There is that which needs to be done which needs you to do it—which needs you to bring forth who you are, and what you have to offer. Do not withhold yourself from that which needs to be done. Trust yourself to it. It will lead you to life. It is the only thing that will.
Turn yourself over to your life—to the circumstances of your living—and see where it goes. Relax yourself into the moment, and trust it to guide you along the way, as you do what needs to be done, moment by moment, situation by situation. We do not benefit from the help that is at hand because we do not open ourselves to it, or because we have our own idea about the kind of help we need and turn down what is being offered.
“Leave them alone and they will come home, wagging their tails behind them.” Or not. Either way, you avoid the pitfall of making things worse by trying to make them better by the time you think they should be better. Just “leave them alone”! And see what happens.
·There is that which is to be desired, and that which is to be avoided. There is the way of doing things, and the way of not doing things. There is right, and there is wrong. And, wrong is a step on the way to right. The wrong way leads to the right way. And, there is no absolute right or wrong. And, “everything moves in oneness.” But we can’t sit in the shade, and passively let the movement happen without us. And, the movement happens whether we participate in its happening or not. So, don’t waste your time trying to make sense of things. Strive to perceive what needs to be done, and do it, what needs to be not done, and don’t do it. Even though that will change with time, and you will be saying something else, perhaps even, the polar opposite in time to come. Here and now is the thing. What is right and needs to be done right here, right now? Do that. Without thinking you are creating a precedent that must be locked into place for all time to come.
Living roots that are set deeply in solid ground provide a foundation, a connection, which allows us to be constantly open to the flow of opportunities and follow them wherever they go. It is a fluid, being-in the-way-of-things, which is not the same thing as being in the way. We have to get out of the way to be-in-the-way, on-the-way, all along the way.
It is all hopeless, pointless, useless, futile, absurd and coming to a very bad end (We all are going to die!)—and how we live in the meantime makes all the difference. Do not think of it as “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” Think of it as being yeast in the dough, not knowing what we are doing, or what the outcome will be, but trusting ourselves to That-Which-Is-Here-Now and doing our thing here/now, and letting that be enough, because we can never do more than that, and letting it be, because it is, instead of trying to force it to be what we want it to be even though we don’t know what to want or how to effect it if we did. Just be the yeast in the dough. and do what needs to be done right here, right now in each situation as it arises.
An eye for the lights and life of Gay Paree disrupts the natural order! And, yet, everything is a part of the path, even Gay Paree. Don’t try to make sense of it. Let doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done (etc.), lead you along the way all the way! The process is not logical/rational/analytical/orderly/sequential/left-brained. It is intuitive/instinctive/numinous/imaginative/mystical/magical/mysterious/right-brained. And it requires us to walk two paths at the same time. Thinking and feeling. Knowing more than we can say/explain/define/comprehend. We have to trust ourselves to the way all the way.
Governing a large country is not like cooking a small fish, in that the fish doesn’t have to cooperate with—and has no voice in—its cooking. The willingness of the people to be ruled in accord with what needs to happen in the situation as it arises—and not have to have the things the people of neighboring nations have—makes it possible to govern a large country like cooking a small fish. But where do you find citizens who are like small fish, willing to be cooked at all? A country, large or small, depends as much on having the right kind of people as it does on having the right kind of leadership. If everybody is in agreement about what to do and how to do it, when, and where, things go smoothly. Disagreement about these things leads to disarray. Agreement is born of life experience. Not of clear instruction. Reflection and realization, Kid. Reflection and realization.
We live best when we don’t know how other people are living. We live best when we know how other people are living.
What is there to gain? What is there to lose? What is more important, gaining or losing–or not-losing? The most important thing has nothing to do with gaining or losing, but with seeing/hearing/knowing/doing/being in sync with, aligned with, in accord with what needs to be done, when, where and how it needs to be done, and letting that be that, regardless of gains or losses.
Ordinariness is another term for emptiness, for the kind of nothing that is the source of everything. Just being ordinary transforms the world without doing anything. An ordinary original human being would be extraordinary.
What is the value of doing what needs to be done in the situation as it arises? What is the value of seeing things as they are, taking what is available and doing what can be done with it? What is the value of not seeing? Not doing? Not knowing?
Misfortune, success, euphoria and dismay are part of the nature of things. Our experience is our experience, and our response to our experience is our response to our experience, and none of it means anything beyond what it means to those who are impacted by it, and how their response impacts life as it is lived about them. And it is all a part of the path. There is no figuring the angles and devising formulas for this meaning that, and when that happens do this, as a way of gaining the advantage and coming out ahead, and having it made. There is no having it made. There is only doing what needs to be done because it needs to be done, and not because it is the way to success, fortune and glory. That is having it made as much as we can have it made. Doing what needs to be done and letting that be is having it made in each situation as it arises.
