March 18, 2018
Celebrate What's Right
Tessa Maskell: It is wonderful to be together and to be in this grouping of interbeing. I like that word, interbeing. In interbeing we are together in a collaborative, collective hour resulting in increased communion. John Gray and I will be sharing this time and I shall start.
Many moons ago, I was confirmed in the Anglican Church in South Africa and although I didn't understand or like a lot of the form, I knew intrinsically that there was something right at the heart of the Anglican Church that really fired me up. Fast forward to some spiritual education I had from 1974 onwards, when I discovered in that education the reality of what the Christ spirit really was and is. I could feel the spirit of it all very clearly.
Recently, I decided to take myself into the Anglican Church in Malvern, the Church of the Holy Trinity. A girlfriend of mine sings in the choir and she encouraged me to come to the church. Ever since then, I have been going regularly and have befriended the vicar, Canon David Nichol. He's a bright fresh soul, very 21st century authentic Anglican. So I asked if I could see him and talk to him. My being a new kid on the block, attending this Church, I felt I should say where I was coming from. He came to my house and I told him of my experience in the church in South Africa. I said I'd really like to do more in this church. Might I do that? He asked me what I would like to do. I said I'd think about it and come back to him. He said he would also give it some thought too and let me know. I then asked him if he had ever seen the movie, The King's Speech. He had indeed seen the movie and was I aware of the book attached to it, called "Finding a Voice," by Hilary Brand. He said it is an excellent workbook and goes deeper and further into the movie. The meeting ended but the conversation has never left me as to what I could do, what he and I might do, to finding a voice. We might well do something in the days ahead. I now have my own copy of the book and it is good to really see what Hilary Brand has put into it.
I don't know how many of you have seen the movie. If you haven't, it is worth a view because it is much more than a yarn, a story about the British Royal family. It is a profound look at, in current terms, the dysfunctionality of family. The future King was obviously, in today's terms, verbally abused by his father, and that process really shut him down, big time! He had the most awful stutter. He really had a difficult time with his father. He was not encouraged to speak up at all. When his brother abdicated from becoming King, he had to become King. That probably terrified the daylights out of him. With a stutter, and having to make public speeches, he was extremely nervous, actually incapable. He put on a very good façade, which the English do well, but he was going to have to speak in public. His wife found him something of a therapist, a marvelous Australian called Lionel Logue, but the future King was extremely resistant to the process. Lionel Logue loosened him up and he started to get it, only just. Lionel got him to swear, dance, let some energy out in a safe container and he slowly began to speak and find his voice, but was still very stiff, very formal. His wife was very different but he was very stiff, very formal and he really hated opening his heart and opening his mouth. The King said in his world, he had really never spoken to anyone like Lionel before. Eventually he and Lionel became good friends once the future King had really done some work. Lionel would not let him off the hook. There is a funny part where the future King is very angry and demands, "How dare you speak to me like that!" Ridiculous, stiff stuff that was the armor which precluded him from A, speaking up and B, having a decent sort of a life. It is a film and a book for our times, certainly in England. And it has had a profound effect on me. Many people in England have begun to see what the man had to live through and how dammed up he was.
Once the future King began to really speak up, he was very different with his children, different with his wife, different with everyone, but it was difficult being chained up emotionally for so long. I use this as an example of a lot that's going on in England where people are longing to say something, longing to speak up, but don't quite know how to do it. They don't know how to be authentic. They don't know how to be together in a way that is authentic and creative. So I say to you, this is a great joy for me to do this work and to be to be in the middle of the Anglican Church in England, finding a voice to start doing things within that system as much as I can.
I remember talking to a mentor of mine—an Englishman—and said to him that he seemed very clear. "You've got the answer. You know a great deal about expressing the Christ Spirit. Have you spoken to the Archbishop of Canterbury about this, the head of the Anglican Church?" And my tutor/mentor said, "I don't think that question has been brought to me yet." I've never stopped thinking about the millions of people all involved in various religions, some of them Catholic, some of them Anglican, some of them Protestant, some of them Muslim, all of that—locked in a belief system and not aware of who they really are and what they are here on this planet to do.
