Leaving the Cocoon

Sometimes, you have to be snatched out of your comfort zone in order to move into the next phase of your life.

I have written about myself being reclusive, comfortably snug in a cocoon of my own making. I have known for a while that I needed to come of out the cocoon, but I have been reluctant to do so. So, God snatched me out.

The will of God, I believe, is for us all to be all He/She created us to be. The recent economic crisis has resulted in not a few people realizing, or discovering, parts of themselves that they didn’t know existed. Entrepreneurs have been born out of despair and panic.

God must be smiling.

There is something about being out of a cocoon that is radically liberating. Scary …but liberating…because being out of one’s comfort zone and thrown off the cliff, so to speak, and being told to fly is a tipping point. You either fly, flapping the wings you didn’t know you had …or you crash and burn.

In trying to figure out how to flap the wings you didn’t even realize you had, you lose the time you had to concentrate on feeling afraid or angry because of your situation. You have too much work to do. To worry or give too much time to what caused you to be “out there” is to pull valuable time away from learning how to discover and then use the wings you always had.

I think God must rejoice at times like these. God must smile and say, “finally.” So many of us remain closed up in our cocoons and never get to experience the freedom that comes when one is out of it, so when some of us break free, or, as in my case, are snatched out, God surely must smile.

The late Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote an amazing, book called God In Search of Man.  In it, he writes that “self-deception is the chief source of corruption in religious thinking, more deadly than error.” He also writes that “religion is liable to distortion from without and to corruption from within …Faith, in its zeal, tends to become bigotry.”

It occurs to me that many of us commit bigotry against ourselves, blaming religion and religious teaching for the same.  We discriminate against ourselves and hold ourselves back because of our lack of faith in ourselves and in God, who desires that we fly.  When we commit bigotry against ourselves, we are more likely to feel bigotry from others because we have created a spiritual culture in which bigotry, whether self-imposed or from the outside, can and does flourish.

Staying in a safe place, in a cocoon, is a petri dish in which self-deceptive words, feelings and attitudes multiply and too many of us do not realize how we are blocking the will of God, which is that all of us would be free.

Religious doctrine and political ideology have been blamed for a lot of the non-movement of human beings, but the fact is that many of us have prevented ourselves from moving. We don’t dare.  We would rather be holed up in an old cocoon than to burst out of it, “following our bliss,” as Joseph Campbell advises us all to do. And in not following our bliss, too many of remain dolefully unhappy and unfulfilled in these very few days we are allotted on earth.

If being in relationship with God is supposed to be liberating, which I believe it is, then many of us “cocoon dwellers” miss it., Richard Rohr writes, “… but in most of history the priestly tradition has been in control and defined religion. “Leviticus and Numbers” usually trump any real exoduses from slavery to freedom.” That phrase struck me, as I realize many of us enslave ourselves, in spite of deep religious beliefs. We humans all need a personal Exodus experience, and Rohr writes that it is as much an internal as an external journey. That’s what “liberation theology” is basically about…but too many of us don’t understand.

I didn’t understand, and so God snatched me out of my cocoon. I was so comfortable there;  I yearn for it at times …but I am kind of liking this feeling of wings that are slowly drying out and spreading. I am beginning to live my way into a new way of thinking. Wings are spreading, slowly …

It’s better than the cocoon.

A candid observation …

Bliss and Blessings

Cover of "The Power of Myth (Illustrated ...
Cover of The Power of Myth (Illustrated Edition)

 

It is when we suffer tremendous trauma that we are blessed to be able to experience newness of life.

 

Too many of us kind of just walk through life perfunctorily. We do not want to step out of our comfort zones; in fact, if the truth be told, we are afraid to do that. We would rather be miserable staying where we are than to risk feeling truly fulfilled by going through the trauma that always accompanies change.

 

My mother died when I was a teen, but her death was probably a good thing for me. Had she not died, I would probably have stayed in Detroit, to be close to her. I would not have gone where I have gone or done what I have done.

 

Her death jolted me and actually empowered to “go out” and begin to look for parts of myself that I knew nothing about.

 

Joseph Campbell, in his book, The Power of Myth, talks about we as individuals needing to find our bliss and to follow our bliss.  He said that “if you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living…” He said that when we make a decision to follow our bliss, and begin doing it, “you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open doors to you.”  He says for us human beings to “follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”

 

Campbell’s advise is so sage, so rich, and so inspiring…yet so many of us do not follow our bliss, because we have not taken the time to figure out, or perhaps to acknowledge, what our bliss is.

