Is Your Worldview ‘Punching Above It’s Weight’?

What have I gotten myself into?

When we move to a new neighbourhood, we instinctively take with us a ball-park expectation of what ‘genuine, good and reliable’ shops look like: they somehow give a yes answer to a set of assumed questions we use —without even thinking about them—to gather evidence about the best places to get hardware, computer services, groceries and so on, and there will also be a few things we are really fussy about such as anchovies, coffee, music, and quality tea. As this all unfolds, the actual evidence-gathering process can be quite nuanced, and range from the use of raw and unpredictable sources such as gossip, advertisements and intuition. Next there will be a range of intelligence operations, or if you like ‘spying’ activities: word of mouth, the way they clean or don’t clean their tables, how they responded when we behaved badly, or what their over-the-counter service is like. All such information is gathered in milliseconds, like a bee collecting pollen or even a literal CIA operator taking a photo. In our case, that ‘photo’ is a memory of a tone of voice, a less-than excellent flavour in the mouth, a shocking number on an invoice or even a bad mood we were in—all of which are automatically fixed with either joy or rage to an inner image of a staff member’s—or manager’s—smiling face: all quite dangerous and volcanic territory. And so it should be, because we owe it to ourselves, to our families, our friends and to our sanity, to be quite particular about allowing such potentially damaging and dysfunctional-ising or healing and functionalising foods and drinks, services and influences into our homes, our bank accounts and our bodies.

Given that we are so meticulous about our choice of places to shop, it’s surprising that we are so careless about the way we arrive at settled worldview conclusions. Once again, we owe it to ourselves, to our families, our friends and our sanity, to be quite particular about allowing potentially damaging and dysfunctional-ising or healing and functionalising ways of thinking, believing, and even worshipping into the deepest places of our soul. For example, have you ever wondered what those ‘ball-park expectations of a ‘genuine, good and reliable’ worldview might look like? If you were to compose a list of questions that a robust, ‘ring of truth’ faith-story might give yes answers to, what might those questions be?

This journey is about ‘acquiring a nose’ or ‘acquiring an ear’ for what smells and sounds like a dead-end or a way ahead. Typically those who speak on worldview take certain significant things into consideration: our origins, questions of evil & suffering, our future, justice and compassion and so on, but there are other questions of the more nuanced ‘tea, coffee and music’—nose and ear—kind that are often overlooked. One way to come at this is to reflect on some famous observations and questions that have been put out there by respected thinkers, which invite us to then ask: ‘In light of their questions, does it feel as if my worldview is ‘punching above it’s weight?’

Before we look at those questions it might be good to consider a thought from GK Chesterton: ‘But there are some people, nevertheless—and I am one of them — who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a land-lady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy’s numbers, but still more important to know the enemy’s philosophy. We think the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether, in the long run, anything else affects them.’7

Below is a list of questions and observations you might like to start with …

  1. ‘How could a merely material universe, which is impersonal, come up with something so much more beautiful, personal and intelligent than itself?’8 A

  2. We might also add: ‘How could a merely material universe, which is impersonal, come up with something that is at times so emphatically and unambiguously cruel—even vicious and plainly evil—about which pantheism’s stoic platitudes (‘… circle of life etc.’) begin to sound and feel suspiciously convenient: a cop-out in fact. For this kind of wound has a poignantly personal quality about it that shouts to us, ‘Whether you like it or not, you live in a personal universe, and right now something deeply personal is happening and to talk any other way about it is to sell out on every myth, every fairy story and every baby who was ever born—to sell out on any shred of integrity in the message of Christmas and Easter.’