I remember in my spiritual education we were encouraged to realize that we incarnated on this planet to do something: to lift up what we could lift up, to purify what wasn't all that clear, but above all, we came with an awareness and a purpose. And still I look around at all the people in the church on Sunday, so many people who love Jesus, love the Lord, all in a way lovely, but I want to say, "Who are you? What are you doing here on this planet?" Jesus allegedly said, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do..." (John 14:12) I look forward to getting the chance to do it. I can see that David Nichol, the vicar will ask, "What would you like to do?" We might well have a weekly study group on "Finding a Voice," by Hillary Brand, and begin to go deeper into what held the future King back and what released him, which was actually, apart from the therapy, a real friendship, communion, authenticity, calling a spade a spade, albeit via some hefty bad language! Once free to express himself, he became a different man. I think he realized that the nobility of character that he exemplified, as well as the nobility of his birth, allowed him to come into his own. The stuttering was nearly totally healed. So, I am very keen about finding a voice. In some ways I am just beginning to find my own voice in Holy Trinity Church in Malvern. And I'm excited as to what I might be able to do with others. The woman who's in the choir is part of my book club and she's ready to do something really new, perhaps to inspire the people in the church to find a new way to look at Christianity—the Christ spirit in action on earth through us all. It is not limited to one man who was around perhaps 2000 years ago. He was saying to do it yourself. You are that!
This will be an adventure. Heaven knows where it will take me but I'm ready.
I just wanted to introduce this idea of finding a voice. Maybe we've all had some sort of voice before but maybe there is more to come. I'm not just talking about words, I'm talking about the Presence, the Presence behind the words. That's what shines through. It's an exciting opportunity to do some work, to reveal the truth of myself and encourage others to find the truth of themselves—to find their voice— and not be frightened to speak up, to stick one's neck out and make a difference. I think it could be fun and I'm really thankful for this time and we'll see where it goes.
John Gray: Who I am in my actual personal experience of myself determines how I see everything. Or, to put it another way, how I see and understand what's going on in the world declares the identity my consciousness lives in. So, I'm constantly revealing myself, constantly exhibiting the self I experience. Sometimes others see me; often not. We might each ask ourselves—and then wait quietly for the answer—who fills my consciousness? Not what fills it. Who?
True spiritual identity is absolute. Human nature identity is relative. If our wonderful facilities of consciousness are occupied by a big fat ego, this makes the entire world an object experienced by an illusory, separate "self." The false self is conditioned to see everything in dualistic terms. If I maintain attention in this unreal self—and if I do this, I am doing it by choice—then I experience the world only through this phony self, and it's all make-believe! Nothing is as it seems, and I can strain to make sense of it all and never succeed, except in imagination. I think of that when I watch the news on television.
This small state of mind strips things down to two choices and then usually identifies with only one of them. The process of doing this creates the illusory world of opposites in human experience. It arbitrarily divides "what is" into endless dualities: good/bad, like/dislike, agree/disagree, want/don't want, "me"/"not me," even divine/profane. Seeing through this "either/or" lens, the ego takes a position on one or the other side of a duality in reaction to whatever is going on. Of course, taking a position on one side is rejecting the other side. Assuming a "position against" reinforces a phony self, defined by what "I" oppose, avoid, resist, condemn, resent, etc. The false self is always defined relative to the "other" and experiences itself as being what it is because of what the other is. In this identity, the cause of "my" experience/feeling/behavior is attributed to the other so immediately and automatically it feels normal to do it—not because it is normal, but because nothing else is known. It's really hard—impossible, actually—to be generous or compassionate or thankful if everything is the "other's" fault!
A business acquaintance of mine confided recently that he's been "going through a lot." He described what the "lot" was, and it was all about his positions for and against things and other people—his judgements, in other words. He asked me if I had any advice, expecting, I think, that I'd commiserate with his plight. Instead, I suggested that seeing himself as "going through a lot" makes him small and the "lot" big, so there's little wonder he was feeling overwhelmed. Instead of "going through a lot," how about a lot is going through me? If "a lot is going through me," then I'm big and the "lot" isn't overwhelming.
