Wish list: Life excavation, compassion, friendship, depth, clear seeing.
For belief in God, the viewer is encouraged to ask the same question – which life is the more exciting, intriguing, compelling life? The one with the viewpoint embracing belief in God or the random life, purposeless life without God? And it’s not simply intellectual assent to the existence of God that is being asked here. What is being asked is our willingness or capacity to trust, thereby flinging ourselves headlong into life itself – with all of its unknowns and all of its risks.
For myself, I couldn’t imagine returning to life directed my own vision or desires. That was too small, too gray, too safe, too hopeless. Life directed by existence or reality itself (God if you will) is far more exciting, colorful and bewitching than anything I could have dreamed up. Once you taste champagne and caviar . . .
Recently I had the occasion to reconnect with the woman who was my principal for eight years in grade school. She is just as bright, vibrant and sharp today as she was then. While she worked many years in education and administration, she still works three days a week as a chaplain. Her focus has always been in the area of social justice and service. I credit her and her faculty with my own interest in service and social justice.
However, there is more going on here than simply a focus on justice. The capacity to focus on others in a permanent way allows us to “de-center” ourselves. It is in “de-centering” or becoming other-centered that we experience a deeper, more permanent happiness and joy.
This can feel like a scary process that involves giving up control. However, in reality any feelings of security or control we imagine we have are really illusory. There is no real security or control in life. Life lives us. We are being lived.
Often circumstances in our lives will naturally move us towards this process of becoming other-centered. Falling in love, becoming a new parent, religious conversion or work situations can nudge us toward de-centering temporarily. This is why new lovers are so happy, as are new parents. But not until it becomes a permanent way of living and being will joy and happiness envelop us and permeate our lives.
The medical profession knows too. Those struggling with depression or recovering from addiction are encouraged to volunteer and engage in service. They are encouraged to “de-center” as part of their healing.
Bring more joy into your life. Learn about social justice. Focus on others in the world. In doing so you will become more authentic, bring depth to your life, become real.
Often we like to think that we are free. After all, if we are adults we can go where we want and do what we like. However, if you think about it, many things restrict our freedom. Lack of education or income, along with discrimination, gender and age can restrict our freedom just for a start. Illness, abuse or addictions may also be factors that restrict our ability to freely choose in our best interests. Cultural and family norms may also restrict the choices we see available.
When you think about it – anything that distracts us or prevents us from choosing in our own best interests and those of the common good (to which we are inter-related, inter-dependent and inter-connected) restricts our freedom.
We are not truly free until we are free to choose for our own health and well being and the well being of others.
Justice begins within.