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The Metaphors for the Journey

Metaphors, that all authors and teachers use (all people being teachers), sometimes help us understand and relate to difficult, obscure, or hard to express in language, concepts and words like love, compassion, enlightenment, stillness, meditation, emptiness, no self, infinity, the now, no thought and a host of others.  The problem with the use of words is that we all have a meaning for that word in our head, which may or may not be what the sender meant.

Metaphors don't always solve the problem but they often allow us to get past the stickiness of words and meanings and branch out into new territory.

A man was complaining to a woman about how fast and powerful the current of social and political injustice was.  He said, "its like throwing a small rock into a river to stop the current, it's a futile gesture."  The woman responded with, "That may be true but a million rocks will dam up the river and a million votes and voices will change the climate, If one voice fails to speak out, then the current is left to find its own way."  

When two worlds collide, or when two worlds divide

Neither Eckhart, Merton, nor Vanzant want us to maintain a separate existance from all of creation.  But all find it difficult to surround the idea of non-separateness with words.  For language has a big hurdle to overcome, its own inherent flexibility in creating the menu of interpretation.  We all have a definition of a word in our heads.  When multiple words are used to convey an idea we can easily interpret the message not as the sender meant but as our understanding permits. 

Thus ideas (states of mind or levels of consciousness) like enlightenment, surrender, detachment, unconditional love, the ego and a host of others often meet resistance.  What you heard is not what I said, what you understood is not what I meant.  A trick I often use when I am confronted with a difficult concept and find myself critiquing it is to let go of what I think I am hearing or seeing and focus instead on what I am hearing or seeing.  Am I paying atention to this moment or am I busy arguing in my head even before the message is complete.

When for example an author speaks of the false self and the true self, of the external self or the ordinary self, of the self image, the ego.  When detachment from these entities is suggested so that we can "be", when we are asked to not think, to empty our minds, to be quiet both phycially and mentally so that our true selves can come forward.  How can we understand completely if we have not had the experience.  How do you explain "salt" to one who has never experienced salt.  How do you convey the idea of surrender to or detachment from to one who is filled with all of the emotions and history of their personal existance.  How do you teach loving consciousness to a person with no conscience.

Detachment from the self or self image: Merton, "We do not detach ourselve from things in order to attach ourselves to God, but rather we become detached from ourselves in order to see and use all things in and for God".  Eckhart, "The self or ego remains in order to function in the world, we detach from our identification with our self image in order to live in the "now".  

We can believe that detachment means I no longer care about or concern myself with what goes on in the world, with my friends or within my family.  My ivory tower of enlightenment is the cacoon I now live in, whether that is a complete surrender to God, or the complete letting go of my external self. 

What it can mean, and does for almost all cases, is I am no longer identified or attached to that which makes up my self image.  Whether that is winning or losing, status or power, love or hatred, pain, history or anxiety over what might happen.  I am no longer attached to the outcome.  I am just on the path, the path of not the path to.

Many speak of the will of God.  At the same instant they also know that we cannot know God and we cannot descibe God with any language that captures all of what we believe God to be.  And yet we try.  Merton: "For whatever is demanded by truth, by justice, by mercy, or by love must surely be taken to be willed by God."  But still, "Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than about Him".

My own view: We cannot know God and yet man tells us that love, truth, justice and mercy are God's Will.  This is man interpreting God.  "Let man know by his very nature what is and should be Good, and live that way. Let God be the mystery of creation and let man discover forever what God has wrought". 

The difference is a fine line.  And, no one has to agree with that fine distinction.  But the difference is worthy of discussion.  To carry a vision of creation within and to understand all of the special conditions that allowed our existance can bring forth the awe and mystery of Life and the Universe, its existance and its journey which we are now a part of.  What belief system has not caused distruction and pain.  None.  To live correctly means one must honor all life, the nature of man, and yet take responsibility for our choices toward each other, this planet, this Universe. 

  

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