It was a whizz-bang week – the final presidential candidate debates before the New Hampshire primary capped off by the 50th Super Bowl. God bless America, Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Beyoncé and certainly Peyton Manning. And fighter jets. And the pyrotechnics. And Wilson. And Hyundai. And CBS. And the pill that remedies various colon related issues that prevent us from success in our daily conquest.
The Western Christian narrative of God and humanity has been one of separation and not connection, a fierce, frantic and fearful individualism. A whole host of problems arise with this. First, there is the underlying sense of alienation and isolation, resulting in chronic anxiety and uncertainty. We are never quite sure, short of less than satisfying dogmatic formulas, whether we are safe or not. Am I forgiven – enough? Am I saved? Is it really possible that God hears me when I pray? How can I get that right and be sure? Is there even God?
The flip side of the uncertainty is vain over-confidence. I am all-powerful. I can do anything. The world is my playground. You just don’t get it. Get out of my way. Stupid you if you don’t have enough.
Oscillating between these two poles, we exhaust ourselves. The existential angst is never relieved, the material satiation is never enough, the domination is never complete. We are a sometimes weary people in need of greater and greater assurance, no matter how shallow or hollow the language, no matter how sensational the show.
There are those that would say this separation, this individualism, is exactly the triumph of the West – that our belief in the power of the individual and the application of that belief in the material realm have created all that is good in the world. We have imposed order on chaos, driven out superstition with real medicine, turned raw materials into comfort and pleasure and, through accumulation of wealth transformed into overwhelming force, assured the safety of humanity.
Certainly much that is good has been accomplished.
But back on the panic side of our void, our concept of prayer remains characterized alternately by begging or claiming – as if we are constantly but inadequately grasping at something that is not quite ours. We need demonstrable proof, sure results. The tornado lifted when it came to my house. Or it didn’t because I didn’t pray hard enough. Superstorms and terrorist threats are God’s judgment on “the gay lifestyle.” We dash about and shout our certain proclamations. And we allocate more money to put a material or military patch on the mess to keep it all from falling apart.
Presidential politics in 2016 reflects the fever pitch of our bifurcated anxiety. It’s as if the deep underlying infection of isolation and desperation is finally forming a boil, a small and intense festering that burns under the thinnest layer of decaying skin, ready to burst.
The infection is spiritual. It is not religious. It is not political. It is not tied to one economic system or another. One candidate epitomizes the bluster and desperation. And only one comes close to naming the underlying spiritual vacuum and disconnect that rules our discontent – the fire that drives our fever toward the threshold between morbidity and mortality. When Senator Sanders pulls back the curtain masking unfettered greed, he touches, without fully naming, our great hunger and despair.
I am not suggesting at all a vote of any sort. No party, candidate or election can salve the infection of our soul. Nor am I recommending that we shut off the Super Bowl. But I am inviting us to see, to understand, to absorb and to embrace the nature of the illness. And I am suggesting we can cure it with a change of orientation.
It is our isolation that fuels our insatiable hunger. And it is our underlying narrative of separation that walls us off from the deep satisfaction and power of existence. Believing conquest and satiation to be the elixirs of at least happiness, if not eternal life, we drive pedal to the metal toward the brink of extinction.
There is a different way, a different orientation, a different direction in which to look. The forest sages of ancient India captured it so clearly in the Upanishads. Through the practice of stilling the mind and quiet observation, these sages document a Self, immanent and transcendent, that is the loving essence of each one and every thing. It is as if the flashing stream of still pictures that create the illusion of motion has been stilled, and the space between revealed to be something entirely other, a space without fear, a limitless expanse of satisfaction and creative bliss, a place beyond need or desperate grasping.
No matter what or how much it consumes, the separate ego is never satisfied. And our belief that we are disconnected beings in a world we increasingly understand as only material, accelerates us exponentially toward exhaustion and annihilation on the wings of glittering despair.
Mastery of our lust comes from understanding and turning away from isolation and toward connection, away from insatiability and toward satisfaction. It comes from abandoning fear in favor of trust, and willful grasping in favor of willing service.
And, ultimately, it comes from embracing our true Self, the Creator/Spirit/Mind/Source that is the light, the eternal energy and limitless love we begin to glimpse between the moving frames of our desperation. We are not separate and fallen. We only blind ourselves with the fear born of our limited consciousness and chosen view. We are Spirit, experiencing the material. Touch without owning, look without lusting, enjoy without hording. There is enough. Our greatness already is and has no vital connection to anything at all in the halftime show or ads or victor yet to come in Super Bowl 51, no critical dependence on the outcome of election 2016.
Embrace it under the Tree of Life.
© Jerry S Kennell, Two Trees in the Garden. Feel free to quote, as useful, with proper reference.
Jerry Kennell provides spiritual direction in person and by Skype at Two Trees Center for Spiritual Development. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone or text to (970) 217-6078. Click FOLLOW in the upper left menu bar to be notified of future posts.