Chief Seattle and Black Elk did not have a PhD between them. Or a Masters Degree. Or a Bachelors Degree. Or a high school diploma. And they were brilliant men of soul, fit for the company of Gandalf the Grey, Albus Dumbledore, Obi wan Kenobi and Yoda. Dolly Parton would belong to that group. And Linda Ronstadt. And Maggie Smith. And Mary Oliver. (The list is long of women who know what's what) All the people who know, know the same things. They know what counts, matters, makes a difference. Chief Seattle said, talking about putting himself in accord with the reality of life and death, "Why should I lament the disappearance of my people? All things end, and the white man will find this out also." Joseph Campbell (also a member of Those Who Know) said that we can be at peace with all things as they are--adding "This doesn't mean that one shouldn't participate in efforts to correct the situation, but underlying the effort to change one must be 'at peace.'" At peace with the "is-ness" of things, in a "This is the way things are, and this is what can be done about it, and that's that," kind of way. Those who know know this is so, and joyfully embrace the terms governing the game, giving themselves to full participation in the game, and, when it is done, letting that be that.
"It's only my (your) imagination," is as dismissive and as disrespectful as we are capable of being. Everything we have done as a species came right out of the silence into our imagination. Our imagination is the greatest sense organ at our disposal. It connects us with dimensions beyond those we associate with space and time, and with our unconscious, and our "other" self at the center of that world (Carl Jung said, "There is in each of us another, whom we do not know"-- whom we know through our imagination!). James Hollis said, "Death does not end a relationship anymore than divorce ends a marriage." And that relationship is maintained and deepened through our imagination. Our imagination creates possibilities for our life in this world of normal, apparent, reality by enabling us to see things into being. Writers and artists, plumbers and carpenters, musicians and quarterbacks, scientists and teachers, and all of the rest of us regularly experience flashes of realization, insight, enlightenment and creativity that pop into our awareness right out of our imagination. When we meditate, our imagination stirs to life, and stirs us to life with inspirations, urges, notions, visions and things that occur to us "right out of the blue," and it doesn't always wait for us to meditate, but stops us in mid-stride with a seizure of "esthetic arrest," (James Joyce) that transforms our life and propels us into directions and destinations we would have never planned or considered on our own. And Joseph Campbell was fond of saying that none of us planned to be where we are. Honor your imagination with the esteem that is its due. Devote time to deepening your relationship with that aspect of yourself. Serve it with filial devotion and liege loyalty. It is the most magical tool at our disposal, and 'twould be a shame to deny it the opportunity to show us what it can do.
The straight and narrow is the dangerous path along the slippery slope like the razor's edge between the dualities that have to be integrated, unified, in a way that takes everything into account and responds to what is called for in each situation as it arises with exactly what is needed at that moment in that place without thinking about it or knowing what we are doing, by moving in conjunction with time and place, spontaneously, improvisationally, as a dancer dancing with an invisible partner to music that cannot be heard, carried away by synchronicity, grace, magic, and transforming the world. That is what we are living to be able to do. Living like that, moment-by-moment-by-moment, is what life is all about. How do we get there? Isn't that the question, though! We live our way to the answer. We do not think our way there. But. Thinking about our thinking will do it. Watching our seeing. Being intently/intentionally aware of who we are where we are how we are what is happening what is happening in response to what is happening and what is happening to that-- within us and outside of us-- receiving it with compassion, without opinion, without judgment, "Just this, just that," and simultaneously, holding it all in our awareness and allowing it to sink into our body and our mind so that we know what's what, and wait to see what we do about it without consciously willing any response at all beyond waiting and watching and wondering... until BOOM! (As John Madden would say) we find ourselves doing something we never imagined ourselves doing. Where did that come from? That's were we have to live from! Call it The Center. Call it The Still Point. Call it The Source. And let ourselves trust it to be what is needed-- beyond knowing what is needed-- and live from there, threading the needle along the straight and narrow forever.
We cannot help the way we see things. Growing up means seeing things differently. We grow up against our will-- against ourselves-- throughout our life. Seeing things differently is like dying. Growing up is dying. This is the cross that is central to Christianity. We die again and again in the work to see things as they are. I was standing in a cotton field talking to a Mississippi Delta planter about race relations and gay rights, who was saying, "Hell, Jim-- this ain't how I see things! This is how things are!" Theology allows us to talk about the cross without experiencing it-- to talk about growing up without ever once dying to do it. Take your cherished ways of seeing things, your precious rites and rituals that are central to who you are, and throw them in the burning barrel. That's what Jesus meant when he said, "If you are coming with me, pick up your cross every day-- die every day-- to the way you see things, that the way things are might have a chance of breaking through!"