Our pain is our joy. This is the reverse of the Buddhist position: All of life is suffering, woe, woe! That is just one way of looking at it, and the wrong way, at that! Of Jesus it was said, "For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross..." And he called his followers to take up their own cross and bear it well. Homer, the blind Greek poet, who knew a thing or two about suffering himself, had Odysseus say, "I will persevere and endure! And when the heaving sea has shaken my raft to pieces, then I will swim!" Our life consists of finding the things we would go to hell for, and live to do them, anyway, nevertheless, even so! So that nothing, not even the eternal fires of hell itself, can stop us, or slow us down, in loving all that is to be loved about our life, and doing all that needs to be done, just for the wonder of doing it and of having done it! And, heaven help those who get in our way! It is our joy to do what is set before us-- to do what needs to be done, the way it needs to be done, when it needs to be done in each moment as it arises all our life long-- "without hope, without witness, without reward" (Steven Moffat, Doctor Who). Because this is who we are! And that is what we are here for! To say "YES!" to life just as it is, and live it for all we are worth, loving everything about it, as our gift to the world.
We live to discover that doing what “isn’t who we are” the right way— the way it needs to be done— will bring us forth in ways we never imagined. Joseph Campbell said, “It took the Cyclops to bring out the hero in Ulysses.” It is Yin/Yang come to life in our lives. This is what we are here for! We live to harmonize/integrate/ blend/merge/create a lasting bond between the polarities. We bear the pain of being alive-- dealing with the contradictions that bring us forth in the time and place of our living-- again and again, growing up against our will (Which is the only way of growing up there is, anywhere, anytime) all the way. It is like what we have to give up to have a dog. Or a child. Or a spouse. It is the nature, and the very heart, of the Path. "We are the chisel and we are the sculptor and we are the stone" (Alex Carrel, or words to that effect). And it is all up to us to work out what it means to be who we are in the time and place of our living. Here's a hint: Sometimes we do it like this, and sometimes we do it like that. When to do what is our call to make every time. The trick is learning to do what is called for, when it is called for, the way it is called for, and doing it, time after time, over the full course of our life. There are no shortcuts. There is only bearing well the pain of being human-- and learning as we go what needs to be done here and now.
The secret to photography is high standards and ruthless editing. The secret to a life well-lived is the same secret. We call BS on ourselves every time it needs to be called. We demand "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" from ourselves at every point in our life. We refuse to let ourselves get by with anything. We hold kidding ourselves to be the worst imaginable offense. We are constantly catching ourselves in contradictions, asking ourselves what we mean, and who do we think we are fooling, and how are we going to square this with that, and never, ever, taking no for an answer. We are our own worst enemy and our own best friend, knowing that the two are one-- and trusting ourselves always, always, to tell ourselves what we need to hear. The mark of a good photographer is not sales and followers, but good work and steady improvement, which is the same evidence of a life well-lived. The payoff is doing the work as well as we can do it, and not the rewards we derive for doing it. We are here to be who we are within the time and place of our living as well as it can possibly be done-- whether anyone notices or not. Day after day, moment by moment, all our life long. No one can do better than that.
All we need is a sounding board. We all need a sounding board. We all need to hear what we have to say. We all need someone who can listen us to what we have to say. Not one of us has enough people in our life who can listen us to the heart of who we are, to the core of what we have to say. So, I create an audience in my head and say what I have to say to people who aren't there. I pretend you are reading this, and I make a sincere and devoted effort to tell you what is essential that I hear myself saying. In this way, you carry me deeper and deeper into what I need to know/remember, and surprise myself with the things myself has to say to me. I am providing my psyche-- or whatever it is within that knows more than I know and is intent on me knowing it-- access to me by "talking" to you. Every day, I meet the Knower Within by telling you what I need to know/remember/hear, whether you are listening or not. It is a practice I recommend to all of you, because none of us has who we need in our life to listen us to what we have to say. Of course, it requires us to push ourselves to listen to what we are saying, and to not let ourselves off the hook by refusing to go where we are uncomfortable being. We have to conscientiously ask and go on asking, seek and go on seeking, knock and go on knocking, probing, exploring, investigating, searching, wondering, and opening ourselves to all of the questions that beg to be asked of everything we are saying. We have to be able to handle the truth of our own truth, trusting the Way to open before us as we start walking, intent on seeing where it leads, and what needs to be said/heard next.
Our foundation is not what someone tells us our foundation is, but what we know to be so out of our own experience of that which holds us up and keeps us going. Belief--even True Belief--is a sales job, and our faith is ultimately in the pitch that someone made to us, and they have to repeat the pitch regularly to keep us grounded in what they say is grounding. Sounds like every religion that ever was. The old Taoists took a different tack. "What do you say?", they said. "What do you say is your ground?" "What do you say is your source?" "What do you say is your original nature?" "What do you say is your face before you were born?" Nobody can tell us those things! We know them to be so because they are so. The way we know we are hungry and when we have had enough to eat. So when the evangelists knock on my door and ask me, "Do you want to go to hell?" I ask them, "What would you go to hell for?" They balk at that, and act like no one has ever asked them that. "I don't want to go to hell!" they say. "I want to go to heaven!" "But what would you go to hell for?" I ask. And the conversation takes a turn they did not foresee when they knocked on my door. What we would go to hell for is something only we know. No one can tell us what we would go to hell for They might have their idea of what we ought to go to hell for, but only we know what it would actually be-- and maybe we don't know until we find ourselves in the position of making the choice. Maybe the choice is forced on us by our circumstances. The ditch we choose to die in is sometimes a real surprise. But it reveals our foundation, our ground, our rock. And nobody can knock us off it. Because that is who we are. We live to find our foundation, our ground, our rock, and to live from there in the time left for living. And no one can tell us what it is. What they can do is ask us what we would go to hell for. Or what our face was before we were born. Or who do we say we are and what makes us think so. In answering these questions, we make up our own religion as we go, and discover the spirit within us all that is like the wind, blowing where it will, daring anyone to tell us who we ought to be, because it knows who we are.