Saying For Today: Loving is being holy, holiness is love.
*Brian Wilcox. 'living together around one Center'. Flickr
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windows of Light are everywhere
an abandoned, old barn can speak of the Sacred equally as well as a majestic cathedral if one is prepared to receive the aged barn as a manifestation of ever-renewing Life
we divide into secular and spiritual this is a mental construct based on memory, on socialization but we do that our first seeing of Life is perception we turn perception into concepts
Reality is one undivided whole Life is the Whole that is what we perceive before secular and spiritual arises the world I see being born sees the Truth in both and both as one for Life cannot be but one holiness, then, is wholeness wherein we no longer fragment Truth into conceptual opposites but celebrate the unity in the Light
so, my prayer, my praise, my life ~ "de-Light! de-Light! yes de-Light!" let it be, my Beloved
As a teenage, evangelical preacher, I was preaching in a series of revival meetings in North Carolina, at two Freewill Baptist churches in succeeding weeks. In the first we had a week of revival, one like I had never seen, it seemed. Persons were flooding the altar, kneeling, in tears and prayer, apparently saying they were repenting of what they saw as sin.
To accent this emotive week, the members planned a bonfire. They gathered at night and started the fire, throwing in things from their homes that they had decided were unChristian, sinful. So, we had a huge fire of seemingly sinful stuff. Quite impressive, indeed!
Later, I mentioned this to the pastor. He said, nonchalantly, "Oh! next year they'll do the same thing, it happens every year."
A popular book of a past generation in the Christian faith is Jerry Bridges' Pursuit of Holiness. I guess these people were sincerely in pursuit of that ideal. I was, too.
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My pursuit of holiness is highlighted by breaking my favorite, all-time music album on the sidewalk in front of my home. I was, then, a teenager. The album was Peter Frampton's "Frampton Comes Alive," which in the late 1970s became the bestselling album of its genre all-time. I had decided this was evil, it not being Christian Gospel music, and it did not belong in my home or life. For many years I listened only to Gospel music, mostly what came to be called contemporary Christian, and enjoyed it much. I did not miss the other styles of music I had listened to and surrendered for holiness.
I, like the congregation in North Carolina, was sincere. I appreciate that sincerity and devotion of my youth and exemplified in that people, even if for them it did not last long. I believe, however, we were not only sincere, but naive. We were pursuing an ideal unrealistic, one surely likely to lead to that self-righteousness that seems to accompany so much social, moral, and religious idealism.
It took many years, over a decade, before I would purchase again the Frampton album, really the CD, for now both the vinyl album and cassette eras had passed. I was no longer in my teens, but in my forties. This repurchase marked an integration of what appears to many as opposites, in Christian terms "the world" versus "the Christ," as the mind tends to divide reality between secular and spiritual, religious and irreligious, sacred and profane, godly and worldly, conservative and liberal, and so forth. Even the human brain is presently bipolar in structure.
After this transition back to secular music, I began hearing loving, life-affirming messages in songs I once would have call unholy. I discovered the secular often shares with us the spiritual, as one. No, I am not saying anything goes, that morality is all relative. I am saying the boundaries between what traditionally would be called holy and unholy are not always clear, and often the boundary is misleading.
Reality is whole, so holy, and what can be called unholy is the misuse of the wholeness, the holiness. Nothing in itself is unholy, all Nature, in its purity, is whole and holy.
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So, which is superior in the spiritual life, the life of engagement in the world or the life of renunciation, of the solitary? It seems the life of the solitary has been esteemed more holy.
These two have often been called "the active life" and "the contemplative life." Neither is superior. Yet, persons may receive a divine calling in one or the other direction, or somewhat a blend of the two paths. Also, one may feel a leading to be more socially engaged for a time, more solitary at another time. Likewise, either can be an escape, a way of denial. A divine calling is never in the spirit of denial, but of affirmation. Life is only affirmation, only affirmative. If you renounce a way of life, it is to affirm another, if you renounce something, never renounce for renunciation itself, as in to be more spiritual in doing so, but for the renunciation is to make room for something else. This would be no difference, as example, for someone to give up multiple sexual relationships, for the affirmative good of a single commitment and what that singular intimacy can offer that string sex, or playing the field, can never offer. If you give up overeating, for example, you do this for varied reasons: to be healthier, to have less strain on the body, with its joints and heart, maybe even, among varied reasons, for you simply want to look better, ...
