Greater Works & Second Comings
By Scott Kalechstein
In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue . . . I've often pondered just what he might have been feeling, waking up morning after morning with no land in his sights. Here was a man that most of the world called crazy. Of course the earth was flat! He would sail his ship right over the edge, this foolish man! At least when the astronauts set out for the moon they knew it was there! They could point the rocket towards the moon and watch it get closer day by day. Christopher had no such visual of his goal. Since the gymnastics of developing the muscles of faith are rarely available for public observation, I have taken the liberty of tearing out a page from the private journal of Christopher Columbus to help us have a richer appreciation of his inner voyage. This journal entry is entirely historically accurate except, of course, for the fact that I made it up!
Sept. 25, 1492: "God, please give me a sign that I am on the right track, that we will make it to India, and that I'm not crazy! My heart tells me that the earth is round and there is no edge to fall off of, but day after day of this endless blue with no land in sight is getting to me. The storms are horrible, and then there are the days when the wind doesn't blow at all and the ship seems to go nowhere. Am I fooling myself, God? Maybe I should turn back and take us all to safety before it's too late. All these doubts and fears, and yet I must be strong for my crew. If my therapist were here she would tell me to get off this false sense of machismo and share my feelings, but I'm afraid that if the crew knew how terrified my inner child felt, there might be a mutiny on my hands. Besides, it's only the fifteenth century. Men have a long way to go before they explore their feminine side. My therapist said this whole voyage was just an expression of my anger at authority figures. Maybe she was right. Oh, God, please let me see land soon!:
Now let's time-travel to the present. Many of us these days are challenging old beliefs and cultural misperceptions that are as deep- seated and untrue as the fifteenth century's folklore that the world was flat. Modern explorers are like the characters on Star Trek, but this time exploring the depths of inner space, the next final frontier. Some of our starships are in the process of leaving behind the familiar home planet of codependency, finding their way through the black hole of loneliness, and entering the solar system of self-love. Here is another journal entry, this time from a courageous modern day explorer learning to captain her own ship:
"God, please send me a sign that I am on the right track and that I am not going crazy! My heart senses that it was a healthy step for me to end the relationship, but my guts are feeling like I'm about to go over the edge. Some days the tears are pouring down in torrents. Other days I feel some peace, only to wake up the next day in another storm of grief. Am I fooling myself, God? Maybe I'm just running away from a commitment. Should I go back to him and try to make the best of it? My inner child misses him so much! Yes, he was abusive and not emotionally present most of the time, but nobody out there is perfect. Who do I think I am to think that I can do better? I desperately want to fill the void, to numb this grief and self-doubt with a new lover or some other temporary relief. Yet there is also an inner voice whispering to me in my quiet times. It tells me that I have the strength now to feel my way through this, one layer at a time. It tells me that I am like an onion, and each layer of tears is peeling away more of who I am not so I can make space for who I really am. I'm not sure of where this is taking me or what I will feel like when the dust settles, but I know that there must be another way to be with a man besides clinging to him for my identity. God, please guide me to some kind of solid ground within. Deliver me back to my self"
Sometimes we get hypnotized into believing that the age of courageous explorers belongs to the past, or to science fictional characters we watch on the silver screen. Not the truth! As our calendar slides into the new millennium there is a nudge, an itch, a call for us to take up our boats and set our sails. Some of us are being inspired to leave the harbor in pairs and to venture out into Relation-Ships to navigate the waters of love and intimacy in new and bold ways. In these new waters the stretch is to join with another without abandoning the ship of self. For many of us this is uncharted emotional territory, and as the currents of our old beliefs come up against the incoming tides of our new aspirations, the wind can whip up some turbulence, making waves and rocking the boat. We may get see-sick, sick of the way we see, and at times have to lean over the side and purge our old identities. When doing this it is wise to face in a direction other than that of your partner, such as a compassionate friend, a good therapist, or a sturdy pillow. Such catharsis makes room for new perceptions to trickle in. By emptying ourselves of the old, we then are in a position to do some major interior redecorating. To put it simply and in rhyme, if you feel a strong surge of the urge to purge, you are right on the verge of a deeper merge!
