Saturday, July 24, 2010

Soul Work - Deeper Moons Focused on God

My previous post identified deeper Moons focused on God, others, and self. By Moons, I mean things that I deeply want to bring into my life and live into. This post will explore deeper Moons - Moons that involve important soul work - focused on God. The categories God, others, and self are arbitrary and certainly overlap. Some of what I say in this post will seem very much focused on self as well as on God.

The Moons focusing on God are ENJOY and THANK. Each involves a deeply ingrained attitude toward life, an attitude that I imbibed in the family where I grew up, along with needed family soul healing. Here they are:

  • ENJOY: Heal the goal of getting from here to the grave as safely and painlessly as possible by living life fully and joyfully.
  • THANK: Heal the hostile worldview by seeing the world as gracious and by expressing thanks.


In the family where I grew up, I was afraid much of the time - afraid of my father and afraid of God. My father was terrifying in his unpredictable rages, and I envisioned God as a much huger, more powerful, and far more terrifying version of my father. Life with my father and with the God I created in my father's image was intensely painful. With my father, I learned to suspend my soul, go numb, and wait for his rage to pass. My goal in life came to be staying safe and avoiding pain. I did not care about joy - if I could just be safe and pain-free, that was all I wanted.

I see now that having as one's life goal to get from here to the grave as safely and painlessly as possible represents a huge soul wound. The healthy soul embraces life and lives as fully and joyfully as possible. I do this by knowing and doing what gives me joy. In light of needs I see in my world, I want to embrace Moons of this type that do not involve large expense, that truly enrich me, that promote personal and planetary health, that in some way encourage others. Here are some possible such Moons:

  • Savor the simple pleasures of life: a beautiful flower, the evening cricket song, a gentle breeze, the texture of the prayer shawl I'm knitting and the comforting repetitive hand movements, a bike ride on the Mississippi River levee bike trail, a piece of dark chocolate, a cup of warm tea, a ripe peach, the scent of sweet olive.
  • Blog frequently.
  • Publish small books based on my writing.
  • Draw regularly and post drawings on my blog.
  • Exhibit a series of my artwork with other amateur artists.
  • Organize a reader's theater.
  • Attend plays, concerts, operas, movies.
  • Give theme parties.
  • Study the Bardic lessons of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, and use it as material for writing and drawing.
  • Look for opportunities to encourage others to engage in writing, visual art, and music - Live the concept that everyone is an artist.
  • Form a piano quartet or duo.

The above Moons do not involve large expense, do truly enrich me, do promote personal and planetary health (usually in the sense of lifting my spirits and bringing beauty and joy into the world), and do in some way encourage others.

The encouraging of others is something I want to be sure to incorporate. Some of the above Moons clearly involve others, such as giving theme parties and organizing a reader's theater. Some make my work available to others by publishing it on my blog, thus making my insights available for others to interact with and perhaps encouraging others in their own writing and artistic endeavors. Some, such as savoring simple pleasures, make me a more pleasant person to be around.


My father espoused a view in which the world is a hostile place. Survival of the fittest is the rule, it's a dog-eat-dog world, people are out for themselves. What puzzles me is why on earth my father would want to bring children into such a world. If the world is such a hostile place, why would one subject others to it? In any case, I grew up in a home where I learned that the world is hostile, that I must constantly be on the defensive and not trust anyone, and that I can expect terrible things to happen.

I believe that the healthy soul sees the world as a gracious place. Yes, there are pockets of hostility and of indifference. There are people with harmful intent; therefore, it is well to avoid certain neighborhoods and to keep one's doors locked. Nature is indifferent; therefore, it is well to recognize and shun poison ivy, to avoid stirring up a nest of hornets, and to evacuate when in the path of a hurricane. Yet, overall, at rock bottom, life is gracious.

I admit that this can be extremely hard to see when one is imprisoned in a concentration camp, or when one is born or captured into slavery, or when one has been raped, or when one has just suffered an injury that leaves one completely paralyzed. I have no idea how I would respond if faced with any such situation - and I don't wish to find out. It is worth noting, though, that there have been people in each of these situations who have come through with their faith in God and in life as gracious intact. People have forgiven those who have imprisoned, tortured, enslaved, and raped them. People have become authors, artists, musicians, public speakers, and community organizers while severely disabled.

