Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Certainty of Faith – Mine or God’s?

To use biblical scripture as a literal instruction manual for life, so we think we are "properly" understanding what God wants us to do, is to search for the "certainty of faith."

Constantly, I need to remind my Self (my True Self, that is) that my desire for certainty is the handmaiden of Fear. Fear and its desire for certainty is totally of my ego and is the opposite of Faith, love and acceptance.

True certainty comes from the realities of one's continuing transformation – the occurrence of what A Course in Miracles calls "A Holy Instant." These occurrences, for me, have always involved those special times when in spite of all the loud monkey-mind chatter in my head, I am suddenly tuned into the quiet whisper of the Holy Spirit. I can’t explain it any better than that. I cannot predict its occurrence. I cannot conjure it up at will. I can’t make it happen when I want. Sometimes, I can meditate to still my mind and nothing happens. Sometimes I get very serene during a meditation, but no “…still, small voice” from Spirit speaks to me. Then, while reading a novel or article – BOOM! – a thought pops into my focus from out of nowhere. It is a magical, cherished moment when that occurs.

I asked a dear spiritual mentor I knew and respected a great deal. She was like a mother to me. She’s passed on now. “Margaret, how can you tell if this small whisper is Spirit or just your own ego?” She told me (and I can still hear her strong Irish brogue), “Donnie, you just learn to recognize Spirit’s voice after a while.” She was right. I do.

An egocentric certainty comes, for me, from the construction of an airtight set of intellectual, rational beliefs about something – a set of ideas, a situation, an interpretation or perception of events. These cerebral constructs usually take the form of doctrine, dogma, cultural mores, selected remembrances from my upbringing, and other similar personal guiding principles.
In times of overwhelming fear, I have noticed how people seem to gravitate to slogans or catch-phrases that provide very simple solutions to very complex problems. Simple solutions, such as: "America – love it or leave it;" "I don't trust the liberal media;" "God helps those who help themselves;" “Jesus called – He wants His religion back;” "Get big government off our backs;" "I have a PBS mind in a Fox News world;" "The 10 Commandments are not multiple choice." What's good for business is good for the USA;" "The Bible said it. I believe it. That’s all there is to it." and others.

During these times of fear mongering, slogans and catch-phrases appear to be wonderfully comforting. That’s why, in my opinion, politicians have become so adept at speaking in sound bites – 20-second blurbs that “seem” to convey truth and wisdom. They both sate our fears and reinforce their realities at the same time. It is very insidious and very powerful.

These slogans, many of which are very creative, both feed into and are bolstered by an us-versus-them mentality, which is the classic mentality of fearfulness. This mentality always will lead to some form of "my problem is 'out there,' and if only those folks would shape up, my problems would go away."

Our country's been through this so many times. Initially, it was the “savage” Indians. Then the Catholics or Papists were the fall guys. Then it was the Jews. Then the Irish, the Italians, the Blacks, the Hispanics, the Communists. Now, it's immigrants or Muslims.

If a politician, business interest, Cause, or Movement can keep me focused on some specific “out there” as either the source of my problem or the source of my solution, then that Cause or politician will have my vote for a long time. The politician knows this, as does the business interest, the Cause or the Movement. Hence, the 20-second sound bite.

Just ask any Republican almost any question and the answer is “shrink government and reduce taxes.” Ask any Democrat almost any question and the answer is “we are the government and we must always watch out for the little guy.”

In the novel, Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1989, Page 317) there is a succinct description of how we try to find simple solutions to complex issues. “…if you want a more down-to-earth explanation, it’s like the story of the man with a bad stammer who complains that the radio station wouldn’t hire him as an announcer because he didn’t carry a party card. We always have to blame our failures on somebody else, and dictatorships always need an external enemy to bind their followers together. As the man said, for every complex problem, there’s a simple solution, and it’s wrong.”

When I catch myself feeling a real need for certainty, I try to ask myself questions, such as:
Isn't the problem really much more complicated than this solution?
Do I believe this slogan because it makes me feel I am right? Or more correct? Or smarter? Or more secure? Or more spiritual? Or more sophisticated?
Do I feel better reciting this slogan because it enables me to pinpoint my fear, which, in turn, helps me believe there are some rational solutions that will make the issue (and my fear) go away?
If I focus on question one, then I begin to understand that my fear (or my desire for certainty of faith) is really an inside job. The issue is “me” not someone or something “out there.” If I focus on questions two or three, then I have erred again – projecting my fear on someone or something outside of me and looking for someone or something out there that will make it all better.

I know better than to do that. But sometimes "knowing better" just isn't enough, is it? I guess that’s why the goal is for me to be on a spiritual journey instead of arriving at a spiritual destination.

Thanks for listening and, as always, I hope you forward this. In fact I would be honored if you did.

#4 January, 2012

Donald O'Dell

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