How does the world look to you?
Dewitt Jones, a well-known National Geographic Magazine photographer and international lecturer, often speaks on the theme, "Celebrate what's right with the world!" His critics call him a "Pollyanna" for his incessantly positive outlook on life, but I've heard and seen him speak and I discern that his view of the world is a function of the place he looks at it from. "There's far more right with the world than wrong," Dewitt insists. "Change your lens! Put on a lens of celebration."
Probably just about everybody has seen photographs of our planet taken over the past half-century or so by astronauts or from unmanned satellites in space. It's a vista few have experienced in person—I read online that since 1961 when Yuri Gargarin became the first to see the Earth from this perspective, only 536 people have been shot into space. Twelve of those walked on the moon.
American astronaut Mike Massimino said he was entranced by Earth's verdant South American rain forests, rugged African deserts, and sparkling city lights spread out below him. Day or night, the planet looked like a paradise. Massimino is quoted, "I thought at one point, if you could be up in heaven, this is how you would see the planet. And then I dwelled on that and said, no, it's more beautiful than that. This is what heaven must look like. I think of our planet as a paradise. We are very lucky to be here."
Photographs of what astronauts see show the three-dimensional, physical planet. From the moon, Earth appears a beautiful blue-and-white orb, a jewel suspended in the vast blackness of space. But what would we see if we could view it through a different lens, a cosmic lens? The Earth's magnetosphere extends at least as far as the moon or the moon wouldn't stay in orbit, but that energy isn't directly visible to earth-eyes. And what about the golden, enfolding heliosphere that includes us and vastly more? And that's just our solar system.
Massimino and other astronauts sense more than what they see from space, and vocabularies are inadequate to describe the experience. "Heaven." "Paradise." Yes, those words convey something, but just a hint of that something.
"There's far more right with the world than wrong," Dewitt Jones says, smiling. "Change your lens! Put on a lens of celebration." He senses more than what he sees, too. Heaven.
Indeed, as the astronaut said, "We are very lucky to be here." We understand the feeling, but, of course, it isn't luck. It's our purpose, the planet's purpose, God's purpose, and we're on earth to help fulfill it.
A hundred years ago, American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote what became one of her best-known poems, "Renascence." She titled it with an anglicized spelling of the French word for "rebirth." These are my favorite lines from it:
The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide.
Think of an astronaut's view of the world. Let's extend our arms out wide on either side, open wide our hearts, and let love's blessing stream forth to bathe it all.
In two weeks the Christian world celebrates Easter. Though lots of earnest people may sense more than they see, the occasion is almost always interpreted through a religious lens, which is formed of beliefs. Only a dim view is possible through that dark glass. The real significance of the Lord of Lords' presence on earth can be only scarcely seen that way, despite the sincerity of untold millions of people. The story that's been told for twenty centuries about His crucifixion and resurrection serves the purposes of the churches that preach it much more than it serves divine purpose. But, seen or not, what the Lord accomplished then remains today as available as it was all those years ago. Or was it just a couple days ago?
How may we see what's called Easter through the lens of spiritual expression? Words do not do justice to the transcendent magnificence of archangelic presence re-established in human consciousness then and with us and in us, now. Seen large, it is a spiritual heliosphere, enveloping, nurturing, and sustaining the earth, humanity, and all life forms. Heaven and earth are one, here and now.
There is a lot going on these days—in individual people everywhere, in our societies, in the Earth itself, in plants and animals and all the systems of the natural world. But we're not going through a lot; a lot is going through us! Let's not play small. Let's view the world through the macro-lens of our own spiritual expression. Our personal presence is large, and we are one in a yet far vaster presence. The identity we actually know determines how the world looks to us. It determines what we see in it and in one another; it determines what matters to us, and all we say and do.
Let's see and celebrate what's right with the world. Let's be what's right in the world!
The Ted talk by Dewitt Jones quoted in this address may be accessed at: https://dewittjones.com/pages/tedx-dewitt-jones
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