Another ship that is gaining popularity these days is what I call the Ideal Vocation-Ship. On this cruise you learn to craft your gifts and your joys into a prosperous form of livelihood. We have been taught, many of us, that money is made only by serious struggle and hard work. When you begin to explore the creative fluid delight within you, eventually you are led to a way to put your money where your heart is. Then your vocation begins to feel like your vacation. It becomes abundantly clear that it is quite natural, and by universal decree, that we walk this earth, at work or at play, by the joy in thy heart. The work ethic, by the sweat of thy brow, was a companion idea to the myth of original sin, the notion that we are here to atone for some kind of horrible error we made at the beginning of time, somewhere in a garden filled with delightful and dangerous fruit trees. Supposedly, we are all born with this spiritual character defect, but we can perhaps overcome it, through struggle and sacrifice, and earn some kind of eternal reward in the afterlife, if God decides we are worthy. According to this version of reality, you better not shout, you better not cry . . . Jesus tried to lighten us up on this matter by inviting us to consider the lilies, who "neither toil nine to five at a job they hate, nor spin their heads trying to climb the corporate ladder." The lilies of the field do what comes natural to them, and so do we when we find our Ideal Vocation-Ships. We become fueled by inspiration, rather than simply perspiration. Enthusiasm replaces the fear of lack as the motivational force propelling us forward. We learn that there is a place for the inner child in our careers, and that our childlike qualities can not only bring great joy to our livelihood, but they can also feed us creative ideas that generate the prosperity for our ship to come in! And a child shall lead the way....
Like Columbus, on our voyages we sometimes endure storms, are seemingly thrown off course, and get called crazy by the people around us who are invested in their world staying flat. We will go through times when there is no wind, and our ship seems to be drifting motionless. The fog of doubt may roll in, temporarily obscuring our vision. We may taste discouragement, hopelessness, and despair, a dark night or two on the soul's journey to light. Ultimately, our passing through such dark nights creates within us a depth of wisdom and compassion that we then can pass on to those who are just starting to set sail for their visions. Our strength, experience and hope are like a bridge over troubled waters for our fellow dreamers to cross over.
We are ordinary heroes, you and I. Our bravery, being forged on inner landscapes, may go unnoticed by the media or our neighbors, but our hearts plow on ahead, without trumpets or fanfare. Jesus prophesied that there would be a second coming, and that greater works than he would we accomplish. He resurrected his friend, Lazurus, as well as his own body. As we align ourselves with our souls, we are resurrecting our self-esteem, our relationships, our heart's desires, and the planet we live on.
Does that sound overly optimistic? Fantasy based, perhaps? Isn't that what people told Columbus, or the Wright Brothers and their silly flying machine? Yes, we are living in a time of global crises, and we must make a quantum shift in how we are behaving towards ourselves, each other and our environment. But crisis is the very thing that drives us to dig deep for our greatness. Crisis awakens and humbles us, and humility makes us teachable.
These are the days of random acts of kindness, medically mysterious spontaneous remissions, and quiet and anonymous expressions of integrity that are shaking the world with a power and a momentum that is not being reported by the evening news. If we turn off our television sets and look up at the stars, we might catch a twinkling of the changes we are a part of. History holds no romance compared to the terrain we are covering now. Can you feel it? Could it be that the second coming, whatever that is, is coming? I don't mean to wax religious, or get dramatically biblical, but I do believe the times that Christ was preparing us for are upon us. It won't fit our pictures, thank God! We might have expected spaceships to arrive and extraterrestrials to beam us aboard while they clean up the earth's environment with highly-evolved cleaning products (that will somehow be distributed via multi-level marketing). We might have been waiting for Jesus to show up on the Oprah Winfrey Show and announce his plans to save all good Christians (and you know you're not one of them!). What I see as the second coming is the experience of multitudes of people throwing off the shackles of their fears and answering the call to make a positive difference on the planet, and to do so while leading loving, conscious, creative, and prosperous lives!
Each one of us will eventually stand at the tomb of our buried dreams and forgotten potential and say, "Self, COME FORTH!: And like Lazurus, we will rise up, shake the dust off our perceptions, forgive our grave' mistakes, and again walk lightly on a path of joy. Greater works, second comings, ordinary heroes . . . these are wondrous times!
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