Monday, May 12, 2014

Without flinching

There seem to be countless paths into Being, and I suppose one can only ever speak of one's own.

For myself, the older I get, the more I see how absolutely ego and my own self-will penetrates every single action. The more aware one becomes of this, the more one is led into a confrontation with the ancient traditional ideas about sin. Now, unless one is a formalist — unless one practices a specific religion and subscribes to its beliefs — most ideas about sin may seem old-fashioned; and, to be honest, even within religion, it appears as though sin is outdated, since people go to churches, mosques, and temples every day of the week and then blithely exit the doors to sin with abandon. Sin, in this context, meaning self interest, and the failure to have respect, compassion, regard, and love for others.

I'm considered to be a somewhat decent person, although there's no doubt I have hit many low points in my life. Enough so that I often feel like I am weighted, tied to rope behind a trawler, and being bounced off a rocky bottom. Yet when I truly search myself, I see how completely and utterly my self interest and my ego penetrate every single crevice of my Being. 

It's a horrifying situation, really; there's no escape from this reality. Awareness of it becomes more painful with age; and if there ever was a form of suffering which one has to tolerate in order to grow, this must be it. Only a ruthless self-examination of this self interest can reveal how I really am; and there are no easy remedies, despite the tens of thousands of self-help books, the disciplines, the philosophies, my own prayers, and so on. In the end, esotericism and religion become a penetration ever deeper into Being which is highly personal, intimate, and leads one to confront elements of oneself that are so repugnant one prefers to look away. 

What baffles me even more, as I ponder these inner questions of the darkness that lies at the root of ordinary Being, is the unarguable and inescapable presence of Love, which comes and stays in complete forgiveness, regardless of this truth I see over and over again. In point of fact, it is only with this Love that comes that I see the truth of who I am; it is the light that shines in the darkness. Although this Love is unconditional, I am unable to understand or comprehend it, so its unconditional nature does nothing more than focus my gaze even more acutely on my sin; and it brings anguish. There is, to be sure, a perfect sweetness hidden in such anguish; I think on this often, but still don't understand it.

I begin to sense, in time, that this is the whole point; God's love is unconditional, and my sin, my selfishness, helps me to see the difference between what I imagine love to be and what real Love is. It is in measuring the distance between those two things that I encounter what is referred to in many works as the abyss; I stand at the edge of this chasm between me and real Love and know that there is no way, in myself as I am, that I can muster worthiness relative to the love of God.

One wants to sort this out; yet the greatest part of this mystery is that there is no sorting out. One has to stand before oneself—in the Presence of this unending and forgiving Love that stands forever as the absolute creative force of Being—and see exactly who one is. 

This, I suppose, may be hell; to look oneself straight in the eye without flinching. But without that willingness, and that unflinching gaze, no glimpse of heaven could ever be possible.


—Lee van Laer, Shanghai, China.

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