Regarding everything as difficult means understanding that there is no effortless way, and that we are called to expend our effort in the service of what needs to happen whether we want to or not. If you think that’s easy, hop in the saddle, and tell them to open the gate.
Midwives assist in birth as it is happening. They do not beat virgins into delivering. We are midwives of our own future. How we live out our role in each situation as it happens makes all the difference.
The sage does not expect anything to be easier than it is. No expectation. no agenda, no opinion, is the way of sage-hood. Sages do not worry about getting ahead. They have it made just as they are.
What are we trying to make happen? What can happen? What needs to happen? What is happening? How can we assist what is happening in the direction of what needs to happen?
In any situation, 10,000 futures are possible. How we live reduces the likelihood of some possibilities and increases the likelihood of others.
One thing’s doing is another thing’s undoing. One thing’s ordered grace is another thing’s traumatic disruption. Dinner for the lion is not something the antelope would bless.
Live without worrying about succeeding or failing, gaining or losing. Let come what’s coming and let go what’s going. Enjoy what is to be enjoyed. Grieve what is to be grieved. Do what needs to be done. Come to terms with how things are. Let your life be your life. Let your options be your options. Let your choices be your choices. Let your future be your future.
Cleverness knows how to manipulate means to achieve its ends. Simplicity observes what is happening, perceives what is trying to happen, and assists what needs to happen. Offering the right help in the right way at the right time is the essence of wisdom. You can’t improve on that.
Cleverness does this so that will happen. Simplicity does this so this will happen because this needs to happen whether that happens or not.
What can be done about what needs to be done is all that can be done, which is not the same as what has always been done. It takes the vision of a sage to see what can be done in any situation in order to do the work of redemption and transformation and bring the new into existence out of the old, one step at a time by not trying to do anything except what needs to be done here/now.
In remaining below, the sage receives what the situation has to offer and brings forth the baby struggling to be born.
In any moment, the sage simply offers what the moment needs out of what she, what he, has to give–without knowing even that anyone was pregnant. Some baby is waiting to be born in every situation. Some future is waiting to unfold in every situation. And all of this is beyond understanding, comprehending. We can only trust that it is so and do what is called for here/now in light of what we know here/now.
The sage does not calculate, strategize, manipulate, control. The sage observes what is happening, asks what needs to happen, and how she, how he, might assist its happening. You wouldn’t want a sage running your business. Do not hire one as a CEO. Making the shareholders happy is not the sage’s concern.
We have to know what we are trying to do, and whether it can actually be done, and if it really needs to be done.
Of what does life consist? Where is life to be found? What brings us to life, makes us alive? What do we need in order to be alive? What’s with all this other stuff doing in our life, cluttering things up, getting in the way with diversions and distractions, noise and complexity?
Some things are clearly better than others. Every living thing prefers one thing over another. The lion’s life is the buffalo’s death. There is no happy state in which everyone has exactly what is needed at no one’s expense. But, compassion keeps things reasonably tolerable much of the time. Balance and harmony are the ideal. Homeostasis, stability, and equilibrium, allowing everything to find its own level–even though that impacts the levels of all other things. Knowing that there are no steady states of being, and that the scales are always adjusting themselves to take something else into account. Getting into the flow of adjustment and accommodation, acquiescence and adaptation.
Compassion lets things be, and lets things become what they might be, and says, “No!” to what should not be, and “Yes!” to what should be—in each situation as it arises–knowing that what should not be is a step on the way to what should be, and vice-versa, and that everything is in flux all of the time, seeking balance and harmony and ease of functioning. And there is no Best for all things ever. If it is tolerable, that is pretty good, in light of all of the possibilities.
To see what needs to be done and to do it—to be right about what is important and to serve it: That is all there is to it. Anything else is just a distraction.
The resistance can come from without, or from within. Don’t let your principles, or your interests, keep you from doing what is important, what needs to be done!
We want more than we can have, more than we have any business having, and cannot adjust ourselves to living within the limits of our life, within what our situation in life allows. “Our reach must exceed our grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” “You’ll never keep them on the farm once they’ve seen Gay Paree!” What guides our boat on its path through the sea? Being better off for going? Going to see what happens? Going because we can’t think of anything better to do? Going because going needs to happen and we don’t know why? What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Who knows what we should be doing instead? How do we know they know what they are talking about? How do we ever make sense of anything? We don’t live to make anything happen so much as to off-set the implications and impact of what is happening. We live to make things better, not to make things Good, finally, at last. And the work to make things better is never done.
