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Friday, October 2, 2009

Gimme! Thanks! Oops! Wow! III. Oops! – CREDO LXXXIX

Continuing this commentary on the four types of prayer, defined so brilliantly by Rabbi Marc Gellman, maybe a word should be added about the blessed role of humor in the great religions, because it is an important factor and, in my opinion, a desperately needed one. Wisdom and joy are placed together in the Old Testament, and there is a glorious tradition in the story of the Baal Shem Tov, who woke up one morning and decided to dance and rejoice and celebrate God in every way possible rather than pour over books and debate all the time. Just one story illustrates this. He entered a tavern to beg money for charity, whereupon a bunch of drunken Cossacks beat him up. He then picked himself and said, “Well, that was for me. Now what have you got for the poor?” At which, the Cossacks roared with laughter and emptied their pockets. He became the source for Hasidism.

In Islam, there is the Sufi “Idiot Sage” Mullah Nasruddin, whose teaching jokes still amuse us after one thousand years and are to be repeated in new versions to this day. He was looking outside his house desperately for something. “What are you looking for?” “My key.” “Where did you lose it?” “In my house.” “Then why are you looking out here?” "Because there’s more light out here!”

I have met many Buddhist lamas in my life, but have yet to meet one who is not cheerful. There are smiling Buddhas. When we met His Holiness the Dalai Lama in India, my husband had a bloody scar on his forehead. “What happened to you?” asked the Dalai Lama. Walter told him that because he was tall, he had walked into a shop awning. “Well,” smiled His Holiness, shaking his hand, “that will give you a good reason for remembering Dharamsala!”

Christianity has had the worst time of it. A family story tells of a Puritan forebear who reprimanded his little boy for saying his soup tasted delicious by pouring cold water into it. It was the Sabbath. But C. S. Lewis lightened us a bit, and today, bringing laughter and delight, we have the great and fun-loving spiritual works of British writer Timothy Freke, now a dear friend of mine. As you can see, especially today with one calamity after another, we need to remember that humankind is the one species that can laugh. It is a sacred gift. Even as the Titanic was sinking, someone quipped, “Anybody want to buy a gold watch?” It takes guts to find “laughter in the void.”

So now to the matter of Oops! which translates to the solemnities of penitentia, or asking forgiveness for our manifold sins. For this we have Ramadan, Lent, Yom Kippur, and many, many of our daily prayers that beg for forgiveness. The Episcopal “General Confession” still gets me in the middle of the night – at almost 87, I am no longer able to sin big time (I sin on the installment plan!), but the one that gets me is “Forgive me for those things I ought to have done and have not done!” That is an abyss!

It seems to me that much of what we do starts with ignorance, and I learned this from a tree: A mistake is a loop in consciousness made to expose a greater surface to experience! A tree intends to grow vertically, but branches out more or less horizontally with twigs bearing leaves exposed to the sun. And each new leaf is an aha! of consciousness, and thus it (and we) grow! Neat!

Secondly, there is a mysterious statement in the New Testament that Christ wears a seamless garment. To me this suggests a whole aura, which has led me to think that if we enter this world with an aura with holes in it (metaphorically speaking) they might represent our past failings and so we try one by one to fill them up. Well, I first became conscious of one and felt very pleased with myself. Oops! I discovered that wasn’t enough. I had to actively practice and apply what I had discovered in order to truly mend that hole.

There are both physical and mythological allusions to this. Each of us has an optic “blind spot.” That’s a fact. And there is the story of Achilles’ heel – his goddess mother held him by the heel and dipped him in the River Styx to make him invulnerable. Oops! Where she held him left him vulnerable. The Teutonic hero Siegfried bathed in dragon’s blood to become invulnerable but a leaf fell on his back, witnessed by someone, and so, Oops! a spear conveniently found that spot. Another Norse, and lovable one, was Baldur, who was protected by all that grows, except the mistletoe, which didn’t count. He was killed by an arrow tipped by mistletoe. Oops! And Chiron, the patron of all “wounded healers”! His story gives us the clue to our redemption, because unless you have experienced the mistake you cannot really help another person. You cannot become a good therapist just by reading a text!! Your personal journey of suffering only gives you that gift. It takes one to know one! This is what “Bill” learned from Jung and applied to Alcoholics Anonymous, and this is only one example. “Every saint was once a sinner” about covers it.

As I see it from an astrological point of view, our lives unfold in stages of 28/29 years, the times it takes Saturn to transit all around our charts. Supposing your karma or lesson (symbolically speaking) involves “eggs.” In Stage I, you have little choice of parents, neighbors, etc. So you have to eat your eggs hard-boiled. If you don’t succeed, then in Stage 2, as you move out into new experiences, the eggs come at you scrambled but the motif is still eggs! By the age of 56, hopefully you have recognized them and are able even to enjoy poached eggs and serve eggs up in cookies and cakes to delight others, or else you may end up in Stage 3 with a reputation as a “bad egg”! Obviously, the trick is not to repeat the same mistake over and over. Unravel the meaning of what those “eggs” represent. Fill one of those holes in your aura and move on to the next one.

Finally, a word I have not mentioned, and that is the damage done to kids with the words sin and guilt! I watch with admiration as some wise parents, applying tough love, instead of saying “Bad girl or boy!” simply say, “That’s a no!” or instead of telling them they won’t get what they want, simply say, “It’s not going to happen.” I myself watched a young mother whose child crashed his tricycle into a tree stopping and diverting the child’s tears by saying, “Oh, the poor tree!” The child realized it wasn’t the tree’s fault and tried to comfort it. These are simple steps to start the very young off without the onus of guilt and a lifetime to come of unconscious shame, anger, hatred, and blame. It’s worth a try.

The secret of redemption is indeed “Oops! My blame” Almost two thousand years later, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” is still hard for many of us, but it remains the only way to go. Do no harm.


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