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Wednesday 18 November 2009

Splinters and Planks

In the magical, mystical world of childhood, which we never quite grow out of but sometimes hide for a while, we can be anything we choose to be - a princess, a fairy, a wizard, a king - and we can take any situation and turn it into a fabulous realm where we play the hero, victim or narrator or whatever role we choose. There are no responsibilities there beyond slaying the dragons of our own imagination, or ruling our kingdoms with justice and peace.

Fact is, it seems to me, that fairy tale kingdom is really the Truth about how we live our lives. We come into this world without any responsibilities but, at an early age are taught that we are responsible for one another....and there begins our decline into the idea that somehow we are omnipotent and everything is laid on our shoulders and we grow up. That's the point where we eat the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden - that's when we turn away from our natural playfulness and peace into the idea that we, not God are responsible for what happens around us. And religion encourages this. It's somehow our responsibility that someone is starving, that someone is suffering, that someone is in pain. We must stop our games, and subject ourselves to all kinds of sacrifices to correct this terrible thing that has happened to someone else. It's my fault that someone else hurts. It's my responsibility to care for the poor, the suffering, the oppressed. This is taught from pulpits every day.

And along came Jesus who said, "Why do you attempt to take the splinter from your brother's eye, when there is a plank in your own?" I always took this to mean don't judge other people when you make bigger mistakes yourself, but nowadays it takes on a new meaning.

There we are playing and, while playing, gathering splinters of ideas - ideas about original sin, about debt to society, about how we need to obey people who are cleverer than we are, about how wars are necessary and people are aggressive and not to be trusted, and we need to listen to masters and mediators between us and the Divine - and gradually building whole forests of lies about about who we are, what we're doing here, how we are sinners and have to appease a God who sacrificed his son so horrifically to pay for our sins....and at the same time try to help each other and take the splinters from someone else's eye.

Supposing it were different. Supposing we all cleared our own vision of the world; cleared out our planks, our vision and how we view the world; and more than that, cleared out all the old ideas of how we are supposed to live, then indeed we would see clearly enough to say to one another, "Want to come and play?" There would be no poverty then; there would be no one in need. Sometimes it's easier to feel good about 'doing good for others' than it is to clear our own shadow side, but unless we clear our own planks first, we can never see the beautiful expression of the Divine in others.

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