I know this poem might seem random, but it isn’t as random as it seems. If you want to know what inspired me to write this and name it after Marisa Tomei, you can check out this post on The Roofless Church.
Somewhere in time there is a part of me that I visit frequently. He is in a dark room and he feels alone. He is living a lie. He believes that he is separate from God and from everything else in life–the consummate individual. Even though he knows that he can get up and walk out of that room anytime he wants to, he refuses. He refuses, because he knows that outside of that room responsibility awaits. If he walks out of that room he has to admit that he got himself into his situation. He has to own his pain. If he walks out of that room he has to admit how forsaken he feels. He has to admit how naive he is. Outside of that room is a history of being misunderstood, misjudged, and misaligned with the world. If he walks out that door he will experience a…
Am I jealous of your ignorance
Because I wish that I were too?
Do I call your innocence, stupidity
Because I can’t do what you can do?
Why do I judge
When I know that I don’t like it?
Is it because I know I’m you
But I have no way to fight it?
Did I create a “heaven”,
To prove that I’m better?
Is it because I think I am now,
And I just want to be forever?
Well if “God” is always right,
If I try to judge I know I’ll fail
So if I refuse to admit this
That’s what will keep me in this “hell”.
I wrote the poem above when I was on a flight from Baltimore to Orlando. There was a family coming on the plane who had never flown before. Out of nervousness, the mother kept apologizing for her family and confessing this fact as they loudly found their way to their seats. They were the last people to be seated on the plane and essentially the rest of us were waiting on them. My former wife and I were headed to the Sunshine state to spend some time at the Disney parks and go on a cruise. I assumed that this other family was headed to Disney as well. Needless to say their children were very excited and it only made sense. However, despite the plane having several families on-board presumably headed to the same destination, it seemed that many people were judging this other family.
From my seat I could hear the surrounding passengers mumbling such things as, “find your seat already” and “it’s not that hard”. Even my wife was a little bothered and probably embarrassed. You see this family who had never flown and was having a very hard time were African-American like us. Now to some people reading this you might think that their ethnicity doesn’t matter, but you’d be wrong. With a lot of Black people, we tend to take it personally and feel embarrassed if other Black people are doing something that draws public scrutiny. I could go into the psychological reasons for it, but I will just make it simple and say that in a world that runs largely on first impressions and stereotypes, there is a frequent and underlying fear that what other people do will reflect back on us if we can be identified with those people. We fear that whatever judgment someone makes about the offenders will be generally projected onto us.
I have found that this tendency is most prevalent in cultures with a dominant sense of collectivism but it happens with all people who see themselves as directly connected with others in some way such as family, teams, political party, nationality, etc. It is the whole idea of being guilty by association. I remember being a child and when the news announced a serious crime my family would be praying that the criminal was not Black. Largely it was because we didn’t want to hear the bad news of another one of us being accused of a crime, but as I learned soon enough, it was also because we didn’t want whatever crime that was committed to reflect on us; further exacerbating the already existing and deliberate tendency of the larger society to view us in a negative light. At first I couldn’t understand why my family felt that way until I noticed that if the criminal was Black, the newscasters would always state that fact, but if they were White, they would never mention it in their descriptions.
I thought about this as I watched the faces of the people on the plane. Being the sensitive type, I allowed myself to feel as much as I could trying to get a sense of what was going on with not only the family trying to find their seat, but also with the other annoyed passengers, and my own inner person. I tried to turn up my compassion and to think more about what the people were experiencing than my own judgments about how I thought people should be. As I watched the family struggling to get in their seats and find a place for their carry-ons, I thought about what it might feel like to already be nervous about flying for the first time as adults not to mention having excited children tagging along. I imagined that they probably were feeling very anxious and likely it was this anxiety that influenced their decision to wait until everyone else was on the plane before boarding. Having never been on a plane before, they would not have known the carry-on situation and therefore did not anticipate having to try and find a place for their stuff because passengers who boarded earlier took their once empty bin. Add to this that they were on display as all of the other seated passengers annoyingly waited for them to get their seats, and I could only imagine that this whole situation was torture for them. Consequently, the wife was subtly pleading for compassion by constantly revealing their inexperience while the husband seemed to be pulling an Adam with a face that said, “this was all her idea.”
