SPEAK YOUR TRUTH QUIETLY AND CLEARLY
SPEAK YOUR TRUTH QUIETLY AND CLEARLY
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
HAMLET – William Shakespeare
My grandmother was a wise yet simple farm woman. She knew how to gather any vegetable from the garden or berry from the woods and cook it into a delicious casserole or jam. The storage shelves in the cellar were filled each year with mason jars of wonderfully colorful canned vegetables and preserves. And in her spare time she crafted from scraps of dresses and coats gorgeous quilts or blankets.
I learned from her that a man “is what he eats.” The foods which a person consumes will ultimately determine the health status of his/her body. Unfortunately, I strayed from Grandma’s wisdom regarding foods and nutrition as a young adult resulting in various difficulties with the Western culture health epidemics plaguing us today.
I also strayed from the spiritual/life lessons learned from my farming community as a young boy leading to addiction and behavioral patterns which controlled the years when I should have been maturing into a responsible adult. Living life soberly has been a prolonged process of ‘catching up’ to others who learned their lessons well and pursued G.O.D. – Good Orderly Direction – rather than waste precious years cavorting as a prodigal son in the far country. (see LUKE 15)
Those of us who share these experiences of addictive exile have a choice to make in our recovery years. The times were neither good nor bad – they simply were. What we did, the hell we created for others and ourselves cannot be reversed. The heartaches and pain inflicted on loved ones including ourselves must be accepted as part of the process leading to sobriety. Today I know with certainty that I was a royal A-hole back then. However, today I also know that I don’t have to sit in this chair ten years from now looking back and saying, “Damn, what an asshole I was back on September 18, 2019.”
They say that humility is all about acceptance – accepting and reconciling my past, who I was and what I did, but then recognizing who and what I am destined to be as a sober-minded man living a life that doesn’t really belong to me. It’s a journey with G.O.D.
So, now you ask, “Larry, what does this have to do with Shakespeare and Hamlet?”
Everything, absolutely everything in life is neutral, neither good nor bad. It is the thinking which you and I attach to ‘everything’ that makes it good or bad. We have the choice to create the life we want. My physical pain suffered today from poor habits of eating and addiction years ago is a good thing because I choose to marvel in the complexity of a body which uses pain to remind me that, yes, I am still alive. The morning leg and knee pain awaken me to a new day saying a prayer of gratitude,
“Thank you Lord for giving me breath and heartbeat. My leg hurts, my knee hurts, but they still function and, oh, just look at the glorious sunshine awakening me.”
Am I always successful deferring thinking about everything that crosses my radar screen? Of course not, I continue to be a member of the human race and therefore frequently offer an opinion, good or bad. But, another tool learned in my recovery journey is the Serenity Prayer,
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, courage to change the things I should, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
For me, the wisdom is in knowing when my opinion matters and when it does not. When should I apply thinking to the never-ending parade of drama in today’s life? As I process this choice I realize more often than not that my opinion truly does not matter.
“Why ask about behavior when you are soul-essence,
and a way of seeing into presence!
…Forget the nonsense categories of there and here,
race, nation, religion,
starting point and destination.
…No more questions now
as to what it is we’re doing here.”
(underlining is my emphasis)
RUMI, THE BOOK OF LOVE by Coleman Barks
This short passage from Rumi, a Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, Sufi mystic, emphatically tells that instead of being concerned with the ego and its demands, the journey in this life is all about the inner essence, the divine spark. Call it Spirit, call it energy, call it God or whatever our faith traditions name this essence, this is the ultimate reality. Rumi, in naming “there and here, race, nation, religion, starting point and destination as nonsense categories”, challenges the mind to ask, “If not that, what then is important in this world experience?” Not names, not locations on this planet, not vocations, not family status, not physical appearance, not past successes nor personalities define who or what we are as members of this human experience. If we believe otherwise, we are deluding ourselves.
Of course I have difficulty with this thought process. Being reared and having lived my life in Western culture with its insatiable drive to promote the needs of self (a.k.a ego) over all other concerns, the welfare of fellow mankind and the stewardship of our Mother Earth easily become lost in the hubbub of me, me, me.
Perhaps if reared in Eastern philosophy or having embraced the ways of mystics as a young man, viewing the inner self as reality and all else as secondary baggage would not be as daunting. But, I am a typical Westerner and therefore, I struggle. I try not to compare myself with others on their spiritual trek, I only compare to whom I have been and where I have walked. My goal is progress, not perfection.
Silence the noise of others; listen to your own voice.
Did you hear that? Should I repeat it? Don’t give more credence to the thoughts and rhetoric of other people than you give to your own. “To thine own self be true.” Polonius speaking to his son Laertes in Hamlet has been interpreted by many to mean many things. But, let’s just keep it simple. You and I have each an internal dialog that speaks from a place of experience, of guidance, of direction, of inspiration which often is amazingly ‘other-directed’ arising from the wisdom of the cosmos dwelling in our inner sanctum. Call it soul, call it God, call it Spirit, call it a higher power. It is ours and it is unique to each one of us according to the gifts blessing our lives.
