C’est la guerre

“Long time no see with,” Jesus said, leaning back in his office chair, sandaled feet propped up on his desk. Have I mentioned he really is a lot funnier than anyone gives him credit for? Still; I was in no mood for jokes, really; in no mood for much of anything.

I plopped down in the chair beside him and sighed the sigh for which I am justly famous. “Here,” I said, handing him a package of swirled white-and-dark chocolate molded into the shapes of fairy tale mushrooms.

He held the cellophane-enclosed candy up to the light of his reading lamp, turning it over and examining it from all sides, detective-like.

“A little gift from my recent sabbatical,” I said.  I sighed again, folded my arms on his desk and lay my head down. “You’ve never had jet lag, have you?”

He shook his head.

“It’s like losing the hard drive on your brain. I mean, I have all this work to do and yet.”  I could not for the life of me remember what might possibly follow the word yet. I sighed again. At least that program was still working.

I had recently returned from a long awaited, much anticipated trip to Paris with my family, the city whose indefatigable light coaxed my inner artist out of hiding decades ago. The city where I became engaged to be married, where we returned with our five-year-old daughter fourteen years ago in search of Monet and all things buttery, that gleaming jewel of a city set in the country of my ancestors on my mother’s side that once roused my long dormant senses to life like a prince’s kiss. And yet, on this occasion, my beautiful, grown, 19-year-old daughter in tow, the city’s sensory bombardment celebrating thousands of years of the flamboyant bodily triumph and tragedy known as Western civilization seemed as weighty as the pack on my back cutting into my shoulders, filled with tour books and an extra pair of shoes for my hopelessly aging, delicate feet.

Although I was no longer foolish enough to believe the treasures of this world could ever satisfy my deep yearning to awaken to the wholeness of the real, everlasting Love I secretly believe I exchanged for a mortal existence, a part of me still cherished the preposterous story of a perfect family on a perfect European vacation. A sentimental journey accompanied by my costars miraculously on good behavior for once in their lives in this city of pulsing light, the place in which I had come closest to experiencing elongated moments of earthly pleasure in my salad days.

Yet, throughout the trip as we sampled bracing coffees, elaborately crafted sweets, a seemingly endless variety of exquisite bread, cheese, and wine, towers of seafood and miniature confections, perusing artistic masterpieces and ancient churches whose reverent albeit exuberant architecture brought me to tears, I felt somehow disconnected; filled with a longing not of this world. Ever-so-subtly plagued by a nagging sense of loss, my right mind hovering–like the memories of my youthful, hopeful, energetic self; all fantasies past, present, and future—somehow just out of reach.

“We need to talk,” I said.

Jesus nodded.

But where to begin? Three days after we’d landed home in Denver in a descent so bumpy even my brave, phase-less daughter almost threw up, I was still fighting the surreal effects of jet lag while weeding through a quagmire of images so profoundly arresting I could not seem to focus on anything for more than five minutes let alone access the quiet center of our one, true Self patiently waiting in a mind beyond this bodily dream.

“I know what you’re thinking,” I said.

“You usually do.”

“Our bodies are spin doctors for themselves, huge distractions from the mind hell-bent on expending vast amounts of energy to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. If the ego’s bodies of evidence good or bad are real, God isn’t, and the original ‘tiny, mad idea’ that we could have separated from our abstract source had real effects; fragmenting our one Self into a gazillion seeming pieces competing for survival and glory in a dream of their own making.”

“C’est la guerre,” Jesus said.

Ha! Truth was, from the moment we’d deplaned at the Charles De Gaulle airport, I’d plunged right back into the dream of Susan, forgetting I was its dreamer rather than a middle-aged tourist heroine with bad feet and problematic hair intent on reviving numerous prequels of this same tale lived out with these same co-stars. Even as a teeny, weeny part of me remained aware I was dreaming. Vaguely conscious through a kaleidoscope of shifting shapes and colors that my elation over the seemingly infinite objets d’art and culinary delights abounding all around us was just a story in my mind designed to keep me from remembering I had a mind outside this dream vacation. No different than my disappointment with weather that vacillated from cold and rainy to warm and sticky, the failure of my costars to consistently behave according to my wishes, and the bittersweet awareness of my own aging body compared to all these chic young others scurrying around with the same effortless aplomb as my daughter.

None of it had any real effects on my true Self disguised as my Teacher always patiently waiting for me right here in this office. And yet, I hadn’t the energy to enter the office, mesmerized as I had chosen to be by jet lag, fatigue, aching feet, inclement weather, unpredictable costars, and a passing parade of delectable forms; intent on comparing them and myself as their audience to past parades. What’s wrong with me? I wondered. I was so incredibly fortunate to have been here. Why couldn’t I just rejoice?

And suddenly—in a brilliant flash of Impressionistic light—I saw how having once more chosen the ego as my teacher, I’d been using the Course itself to prevent me from fully enjoying a fabulous vacation in order to prove I couldn’t be a Course student and happy here, too (all the more reason to give up on actually awakening to my true Self). As if there were a here, here! 🙂 As if happiness existed outside the joy endlessly flowing from our right mind, a joy that smiled equally on images of grandeur and devastation, certain passing hallucinations had no effect on boundless, ever-expanding Love. Because only God is, and we are one! No need to toss this big, blue book in the Seine. The joy was right now, right here; wherever here might appear to be. On vacation or a home, at work or play, in sickness or health, youth or age, rain or shine–always just a change of inner teacher away.

“I know what you’re thinking,” I said.

“I know you do.”

I opened the book. “It’s like in Chapter 27, VIII. The ‘Hero’ of the Dream. paragraph 1:

“The body is the central figure in the dreaming of the world. There is no dream without it, nor does it exist without the dream in which it acts as if it were a person to be seen and be believed. It takes the central place in every dream, which tells the story of how it was made by other bodies, born into the world outside the body, lives a little while and dies, to be united in the dust with other bodies dying like itself. In the brief time allotted it to live, it seeks for other bodies as its friends and enemies. Its safety is its main concern. Its comfort is its guiding rule. It tries to look for pleasure, and avoid the things that would be hurtful. Above all, it tries to teach itself its pains and joys are different and can be told apart.”

C’est la guerre, indeed. I thought of the seemingly endless galleries in the Louvre filled to the brim with paintings and sculptures of bodily stories and journeys, romance and heartbreak,
suffering and redemption that had once seemed so deeply inspiring. I thought of the Impressionists intent on capturing and preserving passing instants of bodily light I still craved. I thought of churches built in fear and faith and hope over centuries to protect the holy from the infidels, the gargoyles guarding the bell tower of Notre Dame from the evil spirits not even Christianity could be counted on to vanquish. And I thought about the many dreams I had cooked up to keep me searching in an imaginary world, to differentiate myself as a good guy in the vast land of the bad. And yet, it was—all of it, large and small, noble and petty—only my dream.

I dipped back into the Course, later on in that same section, paragraph 10:

“…The secret of salvation is but this: that you are doing this unto yourself. No matter what the form of the attack, this still is true. Whoever takes the role of enemy and of attacker, still is this the truth. Whatever seems to be the cause of any pain and suffering you feel, this is still true. For you would not react at all to figures in a dream you knew that you were dreaming. Let them be as hateful and as vicious as they may, they could have no effect on you unless you failed to recognize it is your dream.”

I thought of the way I clung to my dreams of suffering and unfair treatment at the hands of a cruel and unjust world of bodies interrupted by fleeting, expansive scenes of sublime, just desserts. I thought of the way I believed I was a body studying this big, blue book and practicing its teachings. Capable of remembering I am dreaming this trippy dream of exile from all-inclusive, abstract Love all by myself. Funny, really.  Then I sat up straight in my chair.

“Thanks,” I said. “I needed that.”

Jesus—go figure—just smiled. “My pleasure,” he said, offering me a chocolate mushroom.

“Bring then, all forms of suffering to Him Who knows that every one is like the rest. He sees no differences where none exists, and He will teach you how each one is caused. None has a different cause from all the rest, and all of them are easily undone by but a single lesson truly learned …” (from paragraph 12)

NOTE: A Course in Miracles uses the figure of Jesus as a symbol of the awakened mind, the memory of our one, eternal wholeness that lingers in the one mind of the one child of God merely dreaming an impossible dream of separation from all-inclusive, boundless, formless Love. By choosing this part of our mind as our teacher instead of the ego, we remember we are dreamers of the dream, rather than dream figures. Our guilt over the mistaken belief we have defected from real Love, can never return, and must continually exonerate ourselves by projecting our guilt on others to prove our greater innocence is undone as we look through the lens of kindness on what never was. Our split mind begins to heal as we learn to smile at our misperceptions and gently awaken to our one, true nature.


I am now speaking regularly at ACIM Gather radio, Wednesdays, 5-6 p.m., EST.
Here are links to two recent talks: ACIM Gather talk 1 ACIM Gather talk 2

Comments

  1. Tossing the ideas from the big blue book in (the) Seine: in sane! 🙂 There’s plenty of other copies and besides, more importantly, the truth within us can never be lost, nor can we lose our way home, no matter how ‘foreign’ a country our mind fabricates for a diversionary blip-trip on the cosmic radar. … Always fun reading, thanks! 🙂

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