One of the core concepts of A Course of Love is contained in the statement, “There is no loss, only gain.” While there are a number of contexts in which this sentiment offers an opportunity for a deepening understanding of what is meant by the term unity within the Course, recent events in my own life as well as events observed in the lives of those around me have led me to reflect upon its relevance to the types of changes that threaten to strip away a particular way of life.
It is one thing to speak of being fearless and taking on the challenges we pick out for ourselves, and another to apply it to changes that seem to strike without our consent and dismantle core elements of our lives– changes such as the closure of the local mill in which a person has spent the better part of his or her adult life working, the loss of the family farm in the face of drought and the pressures of worldwide commoditization, the dissolution of a child’s family as his or her parents pull away from one another, or the forced abrogation of one’s cultural heritage by the ruling authority.
Where is the gain in these events?
How does one assert trust in what is, when the particular vehicles that once served as conduits of sustenance, love and meaning crumble around us? Sometimes I think it’s even worse when they but threaten to crumble, and manage to cling to an indeterminate state, teetering and gasping, their fate held in some invisible balance. That’s when the certainty so easily proffered during a boon starts to feel real dry in the throat– hollow and parched. Should we accept what is coming, and just move on? Or is this the moment we’ve read about… the time to make our stand?
What does trust even look like in these moments? Does it look like unshakable trust in a particular outcome? Is acceptance of what seems apparent in the trends a lame resignation, the first in a series of sliding tumbles that reinforce our limitations? If we were fearless, committed and clear in our intentions, could we turn the tables? What if we gave ourselves wholly to the pursuit of an outcome, and failed? What if we bet the last resources at our disposal, and came up empty-handed? What does trust mean, when suddenly one is encircled by a platoon of such risky alternatives?
Don’t the wise people we admire avoid these situations altogether somehow…?
All of these questions, I think, lie on the near side of embracing the statement offered at the outset, “There is no loss, only gain.”
My inner responses of late to the rather minor wobbles in my own life highlight the extent to which the experience of separation, as opposed to the experience of unity, leverages the ever-changing flow of creation into the deep-seated feeling of crisis– usurps the ever-present stream of grace and twists it into the mirage of existential threat. When we find ourselves facing life in the arena of risk and threat, egoic perception has established home field advantage. With the whole stadium clamoring for a decision, for an identity-forging act of will, it is all but impossible to hear the gentle whispers of unity. This is the state from which the ego, or the experience of separation, derives its (non-existent) power. This is when its offer of seeming protection is most tantalizing and attractive. This is when the insane idea of forging a truly independent existence, an identity born of its own efforts and accomplishments, is most alluring.
Do you see what your trust has brought you? Is it not time to give up these fool games and idle dreams of freedom, and buckle the @#$% down?
Never mind that you’re already about as buckled as buckled gets… Seldom does the drive to succeed and accomplish– to strive and overcome, to engage and outwit, to assert our strength and will– burn brighter than in these moments. We can come under incredible interior pressure to make a decision of magnitude, and while it is entirely true that our relationship with the heart of creation begs for a response, the distortion of the moment precludes any genuine response, leaving only the barren field of choice.
In A Course of Love, Jesus describes the experience of unity as being one that is free of choice. What is the difference between offering a response, and making a choice? Everything, I am discovering.
Choice is the means of navigating the experience of separation, the primary mechanism we use to establish ourselves as the cause of who we are, the evidence that we are responsible for our own lives, a power unto ourselves. Choice is what we are faced with after eating that psychedelic fruit in the Garden, the fruit that turns our vision of the world upside down by shifting the experience of meaning and identity from the seamless expanse of being to the stories told by our personal histories and accomplishments. Choice and blame arise together, as everything occurring in such a world must be the product of someone’s choice, and if the choices are not the right ones, things go wrong. And loss is epidemic in a world based upon choosing.
A response is not a choice, but a communication, an act of relationship, a movement rooted in trust. Trust is implicit in offering a response because in relationship each response is a movement that alters the stance of all participants. All of what is moves together. A response shifts the totality into new terrain. One response evokes another. What arises from response cannot be known in advance, and responses don’t have the same repercussions as choosing. A response isn’t an attempt to make something of ourselves, with the possibility of success or failure, but the offering of what one has to give. In this there can be no failure.
Choice has no place in unity, where the nature of our being has already been determined. How could choice matter, when our identity is no longer up for debate? Fueled by the recognition that there is no loss, only gain, and freed of the need to make the right choices, thereby demonstrating our prowess at navigating this upside down realm of separation and loss, what response would we offer?