As for my wife and the annoyed passengers, I already mentioned part of what I felt was getting to her and some of the other Black passengers who barely looked at the family. There were some passengers who could care less and were just settling in for the flight and then there were those who were projecting their frustration on the family as if they were doing something to them on purpose. At first my mind wanted to make it a racial thing. I wondered if the family was White if they would have been less annoyed. And I think the answer for some of them would have been yes. Is it personal? Sometimes yes, but more often it is no. People just tend to have greater affinity for those who they seem to have more in common with. It is like a programming. They don’t even know they do it half the time it is so ingrained. And then there are the people who are just people who are easily annoyed–which in the Metro-DC area is not uncommon. There are a lot of people who live their daily lives in a rush. Anything that seems to make getting to where they want to be take longer is subject to the wrath. It could have easily been a snow storm and they would be angry with nature. Everything outside of themselves is an equal opportunity annoyer (made up word). These stressed out people probably need a vacation more than anyone. But it is probably likely that they if they were going to Disney, they were going to try and conquer it and ultimately leave their vacation more tired than they were when they arrived. I’d say that they were as good of candidates as anyone for Jesus’ insight to “forgive them for they know not what they do”. And then there leaves me.
I tend to be one of those people who is initially intolerant of intolerant people. I judge people who judge people and condemn those who condemn others. In reality, this is probably the worse kind of judge because those of us who have this tendency have the luxury of what people call righteous indignation. We can convince ourselves that we have the “might of right”. Usually we can point to religious texts like the one below to demonstrate why our point of view is the more accurate one. Consider Matthew 7:1-6 which admonishes people for judging others. It would be easy for me to point to this scripture when attacking someone I see of guilty of judging others unfairly. Used incorrectly, I could do a lot of harm with this scripture. Much like the away those who are adamantly against abortion can justify killing a doctor who performs abortions, using the “thou shalt not kill” defense, I could come to someone who is judging and say to them, “you are a no good dirty rotten judger of people and I hope that you get what is coming to you because you are just wrong because the Bible says don’t judge.” And when I did, I am sure that I would have a lot of people supporting me who also have pent up judgments about themselves and the world around them that they are just waiting to project onto someone else so that they can get the nasty feeling of self-condemnation off of them. But here’s the thing. That’s now passages like the one below are meant to work.
As the second stanza of the poem asks:
Why do I judge
When I know that I don’t like it?
Is it because I know I’m you
But I have no way to fight it?
Passages like Matthew 7 are spoken to and from a place of Oneness. When Jesus speaks to the disciples and others about why we should not judge, he does not do so only from a position outside of us, but from a place within us as well. He is speaking from the all encompassing reality that we all know and that we all are. Paul touches on this awareness when he says in Romans 1:20,”For since the creation of the world His [God’s] invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are withoutexcuse.” While I will not unpack the full breadth of this passage right now, I will point to the obvious implication made here that all of Creation knows the fullness of its Source. We are not separate from Source–from God and consequently from one another. Therefore, we have no excuse for living as if the opposite is true. As the Christ, Jesus lives this reality of Wholeness eternally and speaks to us from this place. Thus, when he makes assertions like the one you are about to read, it comes from that place. And from this place his judgments are true, because their only intention is to remind us of who we truly are. For as it says in 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Now, in this Light read the passage below:
7 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
This poem Judge attempts to convey the essence of this passage–that the judgments we project onto others naturally returns upon us precisely because, in Oneness, those others are in fact us. When Christ through Jesus, advises us not to judge, it is because he knows that it is of little effect in transforming our collective consciousness. Our judgments do not transduce the dark energy of ego resistance into the vibrant all-creative energy of realized potential as we deceive ourselves into believing it will (if you would like this sentence unpacked contact me). Only consciousness can do this. This is what Jesus is telling us in verse 3-5 above. What we often find when we release judgment for consciousness is that once we remove the plank from our own eye, we will discover that there never was a speck in our brother or sister’s eye in the first place. All we were seeing was our own projected planks out in the world. However, if after removing the plank from our own eye, we still see a speck in another’s, our conscious Love for them will show us how it can be removed for the benefit of the All.