The meaning of life is to be alive in the time and place of our living. What does it mean to be alive in the time and place of our living? Answer that question correctly, and you have it made. On the other hand, you may be crucified.
What is our life asking of us? What does the moment require? At times, our life is at odds with the moment. The flow is not always smooth. Disruption and chaos are also part of how things are. We take it all into account, and do what needs to be done, here/now. Knowing that something else will need to be done then/there.
Are we right about what needs to be done? Time will tell. We may be wrong. Maybe something else needs to be done here/now. We may blow it. Life is like that. We can blow it. When we blow it, we need to do what needs to be done about that, and the cycle repeats, perhaps with a better outcome, through all possible futures.
Sometimes we are punished for doing it the way we do it. Sometimes there is a price to be paid for doing it our way, and a price to be paid for not doing it our way. Whose way is going to be the way for us? Whose way is going to be the way we do it? Who is going to live our life? If not us, who?
The roots of tomorrow’s right are grounded in yesterday’s wrong. And the roots of tomorrows wrong are grounded in today’s right. What is needed here/now is the question.
Trusting the inner knowing, and letting things have their own mind is the essential act of faith. If you are going to believe in anything, believe in the power of things to become what they need to be, particularly when assisted by those who do nothing to force their will on the way things are, but constantly look for what needs to happen, and help it come forth in the right kind of way.
We are to our life as an artist is to the canvas. If you think the artist is the source of the painting, you should talk to an artist. Or become one. Wait! You are one! Your life is your canvas.
What is to be gained by being the favored one? What is to be lost by being the disfavored one?
People who are not afraid of dying are not afraid either because life has no value, and they do not care if they live or die, or because they know what is truly important, and are willing to sacrifice their life in the service of that good. And the difference between the two is a simple shift in perspective that turns the light around. How we see what we look at makes all the difference in how we live in response to what we see.
We have to carve wood the way we carve wood, not the way someone else carves wood. We have to live our life the way we would live our life, not the way we think our life ought to be lived—not the way we think someone else would live our life, or have us live it. We take the photo we see, not the photo someone else sees, not the photo we ought to see. And let that be that.
With nothing to live for, there is no reason to live. Therefore, finding value in life is the foundation of life. The spiritual quest is the search for what is important, for what counts, matters, makes a difference—has meaning—in our life, if no one else’s. What is life for you? Do more of that. Do that more often. It will lead you all along the way.
How much can we put up with, and still be who we are? Where do we draw the line? I don’t know how much time you think you have left to live, but how much of it are you willing to spend being not-you, doing what is not-you, associating with those who are not your kind of people? Where, and how, and how often are you drawing lines, saying “No,” and giving yourself to the things that have your name on them?
We have to know when who we are is running afoul of who we must (pretend to) be. We have to play parts, assume roles, do what must be done—and we have to be true to ourselves. We have to be who we are. We have to know when something is a role, a part, and not-us—and we have to compensate ourselves for all of our not-me roles by stepping out of the part as often as possible, and giving ourselves to the things that are us all the way. This is called walking two paths at the same time.
Who knows why? Why this and not that? It doesn’t matter why. We have to step into the What and deal with the way things are, regardless of why they are that way, or of why we have to deal with it, or of why we have to live with all that we have to live with, or of why this and not that… What is required, here and now? What is being asked of us? What needs to be done? What next? What now? It is enough that we answer these questions without being lost in the questions that cannot be answered. Choosing the right questions to ask is the path of wisdom and life even before we answer them–even if they cannot be answered.
Creating intentional communities of innocence—innocent in that they have no agenda to serve, no need of us, no interest in us beyond existing to help us see, hear and understand who we are and what is being asked of us by the time and place of our living—enables us to find what we need to do what needs to be done within the context and circumstances of our life, and helps us be fully alive in the time and place of our living–simply by listening us to the truth of what we have to say.
Where are we most alive? How often do we go there? Where are we mostly dead? How often do we find ourselves there? How often do we do the things that bring us to life? What prevents us from doing those things more often? How often do we engage in the things that please us? How conscious are we of being pleased when we are being pleased? How often do we deliberately give ourselves the gift of life, the pleasure of being alive?
It is the way of things to think that the way we do it is the way it is to be done. Every living thing has its idea of how it is to be done, of how to do it. We all think it is better to be this way than that way. It is better to do it like this than like that. We all think we know what we are doing, and that the others should do it our way. How often do we step back, stand aside, and consider what we are doing, how we are living, from the standpoint of emptiness/stillness/silence? Just seeing, just hearing, just knowing, and seeing what happens?
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.
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