I began this series with the goal of providing an invitation for all comers to begin mining the depths of our lives by first contemplating what our life is and not waiting for the arrival of pain or confusion before tuning in. Young people are all around us trying to get what they think is their life started. With eagerness, we all go out and begin by seeking an education, a career, a companion, or any endeavor which we think we will enjoy or which will further reinforce our definition of self. The term “mid-life” crisis refers to the adult who has arrived at the sobering reality that more than half of life has gone and we still haven’t really “Launched.” This this series has offered a context to unearth Meaning, Purpose, Self Appraisal, Vocation and now Depth.
How can it be that so many people live in such a way as to exist for half of a life (or more) and still miss out on true living or depth of life? The answers are many: Distraction, dis-integration, hardship, privilege, or pain. However, all of these experiences find their epicenter in the single root of confusion. In simple terms, life is not what we think it is and therefore, the living we do is a fiction or delusion of reality. So long as we believe life is lived on our terms or the terms dictated by institutional power, we live a deluded life. I’m not saying we don’t have agency in life, we most certainly do. What I’m saying is that our life will have very little depth dimension until our frame of reality is based on life’s terms rather than ours.
This may be a lot to take in, so let me offer an example.
Harry Chapin has a song entitled “Cat’s in the Cradle” which has long served as a reminder to place our life in order, or else it will be gone before we know it. This is the bare minimum of awareness required to get a glimpse to where I am pointing. So, yes, the classic example of a person with “Next Thing Disease” is exactly what it means to miss life or live a delusion, but even this doesn’t get the most dull of us to do much about it.
How many of us who will read this post or listen to this podcast presently have strained relationships with their children, parents, friends, or coworkers? How many of us are buried in debt and can’t find a way out of it? How many are spinning the “rat wheel” and know that if it stopped, everything in life will unravel? Exactly how close to the edge do we actually live? Do the following words describe our life? Angry, bored, living for the “next thing”, running from the past, frustrated, depressed, lacking hope, stressed out, over-hoping… All of these are surface experiences of those who lack integration on a deeper level.
We must get to the end of our pseudonym (our fictional existence) or life will never launch.
So how do we advance beyond our delusions of life and reality and possess authentic depth? How do we uncover that which is beyond everything? Why are we so angry and divided? Why do our relationships continue to fail? Why are we running so hard? What are we really afraid of? These are real questions which burden all of us. Why are so many of us unable to find true liberation? Why hasn’t psychology, religion, politics or education made any real difference and why to they seem to only take us from one form of captivity into another?
A sense of despair is our emergence from anesthesia. “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:4)
Eckart Tolle tells a story in his book “The Power of Now” which opened him up to discovering true depth. In his despair he was nearly suicidal and said to himself: “I don’ think I can live with myself any longer.” In that moment he discerned that the “I” and the “myself” were two distinct aspects of his life. That’s insightful. How about you? Have you ever considered that your thoughts and your self are NOT the same thing? Or have you, like most people, never really paid attention?
Every world religion has a way of unpacking this self-reflective experience. I like the framework of the True Self and the False Self or Surface Self. One is our human BEING the other is our human DOING. The biblical record is wrought with this framework in both the Old and New Testaments.
This is not an appeal to religion. I’m inviting you to consider the difference between the Christian religion (which should never have existed) and Christ following, which is essentially the way people have found their way back to their Maker and discovered who they truly are in God. Consider these verses and how they frame it:
“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:5-7)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he/she is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
“For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 7:18)
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, ‘for in Him we live and move and have our being‘” (Acts 17:24-27)
The big discovery for Tolle, the Apostle Paul, the writer of Hebrews, Abraham, and countless others from endless tribes, tongues, religions, and times is that something so much more dwells within us, empowers us, fills us, leads us, and most importantly, loves us. It is our very life itself which is not just a nebulous force, but a personal power and presence.
“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:3-5)
Not discovering and pursuing this Source of our life is always associated with the pain, confusion, and horror of life or what I call the Living Hell. Discovering and pursuing the Source of life is associated with presence, integration, wholeness, completeness, inner bliss, or what is called The Kingdom of Heaven. This is when the Bible breaks free of religion’s clutching, toxic grasp and becomes new and fresh and healing again. Heaven and Hell are less about destinations, and more about states of being: launched or failure to launch.
I’m not going to tell you how to do anything. I offer no path. I simply point you out into the desert where alone, in the quiet and stillness of your life, where no distractions surround you, there you will separate from your thoughts and join your Maker. This is where depth is not a delusion, but Ultimate Reality. This is where we accept life on its terms not ours. Once this happens we become free, authentic and begin integrating the pieces of life. Where you go next is uniquely your narrow way.
Religion is not the answer. It can guide us but it rarely does. You will however, need faith. Like Abraham, you’ll need to follow that voice into a land not of your kindred. You have to trust that other voice inside that sounds like you but isn’t you. It will lead you into a new name, a new identity, the one you had with your Maker at the foundation of the world. You won’t find that in your next relationship, your next job, or in “one day.” It is only found here, now and it cannot be skimmed over.
The launch of our life begins in stillness. We must be still and know or we may never know at all.