  3. In light of the previous observation about the dark side of this deeply personal universe, the introductory statement about ‘moving into a new neighbourhood and looking for the right shops’ would have to be told very differently if we were living in the developing world for example. We might just be thinking about, ‘a good place to hide’ or ‘a place to get a bowl of rice.’ You might be doing literal ‘spying’ activities to see if they ‘kidnap or don’t kidnap children’, ‘rape or don’t rape the women’ and ‘shoot or don’t shoot the men’. Interestingly, ‘the problem of pain’—although it is taken very seriously and a source of great anguish—is not so much of a faith-issue for those who live under these conditions. As an African preacher once famously said to a group of Australians, ‘Unlike you, we know we need God in Africa.’ And even the use of the plural ‘we’, comes more naturally from the mouth of a speaker in the developing world (actually should probably say, ‘the majority of the world’), although of course in this context the African was just talking of ‘we’ in the same way that any overseas visitor would speak to their new friends about their country. The fact is that they think and talk about faith in an ancient, deeper and truer context, which always implies love (of the self-giving kind) that happens most emphatically in a family and a community, whereas our artificial western ‘purely individual’ construct cannot really experience and express that kind of love. When it talks of love, what it really means is choosing those I like to be around and then ‘loving’ them: the ‘kidding yourself’ version of love. Returning to our friends in the developing world, their ‘nose and ear’ for truth is therefore both communal and intensely practical. It wants to know: ‘Does this god do miracles for us? Does this god give us food? Will this god bring love and justice to our family and our community? By the way, if you are wondering about all these miracle stories that keep coming from these places, bear in mind the fact that ‘experiences of great miracles and of great suffering are mostly crowded together throughout history,’# so if we long for one (of the miracles) we must also understand that the other comes with it.

  1. Rather than using the myths of humans having the blood of gods coursing in their veins—or even of gods dying and rising again—as a way of explaining away the gospels as just more of the same, perhaps we could consider that these might be good dreams sent to us by God in order to prepare us for the real story.9

  1. It makes sense that we must wait for God or someone from God to come and show us.10

  1. What does an athesist do when, looking at all this, he feels this impulse to say: ‘Thank you?’1

  1. The unexamined life is not worth living.12

  1. The devil likes religion because it keeps us away from God.13

  1. ‘The easiest way through life is to either believe everything or to doubt everything because that way we don’t have to think.’14

  1. ‘Every one of us has an inconsolable secret buried inside of us that hurts so much we take revenge on it by calling it names like nostalgia, romanticism and adolescence.’15

  2. ‘We have a God-shaped hole inside of us.’16

  1. ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it will remain alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit.’17

  2. ’Do you believe that your deepest longings will be fulfilled in this life?’18

  3. ‘So, is it fair to conclude that we were made for another world?’19

  4. Do we ask: ‘Is there a god?’ or ‘What kind of God?’

  5. ‘Is this spiritual being already aware that I am on the hunt?’

  6. ‘It it dangerous?’

  7. ‘What if we really found him? We never meant it to come to that. Worse still, what if he found us?’20

  8. ‘This scary and beautiful cosmos was designed with you in mind: your dreams and your pride, your creativity and your immaturity.  Has the tunnel vision of your self-interest made you deaf to the voice of this honest and helpful stranger simply because you have already defined goodness on the grounds of your fast-fooded, health-cared, Coca Cola-ed, Christian-Santa Claus-ed culture with it’s two inquisitional questions: ‘Does it hurt? & ‘Is it unfair?’ Anything that answers ‘Yes,’ is automatically dismissed.

  9. Am I able to pray Abraham’s prayer? ‘Behold, now, I have taken upon myself to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes.’ ( Gen 18:27)

7 Chesterton GK. Heretics

8Lewis CS

9Lewis CS

10Ancient Greek Philosophers

11Chesterton GK

12Socrates

13Bono (U2)

14Anonymous

15Lewis CS.

16Pascal B.

17Jesus (John 12:24

18Lewis CS.

19Lewis CS.

20Lewis CS.

* CS Lewis

Do Not Cast Pearls To Swine

The one proposing an exploratory foray into the world of faith and worldview, must first take stock of their own assumptions. Have you allowed, for example, for the possibility that the story of this universe might be one that is about miracle? Or have you already assumed that the very idea of miracle is an intrusion, a kind of gate-crasher on the party? CS Lewis depicts the problem by giving the example of an author who writes a novel that is clearly non-supernatural and then in the middle of the story, when the hero is in trouble, he is bailed out by a miracle, leaving the reader with the feeling that the author has somehow cheated.

In other words, if you have already concluded that this story is not about miracle, then every report of a miracle will seem kind of offensive and no amount of evidence will change your mind. On the other hand, if your metaphysical jury is ‘out’ on the question, you may proceed with integrity because you are at the point where you are convinced that the spiritual world has a case and should be given a fair ‘hearing’. If this is not where you are at, then your demand for more evidence is ridiculous and an expectation that believers enagage in what has been called ‘throwing pearls to swine’. If that is you, then do not complain if you find your questions not taken seriously, laughed at or even satirised.

