The social and political polarization of our nation’s people are real and painful: Left and right, black and white, wealthy and impoverished, educated and undereducated, democratic and authoritarian, religious and nonreligious, and more. Though I have preached and taught peaceful engagement and common humanity in my years of ministry, I too find my place on one side and not the other. If I could stand in an uncontested middle, I might find a way to honor everything and everybody, but then I risk standing for nothing and nobody. So I stand where I am, neither demonizing the other side nor valorizing my own. This is how I try to make my way through the visible world, keeping my dignity while acknowledging my imperfections.
The inner life, the spiritual life, is different. Though the world around me is divided, I cultivate peace and equanimity within, walking the cemetery path where life and death merge, feeling interconnection and oneness.
This is the way of the mystic. In mystical experience, there is no division between you and me, good people and bad people, divine and human, this world and the next world, and me and myself, only this and all.
The most challenging part of my inner work is closing the ego/soul divide: The get-out-of-bed-and-get-busy energy of the ego balanced by the when-in-doubt-sit-and-be-still contemplative nature of the soul. I think of this as the difference between me and myself, the ego of me and the soulfulness of myself. Each has a place at my spiritual table. Each has a voice. Each must be heard. So I sometimes wonder, Am I hearing the voice of my ego or the voice of my soul? But the question creates a false dichotomy: Not ego or soul, but ego and soul in complementarity. Me and myself. This and all.
You and I live in the world, and we are made of the world. We are flesh and blood humans, and we are spiritual beings. We dream of a heavenly place someday and somewhere, and we make what heaven we can here and now.
Photo: Yantic Cemetery, Norwich, Connecticut