So, why would anyone not listen to his or her inner voice? Have you ever said any of the following? “That man is better educated than I am, therefore he is more intelligent. She is a psychiatrist, therefore she has deeper insight. He is a preacher with a Doctor of Divinity behind his name, therefore he is more spiritual. He’s my father, he knows better. She’s my mother, she wouldn’t misguide me. They are high school counselors, they know what is my best course of education.”
Just stop! Stop it! They all may be wonderful people, but only you know what speaks from your heart. Some of them are not wonderful people, they are playing the control game for selfish reasons. Don’t allow others to call your shots. This is your life and it’s your choice what you will do with that life. Choice is life’s golden ticket. Don’t give that ticket to someone else.
When you wake up in the morning, after you have said ‘thank-you’ for this day and this opportunity to breathe air into your lungs and pump blood through your body, after you have stretched your legs and arms, after you have smiled at your spouse or cat or dog lying beside you, get up and rejoice. Rejoice over the opportunities ahead of you to be fully involved in an active and productive day plan with household projects or with your job. Or rejoice exceedingly as you anticipate with zeal the coming day of rest and relaxation. Maybe it will be a day at the beach, or a hike in the woods, or a shopping trip with the grandkids, or a special lunch with a dear friend. Embrace it! Cherish it! You are a miraculous treasure brimming with options.
I can hear some of you saying, “Oh, zip it , Larry. Life sucks.”
Maybe it does. Loss of loved ones, physical ailments, poverty, social injustice, hatred, intolerance, prejudice, divorce, injuries remind us every day that this is not a Pollyanna world. Stuff happens. But, all that turmoil is processed by the same mind which also says that you are special and you are worthy of goodness and mercy. You can walk the path of life with an overflowing cup. You can rest in green pastures by still waters. Or you can wallow in the mire with creepy, crawly things. Again, it’s your choice which scenario you decide to internalize. Don’t sell out to negative circumstances which are predominantly beyond your control while diminishing the spectacular essence within. Listen to this internal voice which you have proven as truth through experience and reasoning that tells you, “Wow, I am going to have a great day.”
It’s not easy staying out of the pits. Visit a grumpy neighbor, watch the national headlines on TV, look at your overdue electric bill. I understand because I have been there, I sometimes visit there even today. Life has to be a daily, if not hourly, surrender to that inner voice telling me that, contrary to my negative thoughts, I can enjoy a perfect day because for this moment at this time I am a perfect version of me. I hope to evolve and enlighten with each tomorrow, but for this moment in life I have everything I need within me to live a day far beyond my greatest expectations. Believe it absolutely with heart, mind, and soul. It will happen. Guaranteed! Today’s another great day.
In his daily writing for July 8th Father Richard Rohr , a proponent of social justice, states that most of the negative feedback he receives advises him to not get too political. He responds,
“Yet how can I read the Bible and stay out of politics? Again and again (approximately 2,000 times!) Scripture calls for justice for the poor. The Gospel is rather “socialist” in its emphasis on sharing resources and caring for those in need.”
Well said. If I read in Scriptures about the life and works of Jesus, the Christ, if I profess this same Jesus as my Lord, if I receive Jesus within my heart and pattern my life according to His, then how can I not be political? Jesus was the ultimate petitioner for the poor and needy. He opposed the wealth of the greedy, the corruption of Judaism, and the oppression of Rome in his ministry to the downtrodden of Israel. He did so knowing that his would not be a pleasant trip through an earthly life and that a violent death awaited him on the cross. Yet, in human form he persisted because that is what humanity is supposed to do. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked and heal the sick regardless of the consequences.
“The primary role of religion and spirituality is to reconnect, the very meaning of the Latin word “religio”. The Greek word “polis”—which led to the word politics—simply means city or public forum, where people come together. Why have religion and politics become so antagonistic when they have similar goals?” Richard Rohr
America boasts its Christian roots. History tells us that Christians were at the forefront of social movements to end slavery, support women’s rights, encourage laws providing civil rights, Mediare, Social Security, and Medicaid. Most famously America has welcomed the downtrodden and oppressed from other nations regardless of creed or race. We are a beacon of hope to the hopeless, a land of opportunity for everyone.
The Gospel is often called the Good News because it carries a message of not only redemption, but also hope for those who have no hope. The refugee, the widow, the orphan, the persecuted, the outcasts of society are the target of Jesus’ ministry today just as back in 1st century Israel. The oppressed are empowered by words which tell them that God loves them equally regardless of social status, wealth or faith profession. Because of that Good News we know that all mankind dwells within the family of a mighty and just God.