The Star of Wonder

I watched in awe as Aidan (our #2 son) and Georgie (#3 daughter) worked on this star over Christmas—the template for which arrived in a Sufan Stephens album. During the days of interrupted work, which included the eating of Christmas cakes and opening of presents, they—along with Aidan’s girlfriend and our two younger children—filled our home with music and laughter, songs and prayers, stories and jokes. Finally the star was hung and now it is there in the middle of our home filled with so much, and, without even trying, offering something to us that comes from that original star.

Star of Hope

 

Dangerous Voice #3: Anger

There is nothing a proud person hates more than someone else’s pride, and there is nothing an angry person hates more than someone else’s anger. That’s probably why a veiled (but barbed) comment, from a legalistic church member will provoke a violent and openly angry response from say, a new Christian teenager in a youth group. In the first situation, the legalistic church member has learned to make their anger socially acceptable (tolerable?)) by repressing it – but their undoing will be the highly sensitive and openly angry teenager who can smell anger a mile away. Hence, the best way to find out if you are carrying repressed anger is to open up your life to angry people.

Anger shows up in many other ways. For example, an angry person leaves their pathway littered with angered people, but it is very difficult to pin the problem down because Mr. Spleen is always so wonderful with the drunks and down-and-outers, he will do anything for you and the boss thinks he is the bee’s knees.

This is because Mr. Spleen is not at all threatened by anyone far below him or far above him on the social scale’ because achievement is what matters most to both these groups of people and Mr. Spleen can maintain a comfortably superficial relationship with them. His tendency to be driven by his repressed anger makes him capable of enormous sacrifices for these others and they will love him for it but the rest will watch in amazement and confusion.

The rest” are his peers: the people that he cannot avoid sharing his life with on a deeper level. They don’t give Mr. Spleen the consideration and respect which he feels they owe him. In a sense he has been trying to emotionally blackmail them with his massive achievements, to the extent that they will feel guilty if they begin to question his personal life.

How dare we question his commitment and his sacrifice? He is untouchable. Don’t we realise he is doing us all a great favour just by being here? In fact it could be argued that he is even doing God a favour: even God is behind on payments to him! And just in case you’re not sure of the facts, he has a score card, a balance sheet—and man does he know it!

So what should our response be? Faithful, creative, honest and patient love because—for his own sake—he must be exposed, and the sooner the better, because, contrary to the ‘balance sheet’, he is frantically ‘amounting to nothing at all’3 as Phillips translates it, in real terms.

It is as if the angry person subconsciously fears that they have made anger or pride the deepest motivation of their heart, instead of love. And for a long time the Spirit of God has been quietly sabotaging their efforts. So of course any attempt by their peers to “draw a bead’ on their anger, brings the same reaction as a fox that sees a gun pointed at it and gets a strong sense of De ja vu.

In the end the only person you really outfox (if you are hiding from your anger) is yourself. It seems that it is to people like this that Jesus says, “Yes you did a great many mighty works in my name, you were a driven achiever, always going for broke– people feared the lash of your tongue – but you were apart from me and you did nothing!”

The driven achiever is very likely to be the one who will give away all he has and even deliver his body to be burned; but because he is not led by love it all comes to nothing. It will be very infuriation for the angry person who gives all for God and at the end of the race instead of getting the, “well done good and faithful servant!” – they get, “sorry, it was all for nothing … and who are you anyway?”

At this point all that built up anger about the ingratitude of your fellow human beings will explode when you find that God treats you the same way. It’s interesting that Jesus turns to the crowd in frustration at one point and says, “Oh you ungrateful generation!”… No he doesn’t, he says, “You faithless generation!”… because his eyes were on the Kingdom of God, not on himself.

When you get frustrated and angry with people is it because you are looking for gratitude? Do you feel that they are a nuisance and that they are lucky you are there? If that is you (or me), then we have been doing nothing for sometime, nothing! The sooner we repent of this, the better.

Some of the worst offenders here are those of us who are in the habit of sensitively complimenting the angry and driven person, leaving them with the impression that they are in fact achieving something, that their self pity is justified, instead of seeing that perhaps the cool reception of others is merely reflecting God’s disappointmrnt. After all who would ever dare to say to someone who has made great sacrifices for the kingdom, “That drew a big zero mate.”? But perhaps we do need to, especially if God is trying to say that to them. The reason we need to be so tough on this problem is because each time this person achieves something (through the driving force of repressed anger) their character becomes a little more like that of the devil, rather that like Christ.

