your mom, my friend,
left a message on my machine she was frantic
saying you were talking crazy
that you wanted to do away with yourself
I guess she thought I'd be a perfect resort
because we've had this inexplicable connection since our youth
and yes they're in shock
they are panicked
you and your chronic
them and their drama
you this embarrassment
us in the middle of this delusion
if we were our bodies
if we were our futures
if we were our defenses, I'd be joining you
if we were our culture
if we were our leaders
if we were our denials, I'd be joining you
I remember vividly a day years ago
we were camping you knew more than you thought you should know
you said "I don't want ever to be brainwashed"
and you were mindboggling
you were intense
you were uncomfortable in your own skin
you were thirsty, but mostly you were beautiful
if we were our nametags
if we were our rejections
if we were our outcomes, I'd be joining you
if we were our indignities
if we were our successes
if we were our emotions, I'd be joining you
you and i, we're like four year olds
we want to know why and how come about everything
we want to reveal ourselves at will and speak out minds
and never talk small and be intuitive
and question mightily and find God
my tortured beacon, we need to find like-minded companions
if we were their condemnations
if we were their projections
if we were our paranoias, I'd be joining you
if we were our incomes
if we were our obsessions
if we were our afflictions, I'd be joining you
we need reflection
we need a really good memory
feel free to call me a little more often
-- Alanis Morissette, Joining You
This was a really hard weekend, but then I got back to my email and one of my aunties had written to me about how a young person she knew had attempted to commit suicide. Phew... life can be really very dark, and it is important to remember that we are, first and foremost, souls. We are indeed not our bodies, futures, defenses, culture, leaders, denials, nametags, rejections, outcomes, indignities, successes, emotions, condemnations, projections, paranoias, incomes, obsessions, afflictions, or anything else by which the word defines us... or we define ourselves either.
Talk of souls is interesting to me. While I believe strongly that we each have a right to express our spirituality in whatever way feels most authentic to us, I also feel that there are times when things are labeled as soul which are perhaps only constructs of our minds or something else. I believe that the soul is a mysterious thing... that it is not really possible to fully access it with our finite human minds, minds which have only experienced this world and can only really think in terms of our physical existance.
I have always found myself trying to pick my way through a blackberry thicket of judgements about spirituality. I am the child of two people who experience their spirituality in two very different ways, and I always struggled with finding peace with my own expression. I have never been terribly saintly. I laugh at questionable humor, I curse when I feel like it, and I like men a lot. Growing up, worshipping God always looked a little more like fighting for equality in all of my classes and papers, singing where no one could hear me, and taking care of everyone around me. As I moved away from home, I still faught the pressure to make myself smaller, pray quietly, be calmer, learn to meditate... conform to some kind of standard of demurity which I could and can never reach. Later someone told me that all of the indecision I experienced in picking a career path was about finding a way to God and me and nobody else is allowed. That rings true. I felt and still sometimes feel drowned out by the voices of others, and it took me a long time to become comfortable with the warmth I feel in my chest when I know that things are right on the inside, despite the fact that certain parties will always find a way to disapprove.
I have been studying the 8th book in the Ruhi Institute series of study circle materials. It's called The Covenant. In its most basic definition, a "covenant" is a promise. As a person who finds herself most at home in my belief in Baha'u'llah, this word has a little more meaning. The covenant I make as a Baha'i means that my beleif in Baha'u'llah dictates that I heed the guidance of 'Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi with unswerving loyalty. It means that I am obedient to the guidance of the Universal House of Justice, the governing body of the Baha'is of the world, and to the rest of the administrative structure of the Faith as it exists. It means that I consult this guidance before I do anything else and that I do not go out and start my own Baha'i Faith when I don't like what I am hearing here.
I want to be clear. This makes me feel safer, not less safe. This makes me feel guided and protected, not stifled. I can ask all of the questions I want, and I have the free will to walk out if I ever find that this does not feed my soul. I cannot deny, however, that this Faith frees me to be more of myself than I ever thought possible... that learning more makes me feel that this is more right, not less...
So now we come back to Book 8. There are a couple of things which have been driven home to me in the course of this process:
1. Service looks like many things, and there is room for everyone. The examples of some early Baha'is who were chosen by Baha'u'llah, 'Abdu'l-Baha, and Shoghi Effendi to serve the Faith in special capacities known as Hands of the Cause are good illustrations of the diversity of acceptable paths available. Among these individuals who were hand-picked because of their faithfulness and purity of heart, there were artists, scholars, business people, public speakers, lawyers, the more mystical-minded, more practical thinkers, and everything in between. With such diversity held up as an example, clearly there is room for me, too. Spirituality has many modes of expression.
2. On-going guidance is important. It's pretty cool that this body of believers is given instructions periodically, places to take our questions, and the direction towards consultation as a tool for figuring out the rest of this.
3. God forgive me, but I cannot sit quietly with the idea that spirituality is meant to find its only expression in oneself. I believe that the power latent in all of this soul thing is supposed to overhaul the world. I believe that I am not the only one entitled to freedom and safety and the joy of being able to choose what I want my life to look like. I believe that it is my responsibility to strive to share this and to make our world and our communities better places. The time for monks and nuns is over. The world needs work. It's not enough to sit alone by yourself and think. You have to come out and help the rest of us find our insides, too. This is another thing I love about this Faith. At this point in history, there are all of these really amazing community building tools we are learning to use, and much good is resulting, both within the Baha'i community and in the communities served.
... because I keep coming back over and over again to the idea that alone really isn't healthy. I agree with Alanis on this one... "we need reflection/ we need a really good memory/ feel free to call a little more often." At the very least, we need people to call. I went through hell this weekend, and I don't know that I could have kept it together without the knowledge that I had back-up, both spiritual and, had push come to shove, physically. I am blessed with people who have gotten into cars before to help when things were real. In a world where things happen... dark things happen... can we really find peace in the idea that inward is all that matters? Can we really confine spirituality to that place? My insides are definately a touch-stone, but I cannot presume to assert that the rest of those things are not soul... that the love between people is not soul... that the speech shared between people is not souls... that the time we spend taking care of each other is not soul. I have seen people grow back from horrible things through the simple knowledge that if they call, someone will answer. Tell me that's not soul...