14 My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? 15 Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. 16 What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? 17 In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity. JAMES 2:14-17 CEB
The above verse from the Book of James is well-known in recovery programs. It reminds me that my success in defeating alcohol has been a miracle, a gift from the Higher Power of my understanding. But, it is not free. A continued and contented sobriety requires payments. Service to others is written on my IOU to God. “Faith without works is dead.”
“Today I am encouraged to see many of my Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist brothers and sisters actively engaged with the political realm, speaking truth to power, and holding our political leaders accountable. Being political is a basic civic, human, and spiritual duty!” Richard Rohr
I would like to think that I am the guy who always keeps a cool head, always speaks kindly, always responds in a civil manner. But, I am not. I stammer, spit, and sputter in moments of anger or disgust. In my mind I am able to read to you the riot act when I feel I’ve been maligned. Don’t you know who I am?
In the previous paragraph “I” or a form thereof was used 8 times. That is the problem. “I” sometimes becomes the dominant pronoun used in thought and conversation leading to a severe case of me,me,me which almost always excludes “you”, “they”, and even “we” from any dialog. It becomes a one-sided conversation which clearly clarifies my position, but simultaneously bars you from taking part in the interaction. Great ego stuff for me, not much fun for you.
The world is like that, is it not? Tact, civility, and compromise have all but disappeared. Conversation consists of pointing accusatory fingers, pumping personal ego, and demanding respect where respect is undue. “My way or the highway” has become the norm in political discourse separating your party from my party and forcing one of us to be the boogeyman. In a candidate debate for elected office, the debate often turns into a tit-for-tat assault on personal integrity. Oh, never mind that children in America are starving, that violence is escalating alarmingly, or that we could be nuked tomorrow. You, candidate A, are a scumbag and I, candidate B, will let our constituency know all your lurid details. Really? Do you think the homeless veteran scrounging for a meal in the dumpster really cares what candidate A did?
It seems that we take our cues from celebrities, the rich, and the famous. As they do, we want to do. As they speak, we speak. Twitter and Facebook have made it too simple to assail, insult, assault, libel someone we probably don’t even know without any threat of accountability. No need to fear blackened eyes or missing teeth from a physical one-on-one confrontation.
Personally, as I have confessed, I still go there sometimes. The verbal barrage, the unkind thoughts, and the judgmental attitudes can swoop down on me in a heartbeat. But, when the emotion is spent and the brain is engaged, I find myself saying to a beleaguered me, “Was it good for you? Did that tirade make you feel better about yourself?”
How peaceful it can be when I put aside the search for truth in places which offer only more questions.
I pray with bowed head, “Lord, where and when does my soul find contentment? Where must I go for fulfillment? What ultimate power will quench my thirst?”
In my quietness I ponder the mysteries of unknown spaces and time, I think of those before me who also followed a quest for answers.
“Theology, philosophy, books have not answered my search honestly. I seek gods in high places, low places, and other places where I probably should not take my mind and soul.”
‘What you seek is seeking you within. Simply go there.”
“Yes, of course…..but, how and when….with whom?”
“You ask too many questions. Just go within and be still. Breathe deeply and consider all that your Creator has given to you. Then talk to me. Know that I am God. It is not difficult to know the truth which you seek. I am that “I am” for which mankind is thirsting. “
“Yes, of course, where else would I be? The heavens? The stars? The places unknown? How would you propose to arrive at those far places?”
“But Lord, the religions, the philosophies, the books, do they not also tell the truth?”
“My son, whose truth do you seek? Theirs or yours? Perhaps they have provided a compass pointing the way, but you must conduct your own quest. You must find your own soul, revere it with great esteem, and then be true to it.”
Have you found relief?
Do you see a light in the darkness?
Do you know you are not created to live in darkness,
to stumble through alcoholism?
The One I name God
may come to you
with another name.
It matters not
for we all must claim that spirit as ours
and declare freedom from the demon alcohol.
Recovery is claiming our freedom and becoming the beacon which we were created to be.
“Suppose we fall short of our chosen ideals and stumble? Does this mean we are going to get drunk? Some people tell us so. But this is only a half-truth.
It depends on us and on our motives. If we are sorry for what we have done, and have the honest desire to let God take us to better things, we believe we will be forgiven and will have learned our lesson. If we are not sorry, and our conduct continues to harm others, we are quite sure to drink. These are facts out of our experience.” AS BILL SEES IT, Bill Wilson, pg. 52
“Your soul is who you are in God and who God is in you. We do not ‘make’ or ‘create’ our souls. We only awaken them, allow them, and live out of their deepest messages.” Richard Rohr
wrap us in your brilliance,
cover us with understanding,
lead us to peace,
lead us to the eternity
that dwells within,
lead us to wisdom,
to your magnificence,
to your power.
thoughts from emptiness by larrypaulbrown