Time capsules are intriguing. Your elementary school teacher encourages you to round up some receipts, a few movie tickets, maybe a back-of-the-envelope journal entry with your favorite candy bar or song written on it, along with a note of encouragement to your future self, and then you and your classmates shove all these notions into a box or a tube and bury it. Kickball, the old standby, would probably have been a more thrilling recess (for some) and lent itself to a slightly more sedated pack of third graders in the afternoon’s spelling lesson, but all in all it was a curious experience worth having. I’ve been party to one or two of these events, but have never quite remained sufficiently in the loop to know if any of the nuts we squirreled away were ever uncovered.
Time capsules of the mind, now… those are an entirely different phenomenon. I can remember thinking as a boy- what will I be like when I’m eighteen? What about when I’m thirty!? That was forever away… I can remember distinctly hoping my thirty year old self would look back and remember that moment, so we could connect the loop- leap across that gap in our own little game of timelessness. I’m not sure I looked up at the precise moment, but I remember setting a few traps like that in time, and undoubtedly have sprung a few. Sometimes, if I don’t have a good science fiction book handy, I imagine my current self setting little time bombs for that little boy. Retroactive. From the future to the past. That one leaves you a little woozy. But, seriously, if it works, it surely works in both directions…
When that second grade you zings off that missal to your thirty year old self, it truly feels like you’re writing to someone who is alive in that moment- you, but not you. Me, but not me. (Is this what it means to experience being as Christ? As the Buddha? As a poet in Shiraz inscribing echoes of Love onto parchment? To be and to not be all beings?)
I distinctly remember a moment when I was standing on the cracked concrete sidewalk, in the cool night air of winter, scanning the heavens for Orion’s Belt, and thinking to myself- I just have to be good for about eighty years, plus or minus, and if I can pull it off, I’ll probably get into Heaven, and then I can relax. Whatever comes, I told myself, I can endure it. I have to. This was not just a stray thought. This was a young mind doing its best to assess the situation, buck up, and face reality. Such a trip. If you were raised Catholic, and you somehow- however this stuff happens- had a proclivity to acknowledge the existence of something greater than the breadth and depth of your individual personality, this is the position in which you would find yourself.
Luckily, I had parents who had already questioned the notion that an enjoyable eternity was only the province of the few, or the select, elect, whatever- and they disabused me of the belief that any shortfalls would leave a permanent scar, or that a loving God would set up a game with rules such as this and then send the sheep to slaughter, thus lifting the immediate pressure that seemed to be part and parcel of being. (Hey, pressure is pressure. As Dr. Seuss had long established through my childhood Seussian character of choice, the elephant Horton, a consciousness is a consciousness, no matter how small…)
Later, however, I came to the conclusion that if I didn’t “learn” everything one “needed” to learn, in lieu of the one strike rule, I could have another life- as many as it took, actually- to get things right. This, as it turns out, was simply another form of the original ontological conundrum with which I had previously grappled, because, you see, I wasn’t all that interested in coming back. Laying on my bed in the mid-80’s, sweating, hearing the city’s diverse sirens calling to the night, and wondering what in the hell was going to prevent the Russians from launching their nukes, had left me somewhat less than impressed with this world.
I was back to square one. I need to get this right the first time, or else I’ll have to start over, and what if I don’t start the next life with any more knowledge or wherewithal than I started this one? Odds are, I’ll backslide. All things considered, I had a pretty good start this time. Childhood in a middle class American family. No domestic abuse. I need to make this happen now… I’ll undoubtedly not be so fortunate the next time. I know enough statistics to have figured that one out. (This logic is flawed, so don’t buy it, BTW.) (Here you can see the desperate need for time capsules that somehow transcend the single life.)
And so, these layers of misperception and insanity are still being shed. The Course in Miracles was tremendously helpful to me in discerning truth from illusion, and reality from unreality, but it is quite possible to read the Course in a way that suggests that, given that Reality is someplace other than this world we’re in now, this life I have and know here is still second best to something else. And that’s sorta’ what I did. Pretty much. (Yup.) This life was good in as much as it could be used to learn peaceful ways of getting out of it forever.
This world… is a problem… That’s an undercurrent that runs through all of this.
Now I’m coming to question this belief. I’m questioning the belief that this world is a second best scenario. (I cheated and read A Course of Love, so it’s not like I walked out into the desert and relied solely on a batch of ontological gedanken experiments to come to this conclusion.) True, it’s not Reality, but it’s something Reality cooked up. I’m not talking about the world as it lives in our misperception, but the world as it could be as a living expression of our holiness. (There is a difference.) The Word wants to be made flesh. The Word wants to be heard. I’m starting to consider that one’s ability to view the world as a first best way to express what lives within us, is in some way a litmus test for one’s ability to see with the vision of Christ.
I’m not saying, at all, that the world is the be all end all. But once one discovers what is True, and that the world isn’t needed to make the Truth true, or me Me, or you You- once one frees the world of all the pressure that has been put on it to be Reality- it is freed of the chains that bound it. It is free to be remade. It is free to be what it was originally intended- the miracle of Love in motion. To set the world and ourselves free, we have to see Reality as Reality, and the world as the world. And when we perceive correctly, the world is no longer a place to be feared, no longer a place to endured, no longer a place sure to deliver nearly unbearable heaps of suffering and difficulty. It will be the place… where we will tell each other the story of who we really are…
As I inch towards full acceptance of this grace that is daily extended to me, and to us, I am unlearning a core belief that has been at work within me since I was a small boy, that there is something wrong, or something that could go wrong, and that I’ve got to make something of myself to avoid this fate.