Someone said recently that if you’re not angry about what’s going on, you aren’t paying attention. There is no question that the world is changing, that the division between the wealthy and the poor is growing wider and deeper every year. People everywhere are working harder and for longer hours. The American Dream – you have to be asleep to believe it, as George Carlin said, but more and more Americans are waking up. And they are not happy. So, how are you as a Christian mystic choosing to respond to this “new economy?”
There are two choices, in Christian mystical terms: 1) weeping and gnashing of teeth, or 2) standing in the Holy Place. Either you are going to rail against the injustice of it all, as so many throughout history have done, drive yourself into an anguished and cynical madness at the cost of your very soul, or…you are going to focus your spiritual energies on the things that really matter. What are those things? Your ability to love in the face of hatred, to be at peace with yourself while in the midst of war, to find it in yourself to forgive the most heinous acts of cruelty and depravity, and to hold yourself apart from the madness even while you engage with it, both in others and in yourself – these are the important things. Others may control your body, but no one can control your spirit, unless you hand it over to them.
What will you do? Every time you walk out of your front door, every time you turn on the news, every time you surf the web – you will either react, as most people do, or you will act. Action, in Christian mystical terms, means knowing the truth. Action, in Christian mystical terms, means keeping your thoughts under your control, not surrendering them to every sound bite you hear or ad that you see. Action, in Christian mystical terms, means not judging – above all, not judging – your fellow human beings while they are being human. Your job as a Christian mystic is to be more than human, to forgive in the face of abuse, to forgive when others rage at you, to forgive even when they throw you out of your home. And what is forgiveness? It is letting go of your expectations and accepting things, and people, as they are, not as you would like them to be.
Lily Tomlin said, “Forgiveness is giving up all hope for a better past.” Focusing on what happened is far more empowering than asking what’s wrong. What’s wrong is that your expectations were violated; what happened was that someone was caught being human. Shame is a violation of expectation – either yours or someone else’s. Freedom from expectation is peace.
Activism is only powerful when it comes out of what you want, not what you don’t want. The mystical experience fills us with vitality and enthusiasm. How is it, then, that we react to the negatives of the world? Logically, we have to say that whenever we are in a state of reaction, we have moved out of the mystical experience. Mystical experience and reaction cancel each other out. They are inversely proportional to each other.