“There is something in the soul which is only God….The seed of God within us. If the seed had a good wise and industrious cultivator, it would thrive and grow up into God. Now the seed of a pear tree grows into a pear tree…the seed of God into God. “
Reading this changed me. I am 55 years old; ready to enroll in AARP. How did the time fly so fast? How did I get here: a silent farm in a river valley of New Mexico surrounded by green and trees and birds – such a rare thing in the New Mexican dessert? Who am I? Abused and pummeled by the institutional hurch I chose to buttress by teenage self-esteem and ego, I have left it behind for a time; choosing instead to live on this planet as a human rather than as an Episcopalian. A spiritual director wisely once said “Charles, your problem is NOT that you don’t suffer fools lightly. Your problem is that you don’t suffer fools quietly.”
To leave the institution and hierarchical church, at least for a season of recovery from Ecclesial PTSD (Yes, it’s a thing) was like having the hoses cut like the Borg in those episodes of the science fiction TV show “Star Trek.” Part human and part manufactured, “the Borg” was a collective, fed from a Source and when resting, connected to the Source for sustenance and power by many hoses within their pod.
One is, for a time, very alone. And strangely relieved – if vulnerable. It does one no favors for ecclesial professional advancement, but my heirachy-climbing days are over. I am tired of fighting mediocrity. I leave that to others. I’ld rather be poor. Live simply. Eating apples from my farm. Baking pies.
But what happens when one “leaves” a church institution? A commune? A sect? An institution? A gang? A coven? An addiction? A village? What happens when one moves to solitude for healing and perspective. Unplugged. No ladder to climb, only mountains and hills.
What happens, I think, is that a new set of rules and a new celestial compassion awakens within us. We become willing to be more vulnerable not just to each other but to the planet and all is sentient and non-sentient beings – even to the cosmos – even to the “other.” We genuflect to sunsets and not just to bloody crosses. We listen to birds and not just preachers. And finally, if we have the time to really mature the God-seed we carry within us, newly vulnerable to those who do us harm by violence, or its mirror-violence perhaps more violent, neglect.
Vulnerability, the willingness to be connected and therefore also wounded, is the water and nutrient-set which grows the seed of God within us. I wish there was another way, another formula. I wish it worked differently. Ego-driven, manipulative people will still climb their way to the top – we see it in national elections and we see it in bishop elections. I suppose we could try to intervene but the same emotionally-unintelligent people who often run for these elections are the same that run for the elections which do the electing. We have the church we deserve I suppose. Not mean so much as unaware, connected to a Borg called “Ego.” Driven by the golden cage of our retirement fund.
So what do we do, you and I? How do we live? I have no idea what is best for you but here is my list – different though it is from The Ten Commandments, the Catechism, the 39 Articles, the lists of Torah. Different from the many other lists we so love to fondle like teddy-bears made from rusted nails – brown but shredding of flesh.
1. Keep going. One more day.
2. Stay close to a loving dog and its iconography of unconditional love.
3. A long walk and lots of water every day.
4. Silence, ego-examination and life-examination.
5. Silence and listening.
6. Simple-living so that the planet’s resources have a chance to feed the planet’s living beings with water and food.
7. Active connection with people and its inherent vulnerability to resulting wounds.
8. Some form of creativity – generativity – such as parenting, painting, pottery, cooking, letter-writing … birthing something.
9. Birthing God outside of institutional stone and glass by tending to the God-seed within you and listening to the land.
10. Acting out, to poke domination and injustice in its eye. If you ignore the suffering of others, there will be nobody to stand by you when you suffer at the hands of ego.
That’s my list. What’s yours? I bet you have one. It is down there next to the gestating God-seed. It is its placenta.