Turning to our own community it seems that God often uses ‘community miasma situations’ as the rock on which us angry people stub our toes, because we place character first, achievement second. This we find ourselves saying, “X community has ruined my Christian life!”4 This is because, we have made “Christlike character” be morphed to fit around our achievements. But the Holy Spirit—that mysterious, mischievous and even comical protagonist5—demands that ‘sensible achievement’ be altered, neglected or even abandoned in order to fit around Christlike character qualities.

Suddenly you discover that the most significant things that happen in your day are more likely to be the times you ‘waste’ with your team members after breakfast or simply learning to make people feel as though you have all day to talk with them.

The trouble is it is so hard to convince the achievement-orientated person about this when they come to you saying, “Look, the dishes were not done, the house was left in a mess and I’m so busy fixing everything up I haven’t got time to talk to anyone!” And Mr. Spleen could also have added, “And no one wants to talk to me either!” The harder he drives himself, the more he frightens people away, hence he tries even harder to win their approval by his achievements but these only gain him more superficial “admiration and respect” which simply makes him more proud and angry, fueling his self righteous indignation.

There are usually at least four things that happen to Mr. Spleen: he becomes the boss (because he is such an achiever) and now vents his spleen at will; he becomes disillusioned and leaves; he has a nervous breakdown or he learns to obey by “living in the holy carelessness of the eternal now”.

There are many other patterns of suppressed anger …

*Be careful what he does with your advice. You give him some advice and he follows it through word for word; then says “There’s a problem because you said I should only do 10 hours but they said I should do 11, so I refused!” The letter of the law not the spirit of the law is his problem.

*Look out if Mr. Spleen does a favour for you. It makes you wonder whether it’s worth getting Mr. Spleen to help you out. But then Mr. Spleen scolds you if he finds out you didn’t ask him for help. You can’t win.

*Mr. Spleen has a massive inferiority complex, watch out if he is particularly talented at something; he will use this to make himself look superior to everyone else. He always tries to be the teacher and is a “know-it-all”. In his own mind the problem is really someone else’s, for he is pretending the problem is not there and that is what repression is all about.

*You tend to conclude that he simply has no social radar, because he is forever claiming ignorance when accused of rudeness, angry talk, flirting etc. And so he will try to methodically be more polite and sensitive, but these are only band aids. His only hope is to recognize that he is one big problem and that it is only if he abandons his identity (which securely based in his driven/angry nature) that Christ can give him a new one. So for a while he will become more insecure, less definite and more disorganized. A bit like what happens when you “go-about” in a sailing boat.

He needs to learn to recognize and confess the angry thought patterns the same way that someone recognizes and confesses lust or greed or unbelief. And the way to do this is to see that God is regularly tipping the cup of circumstances to your lips and you only have two options, drink it thankfully or resist it angrily.

It seems odd that an ordinary old sin like anger should be such an enormous problem for people in Christian discipleship and leadership. But it’s probably because the qualities that go with repressed anger are much sought after. That is, the hard-driving style, the self-sacrificing effort and achievement orientation are all useful to have (if all you want to use the person for is their work output) – but once they have forced a few people to resign you will need to get of them and look for a fresh Mr. Spleen. Unless of course you decide that character is more important than achievement and you see that Mr. Spleen’s self-sacrifice (which is bringing a good harvest for you) is drawing a big zero in the kingdom of God. Could it be that one day you will say to him, “well done good and faithful servant”, and the next day he drops dead and gets the opposite response from the Father?

The following quote (from somewhere) sums it up well …

Every discipline has its corresponding freedom. What freedom corresponds to submission? It is the ability to lay down the terrible burden of always needing to get our own way. The obsession to demand that things go the way we want them to go is one of the greatest bondages in human society today. People will spend weeks, months, even years in a perpetual stew because some will get mad about it. They will act as if their very life hangs on the issue. In the discipline of submission we are released to drop the matter, to forget it. Frankly, most things in life are not nearly as important as we think they are.” (the source of this quote might be Richard Foster)

31Cor 13:2

4See the ‘Absolute Pits’ Diagram

5Walter Brueggemann. Divine Presence Amid Violence, 2011

The Belief and Action Trap

I’ve been enjoying having CH Dodd’s commentary on Romans as my breakfast reading book and thinking about his explanation that the etymological meaning of the word ‘Shaddai’ (an ancient divine name of unknown origin) is, ‘he who suffices’, which is helpful given that the more common rendering ‘almighty’ has a become set in the concrete of cliché. He also points out that (although in the end faith = belief + trust + action) there is a deep and powerful generative moment in faith that is ‘the negation of all activity, a moment of passivity out of which strength for action comes, because in it God acts.’ We western, activist people of faith may be systematically killing or even skipping that ‘moment of passivity out of which strength for action comes’ and hence not living by faith at all and actually giving ‘faith’ a bad name.

