Anicca (Impermanence)

Yesterday, I learned I’m losing my job, along with all 500 of my co-workers. Yet people have noticed that I’m happy, much to their surprise, and it even surprises me.

This morning, I reflected on the Buddhist idea that “conditioned existence” (which basically means anything other than God) has the three characteristics of dukkha (suckiness), anicca (impermanence), and anatta (lack of discrete, definable reality), and that dukkha, the suckiness aspect, is proportionate to clinging to or rejecting what’s there, or grasping for what’s not.

A massive layoff like this is a prime expression of anicca, anatta, and dukkha. My job, like all jobs, like all things, is impermanent, I knew that, but now its impermanence is manifest. There’s also no discrete, definable reality to it. It came into existence because of the decisions of many people, existed through the interdependence of many people working together, and is passing because some of the key conditions which kept it going are changing.

If I grasped it as something I MUST have, something that defined me, I would be in great pain (dukkha), and the suckiness would be overwhelming. Similarly, if I tried rejecting the situation, (NO, this ISN’T happening to me!), my dukkha will go sky-high because I’ll have wasted time in denial instead of looking for another job.

How to live a life with as little dukkha as possible? By not grasping, nor rejecting, but meeting every situation as it is and responding appropriately, always cultivating the compassion to love all as myself and love the Father of all, with all I am.

Here in the fleeting world, in these fleeting bodies and minds, is the Eternal One. Never to leave nor forsake, but with us always, even to the end of the world. And beyond.

The Apostle’s Creed

In The Church that Forgot Christ, Jimmy Breslin muses on the phrase “descended into hell,” and accuses the Catholic Church of taking it out of the Nicene Creed when he wasn’t looking. Of course, nothing of the sort occurred; he’s simply confusing the Apostle’s Creed with the Nicene Creed.

Yet I must admit I too missed that phrase when I joined the Catholic Church and learned the Nicene Creed. I had been familiar with the Apostle’s Creed from my Methodist days, and that phrase, “descended into hell,” spoke to me of the fierceness of Christ’s love. J. Preston Eby saw it as evidence of universalism: If Christ would be willing to descend into hell once (1 Pet 3:18-20), he asked, wouldn’t he be willing to do it again?

When I wrote before that “the Creed” is difficult for me, I meant the Nicene Creed. It was created specifically to re-shape the Gospel into an official belief system which would exclude many Christians. I find the Apostle’s Creed much more a description of the flavor of trust in Christ. There are actually only two words I have trouble with in the Apostle’s Creed, only and virgin. Only, because I sense the entire Creation is the Child of God, and because Jesus himself taught all to call God “our Father.” Virgin, because I see the Lord’s example as theosis, more than kenosis. The “resurrection of the body” isn’t a problem for me, since I never took it to mean “physical body,” but it strikes me that “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting” is quite in harmony with the idea of reincarnation/rebirth, held by some early Christians. I would also translate *credo/pisteuo* as “trust,” since that’s a valid translation, and even as his brother said, it’s not about belief. (Jas. 2:19)

My statement of trust:

I trust in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ his Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I trust in the Holy Spirit; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Center of the Hurricane

Quick thoughts:

  • The center of the hurricane is pure stillness.
  • The yin-yang illustrates the cycles of action swirling within an immovable circle, and around a still center.
  • Jesus said, the sign of the Father within you is action and stillness. (Thomas 50)
  • Everyone struggles to save the world according to their causes and principles, so the world keeps needing to be saved.
  • The Universe will last as long as God wills.
  • Universes will be as frequent and as many as God wills.
  • Can God exhaust his own creativity / curiosity?

What is Church?

That’s the question up for discussion at Symphonic recently. I find it an oddly distressing question to grapple with for several reasons. I guess first among those is church has sometimes been an uncomfortable environment for me. I’ve been involved with almost every major expression of “church” in America, both Protestant and Catholic. I’ve been able to see the fragmented, self-isolating nature of the church in a way that people who stay within a single religious framework can’t. If pressed to give a definition of “church” as it is around us today, I’d say it’s a vehicle for a subset of the culture to express itself as being “Christian,” according to whatever that means to them.

An idea presented by Brian McLaren and others in Emergent is that “Protestant church” is a modern invention which is not addressing the post-modern world. (Catholicism/Orthodoxy is pre-modern and has a somewhat different set of problems.) So now many churches are exploring how to be a “new kind of Christian” which is a wonderful, exciting effort.

