The other day I was reading about the authority problem and it really got me to thinking. The authority problem is our resistance to accepting reality, especially our own reality, as God created it, just because we don’t want anyone to have authority over us.
What I realized is that we have a tremendous investment in being able to manipulate reality (or what we consider reality) in order to feel better. We do this, of course, behaviorally. We are always taking actions that change “reality” into a more pleasing shape. But we also do it mentally. When we don’t like something, we look the other way. We mentally avoid it. We sweep it under the rug, magically imagining that it is actually gone. Perhaps even more to the point, we are all seasoned spin doctors. We quickly spin uncomfortable views into more pleasing pictures in our own mind. We can quickly turn any of our own vices into virtues, and just as quickly turn the virtues of our competitors into vices.
We do this avoiding and spinning on a constant basis. Freud called it using defense mechanisms. This testifies to a deep need we have to fill our minds with a reality that we ourselves make and manipulate at will. Can you feel that need in you? I can certainly feel it in me.
Of course, that’s the authority problem. I want to experience a reality that is mine, that I am the author of. The idea that there is something that is real that I have no power over, a reality that is simply a given whether I like it or not, can seem like the worst form of imprisonment. Imagine that you were forced to stare at something—you couldn’t blink or turn your eyes, and you couldn’t spin it in your mind. That can be a scary thought.
What occurred to me the other day is that this authority problem is really nuts. Whatever is real is real. There’s nothing I can do about it. Two plus two is four—period. That’s not going to change no matter how much I want it to. Closing my eyes won’t make it go away. Putting my spin on it won’t actually make it equal ten. It just is what it is.
It struck me that the whole Course is about coming to peace with a pregiven reality, in the confidence that the pregiven reality is actually infinitely better—safer, more joyous, and more loving—than any of our self-made “realities.” I can’t change it, so why not just accept it, especially given how joyous the Course says it is?
In this spirit, then, I chose this line, adapted from something Jesus said to Helen and Bill, for my practice for the day:
I voluntarily dismiss this whole authority problem once and for all.