We are always "so close and yet so far away." It is the recurring theme of our life-- all of our lives, worldwide-- over time. All it takes is a slight shift in perspective. We are looking at it like this, and we need to look at it like that. It is only a matter of flipping the switch. Of turning the light around. And so it is said, "Fine is the balance, and thin is the line between having it made and having nothing at all." And you can't explain the difference to anyone who doesn't see it. I tell people, "You can't understand what I'm saying until you know what I mean." And I can't understand why they don't know what I mean. It is just "right there" for everyone all of the time. But, if your orientation is toward security, safety, hoarding, being protected, being seen, known, admired, loved, adored, being right, beyond scrutiny, always on top, with a massive layer of wealth guaranteeing your place in society, you will never understand, standing alone, being safe, at home with the unknown and unknowable. Those orientations are light years apart. Yin and Yang. Mutually exclusive and incompatible to the core. And so it is said, "You can't change your mind about what is important until you get to the end of your rope-- and maybe not even then." So, I'm talking to people who can't hear what I'm saying, or who already know what I'm talking about. I can only keep it up because that is what is mine to do, and I have no choice but to do it. If you know what I mean.
We cannot get there directly. "The path that can be discerned is not a reliable path." No one can explain it to us. Spell it out for us. Talk us into knowing what we need to know to be who we are, at one with ourselves and all of life. It's like a treasure hidden in a field, or a pearl of great price lost among the costume jewelry in a flea market in the Midwest. We stumble upon it. It falls into our lap out of nowhere. We are in hot pursuit of something else, turn a corner, and there it is. Everything depends on being in the right place at the right time. Synchronicity is the heart of the matter. And you can't arrange that, or plan for that, or factor that into any equation to make happen what is dying to happen until its time, and even then we can screw with the entire setup by not seeing what is right before us, or not hearing what is being said. The whole apparatus hinges upon "aesthetic arrest." I think the origin of the term is/was James Joyce. Robinson Jeffers called it "divinely superfluous beauty." It stops us in our tracks like an anvil falling from the sky. Our place is to walk around waiting for an anvil to fall from the sky. That is as close as we can come to arraigning our own awakening. In the meantime, we could sit quietly, watching, listening, waiting for the mud to settle and the water to clear. And put ourselves in the proximity of beauty by making pilgrimages to the land of art, music and nature in a regular and recurring way. If we are waiting to be hit by a train, it helps to nap on railroad tracks.
In order to be successful, religion has to prostitute itself and become the very antithesis of its own center/ground/foundation. A successful religion is a contradiction in terms. Religion in the truest/best sense of the word is personal, private, individual, and incapable of being established and sustained on a mass or corporate level over time. "The Tao that can be stated/told is not the eternal Tao." "The path that can be discerned as a path is not a reliable path." "Two Hail Mary's and an Our Father" will not do it. There are no formulas, or recipes, or methods, or steps to take to the heart of True Religion. Theology, Doctrines, dogma, creeds, beliefs, rituals, practices, scriptures, hymns and prayers of confession, petition, intercession, praise and thanksgiving merely stir up the dust and fill the air with "sound and fury signifying nothing" (Macbeth). This is the crux of the matter: It is one thing to be the church, and it is another thing to be the church and pay the bills. In order to pay the bills, "the church" (Or organized religion in all forms) has to betray the virtues at the heart of religion: Sincerity, Spontaneity, Balance, Harmony, Equanimity, Integrity, Non-contrivance, Self-transparency, Self-awareness, and Truthfulness, to mention a few. True Religion has nothing to gain and nothing to lose. Organized Religion has to "make disciples" at any price excusing its excesses and indiscretions as necessary concessions in doing "the work of the Lord." Organized Religion says things it cannot substantiate, and promises things it cannot deliver, just to gain a following, using heaven as a reward and hell as a threat for embracing or rejecting its proclamation. True Religion "is like beggars telling other beggars where they have found food," and leaving it at that, letting nature take its course, with nothing but its experience to offer as helpful suggestions for dealing with the world.
Getting older means we don't have as much time as we once had, and while that has always been the case, having fewer days left means more at 76 and counting than it meant at 23. Or 55. And that means I have to consciously prioritize how I spend my time. "How much does this mean to me?" I ask of everything. "How much do I love doing it?" "What would be a better way of spending my time?" Silence and stillness are a part of every day. Reading and writing. Taking photos and processing images. Working in the yard, cooking and eating meals, taking a walk, time with family, errands, a nap, a shower and going to bed are the way most days go. And I call that a good life. You caught no TV, I'm sure. And no Facebook. Asking me to attend a meeting, or even to meet you for lunch or dinner would get a polite "I'd love to, but." If you persist, it becomes, "Maybe one day," "maybe some time," "maybe soon." Said laughingly and meaning, "No." And if that doesn't do it, I end with, "I wish I would, but I won't." We are stewards of our own time. And that means we have to know how to spend it. And how not to. The earlier we take up the practice of being good for ourselves, the better it will be for us over the long haul, which gets shorter by the day.