It’s Only Natural

‘The knowledge of a thing is not one of the things parts. In this sense something beyond nature operates whenever we reason … the distinction is not between mind and matter, or body and soul, but between reason and the whole mass of non-rational events. At that frontier we find a great deal of traffic, bit it is all one-way. Nature is constantly being raided and modified by reason. On the other hand, nature is quite powerless to produce rational thought: not that she never modifies our thinking, but the moment she does, it ceases to be rational. When nature, so to speak, attempts to do things to rational thoughts, she only succeeds in killing them. That is the peculiar state of affairs at the frontier. Nature can only raid reason to kill. But reason can invade nature to take prisoners and even to colonise. Every object you see before you at this moment, bears witness to this truth, the walls, the ceiling, furniture, even your own washed hands and cut nails.

I am only too well aware how shocking this will be for those who are brought up on naturalism. It is frankly a picture in which nature is pock-marked all over by little orifices where reason can do things to her: I can only beg you before you throw the book away, to consider whether your instinctive repugnance to such a conception is really rational or whether it is only emotional or aesthetic. I know that the hankering for a universe which is all of a piece, in which everything is the same sort as everything else – a continuity, a seamless web, a democratic universe; is deep seated in the modern heart, in mine no less than in yours. But have we any real assurance that things are like that? Are we mistaking for an intrinsic probability what is really a human desire for tidiness and harmony? Bacon warned us long ago that ‘the human understanding is of its own nature prone to suppose the existence of more order and regularity in the world than it finds…’ Newtonian atomism was much more the sort of thing we expected than quantum physics.

It is only when you are asked to believe in reason coming from non-reason that you must cry, ‘Halt!’ For if you don’t all thought is discredited. Sooner or later you must admit a reason which exists absolutely on its own. … and it must have been that way from all eternity. But we must remember that reasoning doesn’t just happen to us, we do it.’*

*CS Lewis. Miracles pp: 29 – 32. Collins, 1980

Dangerous Voice #2: Efficiency

Think of of someone who has learnt to fly a plane but only flies it a hundred feet above the ground on a dry salt lake bed. They are flying (technically) but not really flying. Extrapolating this to human relationships, we are doing the same kind of thing when we allow a self-protective efficiency to be the driving factor in our relationships. In our determination to never waste time and to be safe, we will rarely know the experience of being criticized or laughed at—although it will most certainly be happening behind our back—but we will also miss out on the richer and deeper joys of human relationship. Many supposedly ‘honest’, practical, work-minded souls who raise a family or go into human services work or spiritual work get stuck in this rut.

There comes a point where they are more or less saying to themselves, ‘The paddock’s ploughed, the oats have been sown—the job’s done; the house has been built, the grass is planted, electricity connected—the job’s done! I married a good wife, sent the kids to a good school, kept them healthy—the job’s done! I completed the lecture, they all passed the test—the job’s done. I gave him a tutorial, checked his bible reading and prayers—the job’s done!’ And so it is, if that’s the job.

But our ‘honest’ soul need to understand that to stop growing and learning when you are twenty is a tragedy, for they are on a life-long learning journey and ought to be pursuing as much help and advice as they can as often as they can. They once had plenty of questions about everything, including themselves. They need to re-discover the glory and joy of questions and doubt. Questions like this one: ‘What has it been like having me as your father?’ ‘…as your teacher?’ ‘ … as your husband?’

The fact is that we are all having an ‘effect’ on those close to us and if we find that they are looking cold and empty, we ourselves may well be a major causative factor. Imagine seeing a friend approaching you in a crowd but when they reach you, instead of greeting you, they walk straight past you without saying anything. A meal time, an outing to the movies, a teaching session or a bible study can be just like that. How devastating!