So, there's no value in renunciation for itself?
None at all. And this has been an error of much religion. To live such a life of denial, that may appear holy, but mere-denial is the way of spiritual death, while life is affirmative, so the spiritual life is affirmative, for it is none other than life.
So, there was nothing positive in your smashing the "Frampton Comes Alive"?
There was value. First, in that, though naive, it was an elementary, though misguided, expression of love for the One I worshiped and loved. I truly wanted to please my best friend, Jesus, as best I understood him then. That aspect of love meant it was more than mere-renunciation. This is a reason we need to be careful criticizing what we see as infantile religion. There may be a lot of love expressed through ways of faith we judge immature, even superstitious. Also, we have to go through detours, to learn the way. So, as a youth, I did what I sincerely thought was wise, and, later, learned a more whole, healthy way of life, one of integrating the opposites of "sacred" and "secular"; I learned, later, the two are not separate at all, not in essence.
Likewise, the church having the same bonfire yearly was okay?
I believe, getting to know that people when there, they were acting from a loving desire to please its God, its Christ. How could that be not in itself good? I would rather that persons be overly-strict and have a sense of wanting to do right, or desire to please their God, than to be amoral. How about you?
I don't want to live in an amoral world.
I think we have to create an unhealthy split, most of us, to discover the harmony of the apparent opposites, and, maybe, we cannot finally resolve the tension in it. As to the apparent opposites we are addressing, today, I read a quote from Rabindranath Tagore that speaks to this unnatural split between "irreligious" and "religious," or "sacred" and "secular." I found its source recently, and will read the entire prayer "Deliverance." And, recall, as a Bengali, Tagore lived in a culture that valued foremost the renunciate, even as, say, the Catholic churches have prioritized the renunciation of monks and nuns over all others, as well as the renunciation of sex in its glorification of virginity, especially as witnessed in its insistence on the virgin birth of Jesus and, even more, the doctrine of the perceptual virginity of Mary ~ the latter having absolutely no solid basis for, and the former highly questionable.
Deliverance is not for me in renunciation. I feel the embrace of freedom in a thousand bonds of delight.
You ever pour for me the fresh draft of Your wine of various colors and fragrances, filling this earthen vessel to the brim.
My world will light its hundred different lamps with Your flame and place them before the altar of Your temple.
No, I will never shut the doors of my senses. The delights of sight and hearing and touch will bear Your delight.
Yes, all my illusions will burn into illumination of joy, and all my desires ripen into fruits of love.
A beautiful prayer. Delight results in love, that there is no other way than this.
Yes. The source and fruition of love is joy. Remove delight, and you remove the joy of love. Even the life of the solitary, this must be an expression of delight.
So, you seem to be saying to forget the pursuit of holiness?
Yes. Holiness is in wholeness. When open totally to Life, you are welcoming the Holy, holiness will appear in your life. Pursuing holiness will always lead from holiness, for you are the pursuer, and all supposed holiness, or spirituality, will be a reflection of your self. This is not holiness, this is not spirituality, this is not religiousness. This is not wholeness, you separate from being immersed in the Whole and act as a part apart.
So, would you identify yourself as a solitary, for you spend much of your time alone living out your devotion?
No. I have come to need no such label, want no label. Life is happening through this life, this life appearing as my life. That is enough. Others can call me what they want, that is fine, nothing wrong with that. Yet, in terms of solitary, or hermit, I have come, over the last few years, to delight more in engaging the outer world, including sharing with friends and strangers socially. This does not detract from my solitariness, this adds balance and delight to it. Even apparently useless conversation I can enjoy, for it is not necessarily useless. It rang true immediately when I first read Zen teacher Dainin Katagiri having said, "Useless discussion can be a bridge between people, so it is important." So, see, everything, I mean all, even the tiny details, is about love. "Does this lead to love?" ~ you can ask that of all in your life. Loving is being holy, holiness is love.
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*Brian Wilcox. 'a passionate Life'. Flickr
*The theme of "Lotus of the Heart" is 'Living in Love beyond Beliefs.' This work is presented by Brian K. Wilcox, of Maine, USA. You can order Brian's book An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, through major online booksellers.
*"Frampton Comes Alive," A&M Records, January 6, 1776; Rabandranath Tagore. The Heart of God; Dainin Katagri. The Light that Shines through Infinity.