[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
The reason I haven’t been as consistent with my blogging is that I am writing a chapter for an academic collection titled The Healing Power of Religion and Spirituality. I was invited to write because of my ACIM involvement, but I chose to write instead about Jesus’ “love of enemies” discourse in the Sayings Gospel Q.
Writing about this is having a profound effect on me. This is where Jesus says, in effect, that you should love your enemies so deeply that, when they try to take something from you, you should turn it into a free gift, and then give them twice as much. You should offer the other cheek, give them your coat as well, and go a second mile. As I’ve burrowed into these sayings, I have realized that in Jesus’ vision, the other person is all-important, no matter how they are treating us. And we need to set aside our petty self-concern and regard their needs as paramount, even when they are in the midst of attacking us.
I’ve been realizing that this is so radical because it challenges our conventional perspective in which we are the center of the universe, and other people are essentially objects who exist to serve our needs. This has caused a lot of reflection in me, not all of it pleasant. How have I managed to stay in my bubble, in which I am the center of the universe, in spite of all my best intentions to leave it, to pop it? In some ways I have left it, or at least expanded it. I am definitely easier to get along with than I used to be. But in other ways, I feel I have retreated further into the bubble, as life just hasn’t treated me nice enough.
Yesterday in my morning meditation, a line from the Course spontaneously came to me that was definitely inspired by the writing I am doing. It was “emerge from their private worlds.” I looked it up and I had the wording wrong. It was “come forth from your private world in peace.” So I made that my lesson yesterday: “I will come forth from my private world in peace.” Over the course of the day the feeling grew in me that being in this bubble, this private world, was like a state of sleep. I mean, the people on the other side of the bubble are real. They have needs. They matter. Yet I am only marginally in touch with that. When it comes to them, it’s all a bit hazy. It’s like a state of sleep.
Then this morning I was poking about in other references to our “private world” and looked more closely at the line from yesterday. It said, “It is given you to learn how to deny insanity, and come forth from your private world in peace” (T-13.V.7:7). That one word leapt out at me: “insanity.” As I’ve practiced this as my lesson today (“I deny insanity, and come forth from my private world in peace”), it has really hit me that I am insane.
What is insanity? It is a state in which you have had a break with reality. Reality is there, but you have retreated from it, into your bubble. The simple fact, then, that I am not fully in touch with the reality of my brothers, that they are blips on my radar screen, satellites orbiting around my sun, means that I have had a break with reality. I am insane. I don’t need to invoke the Course’s lofty metaphysical system to determine that. By not granting others as much reality/importance as I grant myself, I am automatically insane.
The other feeling I was getting over the course of yesterday and today is that, in my bubble, I am not fully alive. I am not sure I can articulate why, but I guess the feeling is that life, in the form of the Sons of God around me, is passing by, while I am shut up in this bubble. “I am not really living” is the thought that kept coming to me.
Then I noticed something else in that line today, the phrase “come forth.” Does that ring any bells? What about “Lazarus, come forth!” I think clearly that Jesus is likening coming forth from our private world to Lazarus coming forth from his tomb. I mean, a tomb is a very private world, isn’t it? It’s like that bubble I was talking about. The Course uses this phrase “come forth” only three other times, and two of them clearly have this same connotation. In one of them it is unmistakable: “Freedom and peace and joy stand there, beside the bier on which they sleep, and call to them to come forth and waken from their dream of death” (T-24.III.7:2). Here we have someone on a funeral bier, and someone else is standing beside the bier calling them to “come forth.” If this isn’t an allusion to the raising of Lazarus, I don’t know what is.
Anyway, I don’t mean this to sound morbid. I’m just feeling like I’ve been on that bier. In some sense, we all are, just as in a very real sense, we all are insane. That, of course, is why the world is such a mess. But we can deny insanity, and come forth from our tomb-like private bubbles, and rejoin the living.
While I have been practicing this, I feel that I really have been more present to the people in my life, as if I’ve been waking up out of a dream, at least to some small degree.