And it’s not that nothing is said during the meal, the movie, the teaching session or the bible study; it’s that we’re standing behind barriers and ‘talking’ non-verbally to each other through them. The effect being that we never really ‘see’ each other’s faces because we are so preoccupied with protecting ourselves from being manipulated, dominated or used. The result being that without even thinking about what we are doing, a non-verbal agenda is set for our conversations and relationships i.e.everyone is busily making sure they are not tricked, out-maneuvered, used or manipulated. No wonder we rushed through that meal-time, or hurried home from that movie or walked away from that teaching session feeling empty. And no wonder we are unable to speak. How can you even begin to criticise one who is doing such ‘great favours’ for you, for your organisation and even for God?

The fact is that you cannot love efficiently. You cannot love someone and be checking your ‘how cool am I looking?’ mirror at the same time. St. Columba’s life proverb—amor non tenet ordinem—sums it up: ‘love knows nothing of order’. And if that still isn’t clear, listen to another Irishman, ‘There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.’1

Obviously there is only one solution: if you want to really live while you are alive on this planet, live dangerously, forget about protecting yourself. The people jeered at Jesus on the cross: ‘He would save others but he cannot save himself!’ And that is just the point, if we would save each other we cannot save ourselves. If we want to truly see our student’s … our son’s … our wife’s ‘face’, or perhaps even the ‘face’ of God, then we must throw down our barriers, leave our weapons behind, and come right out into the open where we can easily be ‘shot dead’ while the other stays behind their own barrier.

As the woman said of the gods in Till We Have Faces2, ‘How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?’ This is probably the reason why an honest rebuke delivered in love or a sincere apology, is often the beginning of a deeper relationship. Lewis has one of his characters in The Great Divorce put it this way, ‘The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: That till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: That theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven3.’

1CS Lewis. Four Loves

2CS Lewis. Till We Have Faces

3CS Lewis. The Great Divorce p.111

 

Dangerous Voice #1: Success

This world is becoming filled with people who have each been taught to be experts in a laser-beam-narrow field, never venturing into places where they might look stupid – away from the mud and grime of inexperience and uncertainty, they are rice-paper-heroes, able to take themselves just a little bit too seriously. Their legacy is fear of failure and it’s becoming an epidemic, especially in families.

A parent who is ‘unerringly successful’ (or should we say, ‘eerily successful?’) poses a great obstacle to their child ever acquiring the ability to be liberated from fear of failure – it doesn’t inspire the child at all to be constantly exposed to a parent who is popular, powerful, always interesting and always winning. If you’re a magnificent pianist they badly need to see your first faltering attempts at water skiing or something else you are hopeless at but would like to try anyway – and make sure you do it in front of them where they can hear the derision of the spectators and feel the glory of you risking being laughed at by your own family. And by the way, when they do laugh, laugh with them.

If you have children, you won’t escape anyway, in fact, they’ll take offense at you if you’re not already letting this music happen. Out of sheer frustration with your fierce efforts at always being successful, they’ll sabotage you just for the fun of it. It’s one of the first assignments they have when they arrive from heaven, where they’ve been carefully skilled in the arts of ego baiting. So take your medicine and let the love games begin: don’t go and sulk. Marianne Williamson says, ‘as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same: liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’

Down Time

Self-hatred & Self-forgetfulness

One night on a footy field many years ago I was reflecting on the fact that I had many inadequacies as a sportsman and even more as a man and that—thanks to mirrors, cameras, peer socialisation, and thousands of little consumerist ads designed to make us unhappy—I actually deeply disliked myself, even sometimes hated myself. Then I began to wonder what sort of person I might have been had I, for example, been made perfect: no more errors on the footy field, the life of the party, the legend and … the next thought that came to mind was that I would be much more conceited and probably by now well on my way to hell. It occurred to me that the things I disliked about myself were actually gifts keeping me from drowning in conceit. So I began to give thanks to God for making me as I was and especially for including the stuff I so disliked. And I apologised for being so self-focussed.

This little meditation started an inner fight that went on for months until new pathways of thinking about myself began to form and—being grateful to God for making me the way I was—I realised I wasn’t noticing (and hating) myself so much and started to really enjoy the freedom of self-acceptance. This eventually became a golden pathway to experiencing a kind of self-forgetfulness that I had never thought possible and which seems to have to go deeper and deeper the longer I live.