Saturday, June 19, 2010

Spiritual Koyaanisqatsi?

The following random thoughts are for the Contemplative Service. They are based out of a tale from the book 'Tales From the Magic Monastery' which I'm not gonna type out here because it would be breaking copyright.

I think the internal debate of 'I am somebody', 'I am nobody' is one that most of us carry around. The apostle Paul wrote 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst' - that's definitely the 'I am nobody' side.

Paul also lays out his criteria for the other side of the debate - 'If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.'

This story is very appealing to those of us who tend towards the Nobody side - there is something compelling about a community that calls us forth out of the room of our own unworthiness. The danger is that we just shut the door on that room and let the other people's words paint over the door and seal it shut. The community helps us 'Put on Christ', but our new identity is a fragile veneer.

There is another danger however. In any community there are people who feel like they are “Somebody,” who are confirmed in what they believe, who are assured that they have found the path. These persons may have found religion to be a path to ascendancy, a way to get ahead, a tool for having their lives “confirmed.”
Consider what Dr. Jerry Webber says about this:

True humility and balance in Christianity spirituality lies in holding the balance between the two extremes. We are Nobody and we are Somebody at the same time. The error is in falling down on either side to the exclusion of the other. We are invited to hold the paradox in tension, to hold both our earthy fragility (we are the dust of the earth and our days on earth are numbered) and our divine birthright (we are created by and for God, and the cosmos was created for us).

A spirituality that considers only one or the other is not balanced, and neither is it centered around God. The obsessive feeling that, “I am Nobody” is just as ego-compulsive (I am) as the statement, “I am Somebody.” In both, the “I” stands at the center. Unworthiness or “nobodiness” can become just as obsessive when we remain in it as narcissism, and can manifest itself in thoughts like, “There is nobody as bad as I am bad” (which only makes me the best in the world at being bad . . . the Grand Champion of being Nobody).

It can be easy to use spirituality as a tool for 'self annihilation' or 'self inflation'. The Hopi tribe have a word 'Koyaanisqatsi', which means crazy life, life in turmoil, life out of balance, life disintegrating, a state of life that calls for another way of living. I know I have gone through stages of my life where it feels like I am living in a tug of war contest where I am the rope.

The healthiest thing is the hardest thing, to allow the two sides of ourselves to talk with one another. To bring everything that makes us feel like we are Somebody into the light of day and see if it crumbles, and to listen to the voices that tell us we are Nobody and see who's voice they are. Are their words legitimate or not?
Let us give God permission to remove 'I' from the center of our lives.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Wonderful reflection. The phrase I learned a number of years ago was being my "right size" - neither too meek nor proud, remembering that as a child of God I have a place at the table, and so does everyone else.