For me, the key is to change the direction in which I focus my attention. In The Art of Racing in the Rain, we learn this lesson:

Your car goes where your eyes go. (Page 82)

Enzo, in The Art of Racing in the Rain, puts it like this: "In racing, they say that your car goes where your eyes go. The driver who cannot tear his eyes away from the wall as he spins out of control will meet that wall; the driver who looks down the track as he feels his tires break free will regain control of his vehicle" (page 83).

It is easy for me to focus on the pain and the injustice of life. The healthy soul, however, recognizes the pain and the injustice but focuses on the graciousness - the love, the beauty, the compassion, the joy.

Where do my eyes go? When faced with flying in an airplane, my eyes go to a possible plane crash and an unbearable injury such as complete paralysis or severe burns over large areas of the body. When faced with a hospital procedure, my eyes go to all the many things that can possibly go wrong in a hospital, such as surgical implements being left inside the body and full anaesthesia awareness and brain injury. When faced with a class to teach, my eyes go to dissatisfied students and poor teaching evaluations. When faced with a social event, my eyes go to others finding me unattractive and uninteresting.

Where might my eyes go instead? To the excitement of flying, traveling, and exploring another place. To a smooth medical procedure and recovery and to the health benefits to be gained from the procedure. To an exciting class, an engaging subject, and engaged students. To interesting and enjoyable personal interactions at a social event.

Sometimes it is necessary to recognize that we live in a time when a mistaken worldview is in the ascendant, filling the world with pain and injustice temporarily. In The Case for God, Karen Armstrong describes how Socrates did this, even when faced with a death sentence: "He could have escaped and was probably expected to do so. But even though the sentence was unjust, he preferred to obey the laws of his beloved Athens to the end: he would die a witness (martys) to the untruth currently in the ascendant" (page 58).

Socrates knew that a mistaken worldview was "currently in the ascendant" (page 58). Even though this mistaken worldview affected Socrates severely, Socrates knew that this worldview was a temporary, not a permanent, condition.

This is so important to viewing life as gracious. It is so tempting to see the current time as all there is. The current time is not all there is. We can look at the time-line of human presence on earth - tens of thousands of years at the very least, and possibly hundreds of thousands of years. We can look at the time-line of the universe - billions or trillions of years. We can look at the time-line of God - eternity.

I would say that a time of pain, violence, and injustice has been in the ascendant for the last several thousand years. During this time, we have seen the enthronement of a patriarchal system, the dominance/subordination model for social interactions, the use of violence and war to establish dominance, the concept of human property and slavery, the reliance on power over, the exaltation of competition. This leads to an attitude where one does whatever will enrich oneself - no matter the consequences for other people, for future generations, for other living creatures, for our Earth. Others are expected to watch out for themselves. If others get hurt, it's their own fault. We see this today in the current financial crisis, the Enron scandal, the mismanagement of mortgages, BP's disregard for safety precautions, the abuse of animals in research, the inhumane mass-production methods at chicken and hog farms, the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, the pollution of the Earth for industrial growth. People are saying, "I will do whatever benefits me. Let others take care of themselves."

This attitude is in the ascendant, and it has severe effects. It is easy for our eyes to go to the hostile and the indifferent. But I believe this is not the truth of life - it is a temporary aberration, even though the aberration may last throughout my life-time and beyond. It is not all there is. It is not even all there is right now. It is important to turn our eyes to the good, the beautiful, the compassionate, the joyful. There is hostility and indifference in our world - we do need to recognize this. But our eyes can focus on the graciousness of life. This is what I need to do to help heal a deep wound in my family soul.

How shall I do this? By thanking. By noticing the good, the beautiful, the compassionate, the joyful - and by expressing thanks - to God and to people.


Let me end by listing my God Moons in summary form.

  • Savor the simple pleasures of life.
  • Do art - Practice, Publish, Encourage.
  • Thank God and people for the good, the beautiful, the compassionate, the joyful.

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