 

It really does not matter how old one is when he or she decides that their current life is just not getting it. In fact, we use age as an excuse to not do a lot of things. As long as we have breath in our bodies and are of sound mind, we are capable of making a change in the direction we are going.

 

Often, though, it takes a tremendous trauma in our lives, something that forces us to live in a “new normal,” to make us step out on faith and in faith to places we have always thought about but never had the guts to try it.  Change, and the pain that comes with change, is an opportunity, not an omen, it is a time to move forward, not to yearn to go back to “what was.” Change becomes an impetus if we let it. It gives us an opportunity, as we deal with the reality of our “new normal,” to recognize that “something inside you,” says Campbell, “that lets you know when you’re in the center.”

 

When we get to that point, we experience an exhilaration. We don’t dread what we are doing; because it is our bliss, what we are doing feeds our spirits, and we grow. When we get to that point, we “keep showing up for life,” as a friend recently advised me to do. We show up for life and we find that life is so different than we have ever known.

 

It takes faith to follow one’s bliss. Ironically, many of us as Christians talk faith but do not know how to access it or use it. We don’t know how to let faith do its double function of feeding us hope while we are in the midst of the trauma of our “new normal,” and to inspire us to identify our bliss, the reasons we were put on this earth, and to begin following it.

 

There is a Negro spiritual called “Ain’t Got Time to Die.”  None of us have time to die. We have a limited number of days on the earth, and good health is a blessing that too often take for granted. It seems that while we are capable, we might think about trying to identify what our “bliss” is and begin following it. It would be the greatest thing to see one of those doors Campbell talked about that is waiting to open…and to walk through it, finally on our way to the lives we were created to live.

 

A candid observation …

 

 

 

A Broader Understanding of “Pro-Life”

I have often found myself cringing as “pro-life” advocates have stood outside abortion clinics, pleading for the rights of an unborn fetus, not because I like it that there are so many abortions, but because those who are “pro-life” seem, for the most part, to have such a narrow understanding of  what life is.

In fact, although pro-life advocates have put billboards up in urban neighborhoods, urging people in those neighborhoods to refrain from having abortions, it seems that these same advocates, once the babies in these neighborhoods are born into poverty and despair, pretty much ignore them.

Children who live in poverty, who are born in poverty, depend on the government for basic services, like food and health care. Children born into poverty have a higher chance of ending up in prison, because the schools in their neighborhoods are so bad and they end up giving up and dropping out of school.

According to the Children’s Defense Fund, a “cradle to prison” pipeline exists because children born into poverty – yet very much alive – suffer from abject poverty, inadequate health care, gaps in childhood development, disparate educational opportunities, “intolerable abuse and neglect,”  “unmet mental and emotional problems, rampant substance abuse,” and involvement in an overburdened , ineffective juvenile justice system, a system which looks at these children as a drain on society.

These children, very much alive, are despised once they come out of the womb. As a fetus, a poor child is cherished; the heartbeat of the fetus is used in commercial and religious attempts to get people to oppose abortion. Yet, there is no such drumbeat for these children, and for the things they need once they are born in order to have valuable and viable lives, once they are born.

There is something very wrong with this reality.

Martin Buber, a Jewish theologian and Zionist, wrote a powerful book, I and Thou, where he described how we as human beings objectify other human beings, presumably to protect ourselves, our thoughts, and our beliefs.

He believed that part of the problem in Israel was the inability and unwillingness of Jewish people to treat Arabs as fellow human beings, “it” as opposed to “thou.” An “it” has no feelings; it is an object, devoid of even the need for another human being to invest caring and compassion into. A “thou,” on the other hand, is a “fellow human being,” one with which one can develop an empathic relationship, based on the understanding that this “thou” has needs and feelings equal to that of the person doing the evaluating.

“I-it” relationships have made it possible for sexism, racism, homophobia, discrimination against the aged …to flourish. When we as humans do not see another human as human, we feel nothing about what we may or may not do to affirm that person’s worth and need to meet their needs.

That’s the feeling I get that the pro-life proponents carry with them. The poor are precious so long as they are in the womb. Once out, they are a bane to society, unworthy of anyone’s time or concern.

If the pro-life people would advocate as hard for quality education for poor children as they do for more affluent children, or push for legislation or some other source to provide for quality health care for these children, I wouldn’t care about their concern and love for the unborn fetus. Poor children do not ask to be born, and they are not responsible for their conditions. It is so hypocritical and sad for a civilized society to have such a narrow definition and appreciation for life.

A candid observation …