express it. The vehicles are expressors and expressions, not owners. This is true from the smallest microbe all the way to man.

Every one of us is a custodian of life. A steward of life. Each one of us discovers ourselves in the unique and poorly understood position of being granted the privilege of participating in this force called life. Every life is bought dearly; billions of years of evolution were required to bring us to where we are right now.

We dismiss all of that with simplicities. For example, we see a creature and we say "bird," as though four letters were a decent substitute for an absolute miracle born of dinosaurs 65 million years ago. The bird is a custodian of everything that went before it -- in and of itself, it contains the entirety of everything that life expresses.

So do we.

So I come to my life as a steward. I have a responsibility to it. That responsibility is rooted in the organism and the active expression of life as it is created and goes forward in every moment. My stewardship consists of an effort to be within the moment and honor that moment. Within this context, every event, every action, every movement, every object, every breath is sacred.

The organism is built to sense this. Unfortunately, my own organism is blunted and damaged; it has some limited sensory ability to know and understand this truth, but that ability is circumscribed by the relatively poor functioning of my consciousness. I am disconnected. I may speak about being in the moment as though I knew what being in the moment were, or as though I could "do" being in the moment--but in the moment where one truly discovers the moment, one discovers that one does not know the moment, or even how to be in it.

Instead, one knows a few clever words, which become quite useless when truth arrives.

In moments of a greater connection, I begin to sense my stewardship. At moments like this, every event and circumstance is miraculous, and nothing belongs to me. I am humbled by the place I occupy and the privilege of seeing something as simple as a crack in the pavement. A deep humility grows as I see how small I am, and how incredibly little I understand. Even in the midst of participating in life -- in the midst of successfully starting a new job and offering intelligent work to my employers and the individuals I work with -- I see that I understand nothing about this planet or life itself.

The best I can say in the context of that moment is that everything is a mystery, and the parts of me that function in relationship to ordinary life do so only because they have learned it by rote.

In the meantime, the parts that can sense the miraculous nature of this stewardship more directly are bewildered by the astonishing variety of manifested nature, and the incomprehensible glory of even the simplest impressions.

How do I honor this life? Not very well. Do I understand that every individual and circumstance needs to be treated as though they were sacred? No, I don't. I generally live with the conviction that others should serve me as I wish, and that events and circumstances should serve me as I wish. It is my will that I want done. All this in sheer defiance of the prayers I study within myself.

Those prayers need to become more than words. They need to become active affirmations of an effort to discover the "I am" of stewardship.

If there is no deepening humility, no organic sense of sorrow, no humbling of the understanding, and no remorse in the simple act of taking in life, there is no work. Every drop of arrogance is a measurement of my lack. And, unfortunately, in this particular regard, my cup runneth over.

May our hearts be opened, and our prayers be heard.

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