Detail from Lazy Mountain by Mark Bradford
at the Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai
It begins personally, with a direct relationship between Being in the Lord. Yet it is impersonal; although it is received by personhood, it has an objective nature that is, oddly and inexplicably, completely divorced from one's own interests, desires, and demands. Its object is expression, without prejudice; that is to say, it does not express according to a set of rules, demands, or desires that I impose, but rather, begins and ends with its own freedom and calls to be manifested within that freedom.
To the extent that I believe this belongs to me, I limit its freedom; to the extent that I let it go and inhabit, it expresses itself and creates its own freedom.
What I have been pondering this morning is the extent to which it calls for outward action. Outward action is, after all, a lawfully imposed requirement on all Being; to act inwardly alone is incestuous. It can be done; yet the worship of the Lord is supposed to take place, in every moment, at the intersection of the inward and the outward, and it is forever and irrevocably embedded in the manifestation of outward action. Even if one does as little as sit perfectly still, in meditation, breathing reduced to a fraction of its usual activity, the inward still touches the outward until death takes place. And it is at this intersection, where the two touch, that all the questions arise.
It isn't enough to just be inward. Now, outwardness has so many potentials it is bewildering; it reminds me of the experience of sitting in front of a blank sheet of paper or canvas, before any mark is made on it, and knowing that until that mark is made, a limitless potential exists. Yet a mark must be made; a choice has to be exercised that restricts those limitless potentials and that limitless freedom, channeling the freedom into a direction of one kind or another which, although it is limited, still retains its freedom.
This is a very roundabout way of saying that one cannot just sit on one's ass. One has to Be within life, not just within one's own limited experience of the Lord. Being calls itself into relationship by its very nature, and it is my personal responsibility to express that. I am, so to speak, a limitless possibility of freedom in an absolutely limited vessel. How I reconcile that has a great deal to do with how I fulfill my responsibility to the sacred forces that created me.
This is the dilemma, then; to bring my inner work in the service of the Lord into life in a way that is creative, informed (inwardly formed) and compassionate. Actually, I don't need to worry about crafting compassion; and that will be the subject for the next essay.