There’s one thing, though. I don’t think the Church has ever really worked managed to achieve but a fraction of its potential and purpose. [I had to re-word this since it was far too harsh and seemed to imply something I didn’t mean. But on the other hand, if something fails to achieve but a fraction of its potential and purpose, does it “work”?—Jon] And I don’t know if simply trying to find a new way of “being church” will be enough, since Christians have been trying that for two thousand years.

I think the core problem is that “salvation” is not understood. It has shifted to mean “going to heaven after you die,” and the magnificent Good News that Jesus proclaimed in his Kingdom teachings is reduced to a moral code. I believe that Jesus meant living in the Kingdom of God now, and enjoying the same essential union with God that he had.

When I read Paul, I see someone who was literally transformed by this union at once upon encountering Jesus, and I also see his frustration at the fact that other people weren’t. “How is it that you act as mere men?” he asks. He saw church as the sum of all Christs, with Jesus the “first-born of many brothers,” not as “mere men” who loved Jesus.

That, I think points to the essential problem of church today. The theotic transformation of humanity into divinity isn’t happening, except on a very, very small individual basis, and people often have to leave the church to even learn about it, let alone for it to happen. Even the concept of the teacher or master–a spiritually awakened person who lives in divinized human reality is missing. And if someone did appear in that role, in the overwhelming majority of most churches, she or he’d be driven out post-haste.

Why do I study Zen? to learn from a teacher. Without teachers, church makes for a very strange school. It’s as if the second-graders are teaching the first-graders. No wonder most of the kids are biding their time waiting for the bell to ring.

Trust / Belief

At a Bible study yesterday, I shared my thought about [belief vs. trust](/spirituality/its-not-about-belief/), both of which, along with “faith,” are legitimate translations of the same word “pisteo.”

Today I realized, isn’t it interesting that we have no single word for one who trusts? There’s believer, but no “trustor.” (Even trustee, but no “trustor.”) Trust is in the heart, belief is in the head, less threatening there, I guess. We try to work things out in the head because the heart is vulnerable–that’s where faith really comes in.

Vicarious Violence Weekend!

The last few days I’ve enjoyed some nice vicarious violence. On Thursday, I watched parts of Ong-Bak, Thai Warrior. On Friday and Saturday (and Sunday for that matter), Fight Club, and last night, Kung Fu Hustle.

All I can say about the last movie is it’s a riot. It doesn’t matter if you love martial arts films or hate them, you’ll like this one. Think Roadrunner cartoon meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Metaphors Be With You!

I saw a bumper sticker this morning that said
>**METAPHORS Be With You.**

I laughed out loud. For years, I’ve been impressed by the Eastern Orthodox idea that we can only know the “energies of God,” and that God’s essence, while everywhere and in everything, is utterly beyond description. Anything we can say about God ultimately is a *metaphor.* There’s the Trinity metaphor, the personal and impersonal metaphors, the panentheistic metaphor, and so on. Here, someone had boiled it down to a bumper sticker!

I don’t know if this was a blessing from a fellow panentheist or not (probably not) but that’s how I chose to take it! May the Reality behind the Metaphors be with you all!

Just Watched Fight Club

I just watched Fight Club for the first time. I’ve got to say, it was not at all what I expected, and I’ve got to write about it. I’m also going to post another review this weekend (Peter Pan), which has been a long time coming.

Benedicta Benedictum, Domine

(Bless Benedict, O Lord.)
I’m emotionally exhausted tonight. And I have to confront my own hypocrisy about freedom, identifications, ego, universal love, and all the rest. How quickly it goes out the window when I’m riled! What is this “I” that got so threatened and angry at the news of Cardinal Ratzinger’s election? Simply a charade, that’s what. The same Spirit that gives “me” life gives “him” life–all that’s here is life, expressing life differently, in different bodies and different places. As the Oracle said in the Matrix Reloaded, “everyone is here to do what they’re here to do.”

I need to pray for and love this man. In a comment on a previous post, I wrote that no one could have brought more baggage with him into the papacy. The flip side is that no one enters the papacy with so many people feeling ill-will, anger, and frustration toward him. That atmosphere doesn’t make for healing, and it doesn’t make healers. If he is to give us the love and guidance that we need, he needs to be empowered by love as well. Karma is universal, Dharma is universal. Love needs to flow from me, and if it also does from my brother/Father Benedict, so much the better, although I have no control over that.

May the Church Catholic be the Church Symphonic.