Stay on the Beam!

The spiritual quest is the search for that which brings us to life, for that which grounds us in, and opens us to, life—connecting us with what is meaningful for us. It all comes down to getting our heart together with our life! We spend our life looking for life. Life lies all about us and we are not alive, not vibrantly alive, not enthusiastically alive, not involved in our life, not invested in our life, not engaged with our life. We are hanging out, going through the motions, looking for something to do with our time, for some entertaining pastime, without much in the way of a reason to get out of bed, and no sense of why we are here, or what to do with the day. Why isn’t our heart in our life? What will it take to get our heart together with our life?

Why are we here? That’s the Quest for the Holy Grail, the Land of Promise. We are looking for vitality, for elan vital. We aren’t looking for our assignment, for some obligation that is laid upon us by someone else. Albert Schweitzer went to Africa because he had to—not because he was supposed to—because his life required it. We are looking for what we have to do! For what compels us to do it! We are looking for what it means to live in the service of our heart—and how to do that within the circumstances of our living.

We are looking for our life, for what brings us to life, and is life. We are here to be alive, yet, to be alive, our life has to revolve around something, has to be grounded in something. What draws us toward it, into it, and serves as the source and goal of our living? That’s the search that fuels the journey. And every journey begins where we are.

We begin with what we care about, or used to care about before we stopped caring. We can care about the wrong things, but the wrong things can lead us to the right things, if we let them, if we care about the wrong things in the right way: with our eyes open.

We have to care about what we care about, and see where that goes, what it leads to. NASCAR, baseball, fishing, photography… It doesn’t matter. The problem with what we care about is not what we care about, but that we don’t care about it deeply enough, and we don’t care about it with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. Care about what you care about! Get into it! See where it goes! What it asks of you! Calls forth in you!

It will carry you to something else to care about. Care about that! Who knows why we care about what we care about? Who cares why? It is enough to know what we care about, and to care deeply about it, and see what happens. Carl Jung suggests that we not limit our understanding of libido to sexual energy, but think of it as the energy of life, as enthusiasm for some aspect of life, and follow that energy where it leads us, and do what it asks of us, and see where it goes.

This experience with life energy, with being moved by something, to something, was called “the Holy Spirit” in previous ages. Jesus said “The Spirit is like the wind that blows where it will.” There you are. We have to become aware of the energy of life, noticing those places, ideas, people, events that are charged with energy for us, that we care about, and follow wherever it goes.

We are to move toward what moves us. We have to find those things, those people, that attract us in this way, that are charged with energy for us, spending time with them, incorporating them into our life—remembering that, as in all spiritual matters, things are not what they appear to be. We cannot take even life energy at face value. We have to always get to the heart of the matter, looking past the surface to what else is there, seeing where it goes.

The first step is to trust ourselves to what moves us. To look closer at what catches our eye. We have to decide how to recognize, read, and follow life energy. Energy for sailing may have nothing to do with buying a sailboat or taking lessons. What is the charged idea of sailing asking of us? We have to see what it is asking of us, where it is drawing us, and go where we are being led–with our eyes open, working with it imaginatively to know. Imagination, curiosity and patience are essential tools in the work of soul, of finding and doing the work that is ours to do, the life that is ours to live.

The holy obligation is to care about what we care about for as long as we care about it, and then care about something else. We will always care about some things, but not all things. People will try to talk us out of what we care about, and into what they want us to care about. We are here to care about what we care about, to follow our enthusiasm for some aspects of life throughout our lives, as it evolves, shifts, transforms and leads us a merry chase. No matter what people think and say.

What do you care about that nobody notices, knows, or cares if you care about it? What do you care about that nobody wants you to do or care about? If you have never had a life to call your own, never done a thing you wanted to do just because you wanted to do it, what are you waiting for? How much of your life do you live because other people expect it of you? How much of it do you live no matter what anyone thinks? Whose permission do you need to do the things you do, to live the life you live? Whose disapproval do you fear? Whose life are you living? Who is guiding your ship on its path on the sea? If you are not at the helm, who is?

We don’t have to worry about destinations, and outcomes, and what we are going to do with our life. We only need to know the right path when we see it, and walk it. The right path will take us where we need to be. We can trust ourselves to the rightness of the right path, knowing no more than that. We know the path is right the way we know anything is right. A cup of coffee, a walk in the woods, watching the sun rise and set… You wouldn’t trust anyone else to choose your deserts for you, why think anyone else will know the right path for you? You know what is right for you, and what is wrong, what is life for you, and what is death, and you know whether the path you are on is IT or not.

We aren’t here to get anything out of it, to gain the advantage, to have our way. We are here to find the right path, the right track, and to stay on it—to Stay On The Beam! We know the right path, the right track, the beam when we see it but. We can be led astray by 10,000 self-serving things. We have to know all that we know, and live mindful lives.

Joseph Campbell said, “We know when we are on the beam, and when we are off of it.” The rule is simple: Stay on the beam! The “force” that is “with us” is the power of the beam, the right track, the right path. In it, on it, we have all we need. Off it, we are lost and on our own. One of our problems is that we want to live the way we want to live and have the “force” be with us, paving our way, smoothing our path, toward goals that we set and ends that we declare to be valid.

Our way is not The Way, our path is not The Path. But, we don’t want to do what our life is asking us to do. We want all the things the culture tells us make life worth living, but, the catch is whether our heart is in it or if we are being talked into something that isn’t right for us. What we want, may have nothing to do with what our heart wants us to want, with what we need to want. We should know that by now.

We have to be on The Way that is the way for us, on The Path that is the path for us. The quickest way to the way that way is staying on the beam that we know is the beam for us, caring about what we care about, living with our eyes open to what is happening, and with our heart open to what is calling our name.

Published by jimwdollar

I'm retired, and still finding my way--but now, I don't have to pretend that I know what I'm doing. I retired after 40.5 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, serving churches in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina. I graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Austin, Texas, and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. My wife, Judy, and I have three daughters and five granddaughters within about twenty minutes from where we live--and are enjoying our retirement as much as we have ever enjoyed anything.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: