The cost of living

“THE ONLY THING WORTH DYING FOR IS LIVING,” read the marquee outside a nearby church. My foot popped off the accelerator and moved toward the brake. But another car, tight on my tail, prevented me from slowing down to make sure I’d read correctly. I drove around the block and reread the caption:


I’d been thinking a lot lately about what it really means to be a body vying for survival in this world we think we’re in. Thinking about reports of body-to-body violence in remote and not-so-remote corners of the world, the physical and psychological violence waged in sports arenas, board rooms, union halls, and kitchens. The violence of my personal thoughts on the body I believe I inhabit. Escalating violent, personal, political attacks by politicians and talk show hosts, violent weather tossing bodies around like tumbleweed; the horrifying report of a baby sent sailing 10 miles by a ravaging twister only to perish two days later.

The marquee caption had been offered, I supposed, in kindness; meant to somehow comfort parishioners likewise challenged by the cost of living in this dream of exile from infinite, non-dualistic, unconditional  Love. It might mean we should live life to the fullest, making the most of our time with each other here on earth. Or it might mean we had nothing to fear from dying because a better life awaited us. At least those of us willing to sacrifice for others and obey God’s laws would be rewarded with eternal life in Heaven. While the miserable sinners unwilling to comply with Heaven’s entrance requirements would receive their scorched just desserts you know where.

Either way the marquee’s assertion seemed to succinctly sum up the ego’s thought system, the insane premise that death at least somehow proves we exist at God’s expense; actually pulled off our experiment in striking off on our own. According to the Course’s mythology used to explain the unconscious psychological dynamics playing out in the theatre of our so-called lives, in Truth, only God (non-dualistic, eternal, all-inclusive wholeness) exists. Into that state of perfect oneness there arose a tiny mad idea—what would it be like to experience myself apart from this?–at which the one child of God we remain forgot to laugh.

Because we took the “sin” of separation seriously we then experienced ourselves plunged into proverbial darkness, no longer aware of the light of our true nature seamlessly fused with our creator. Our fear and guilt over believing we’d gotten our wish was so enormous that our mind then appeared to split into the ego (the part of our mind that believed in and supported our wish for individuality) and the Holy (Whole) Spirit (the part of our mind that knew our mad wish had no effect and retained the memory and gentle smile of our one true Self awake in God, merely dreaming of exile).

We could have listened to that part of our mind at the seeming beginning. But fear and curiosity got the best of us and we chose to go with the ego’s solution to the imaginary problem: projecting the guilt over our belief in separation into an entire universe of forms. And then claiming “special” bodies with which to “strut and fret” our “hour upon the stage,” as Shakespeare so aptly put it; willing to die to prove we actually lived but it’s not our fault (we came in as helpless babies, after all; a result of irresponsible parents). We then forgot we had chosen to believe the ego in the first place, repressed the whole bloody thing, and got to work blaming other bodies for our problems. Striving to establish our relative innocence as a way of exonerating ourselves for the original imaginary crime against God, and dying before the vengeful God we cooked up in the ego’s image could hunt us down and kill us.

But our wild hallucinations aside, “ideas leave not their source.” We have never left the mind of God with which we remain “a oneness joined as one.” The mind is not in the body; the body is in the mind, the figment of an idle wish, a mistaken idea; a fleeting fantasy that signifies nothing. We remain awake in God, merely dreaming of exile, perfectly, infinitely supported and guiltless; loved and loving. As we’re reminded in A Course in Miracles Chapter 19, The Obstacles to Peace, C. The Third Obstacle: The Attraction of Death, i. The Incorruptible Body: paragraph 5:

“ … The body no more dies than it can feel. It does nothing. Of itself it is neither corruptible nor incorruptible. It is nothing. It is the result of a tiny, mad idea of corruption that can be corrected. For God has answered this insane idea with His Own; an Answer which left Him not, and therefore brings the Creator to the awareness of every mind which heard His Answer and accepted It.”

The thought of the body that has never left the mind is completely neutral apart from our interpretation. Our interpretation of what bodies do or don’t do merely reflects which inner teacher we have chosen in the mind. Under the ego’s tutelage, we perceive a body of evidence that proves we successfully fragmented the Sonship and now must pay a price for our sin. We live lives in which we bargain with others to temporarily replace the love we think we lost when we destroyed God/our true Self, and find others to mistreat us to prove our greater innocence versus their greater guilt. Finally, we die to prove the dualistic, finite world complete with dualistic, finite bodies we made up prevails over the eternity of Heaven.

But when we choose the Holy Spirit as our teacher we side with our one Christ Self, the part of our mind that accepted God’s figurative correction—nothing happened!–for the crazy notion that we could separate from our indivisible source. Our Christ Self responded sanely when the idea surfaced, smiled, and retained its awareness of our continuing, all-inclusive nature within God’s endless embrace.

If part of our mind accepted itself from the very beginning; we have accepted it too. Despite our trippy dreams, despite marquees that attempt to offer temporary comfort, there is no cost to living in this imaginary world. When we choose the Holy Spirit as our inner teacher, our smile returns and we remember our uninterrupted wholeness. And we remember from moment to moment–when tempted by the inner teacher of fear again and again to forget–that we have a choice to learn we are never upset by something real “out there” in a performance of our own making, but only by the reenactment of a mistaken thought in the mind. Despite the actions of bodies on the stage of our so–called lives we remain whole, completely unaffected by the violence bodies appear to inflict on each other in a futile effort to deny their guilt over a crime that never occurred as well as the violence we inflict on the bodies we think we are in an effort to kill ourselves off to prove we exist apart from God while avoiding responsibility for it.

There is no cost to living because there is no life here. We can learn when tempted to make the horrible things bodies do real–when we believe we are unloved and unloving, will never be accepted back into the loving fold, and must therefore strive to make things go our way here in the autonomous condition we think we’re in–to choose a kind, sane inner teacher. A teacher sure that “nothing real is threatened” because “nothing unreal exists.” Every mind made mad by guilt in this dream in reality remains endlessly united, forever cradled in our creator’s boundless, ever-extending Love.

THERE IS NO COST TO LIVING! Let these words fill the one marquee in our one mind!

As i. The Incorruptible Body, paragraph 11 so exquisitely puts it:

“When anything seems to you to be a source of fear, when any situation strikes you with terror and makes your body tremble and the cold sweat of fear comes over it, remember it is always for one reason; the ego has perceived it as a symbol of fear, a sign of sin and death. Remember, then, that neither sign nor symbol should be confused with source, for they must stand for something other than themselves. Their meaning cannot lie in them, but must be sought in what they represent. And they may thus mean everything or nothing, according to the truth or falsity of the idea which they reflect. Confronted with such seeming uncertainty of meaning, judge it not. Remember the holy Presence of the One given to you to be the Source of judgment. Give it to Him to judge for you, and say:

Take this from me and look upon it, judging it for me.
Let me not see it as a sign of sin and death, nor use it for destruction.
Teach me how not to make of it an obstacle to peace, but
Let You use it for me, to facilitate its coming.

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


  1. Another eloquent description of the two thought systems: the dog-eat-dog insanity of ego, and the “God is” (and nothing else is) sanity of our Inner Kindness Teacher. Recommended reading! 🙂

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