Rather than unpack the rest of the poem which mentions heaven and hell in the context of being the ultimate in the human struggle with judgment, I will leave you with this expression I found on the bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap, “For we’re all One or none! Listen children, Eternal Father Eternally One! We’re All One or none! Exceptions eternally? NONE.” As it pertains to this poem, Heaven is acceptance God’s reality and hell is it’s denial. When we deny God’s reality to others we deny it to ourselves. “What we bind on earth we bind in heaven. What we release on earth, we release in heaven.” Such is the Way of One.
I really don’t get how so many of us live our lives as if we are so divorced from Nature. It really trips me out. And I’m not just talking about the whole global warming, pollution, and endangered species piece. I see all of that as symptoms of the underlying disease. It goes deeper than that. Now, I’m not going to say that I “get it”. I don’t understand a lot about life. But one thing I do know is that I am a partaker of life. I am not separate from any life and that which I give to life I receive from life. We are One with all that is. This much I know. And I know that any contrary thought is born out of illusion. While we try to subdue or defy nature, we do nothing more than subdue and defy our own consciousness of who we truly are as beings in relationship with everything that ever was, is, and will be. All we have to do is pay attention. But as it seems, we see paying attention as a threat. When we distract ourselves from the mirror of call of Creation the consequence is never knowing who we really are.
Do you know that this life, as most of us engage it, is mostly illusion? Yes. In fact most of our lives have never happened as we have imagined them. This may feel disconcerting. I know we want to believe that our lives have meant something and that the stories that we have told ourselves about our lives have real substance, but the reality is that it is not true. Are you curious about why I would say such a thing? You might ask, “What about my role in my family? What about all the ‘good’ that I have done? What about world peace and saving the planet? What about my religion? Do you really expect me to believe that all of that is illusion? I am somebody. I am a special person who does special things that mean something in this world.”
Yes. All of things are wonderful. Yes. Only you could have had the experiences that you have had, are having, and will have. Yes. No one can do the work that you do here. But… the meaning that we give to these things is not universal. It is subjective and without inherent substance. The only substance it has is what we give to it and as such every engagement that we have with the people, places, events, things etc. is a solitary experience that exists only for the creator of that experience…us. And the fact is that this imagination of ours is a very awesome gift and a beautiful ability that God has shared with us, but what we do with it is only for us. It cannot be shared. And that my friends, is the paradox out of which all suffering is born. We cannot figure out how to get the whole world to go along with our storylines and many of us experience that as very lonely. And sadly, many of us get attached to people who have no interest in our stories, but who we have decided should especially agree to our awesomeness–often family–and we use most of our imagination trying to figure out ways to get their approval.
We want to be unique, special, awesome, and all things wonderful in the world. But more than anything, we want to be right. We want everyone to agree with the story we tell ourselves about what our life means–what the world means–and if they do not agree, our world comes apart. Why? Well we want to be right because on some level, we know that we are the creators of our own experience and yet, when our creations seem to get out of control, we do not want to take responsibility. Why? Because when we create a world where we are super special and the central character around which all of life revolves, then it is imperative that we maintain our “rightness” at all costs because without it, it seems that all hope is lost. To us, being “wrong” is death because somewhere in the beginning of the story that we create for ourselves, we establish our infallibility as the prime directive. No matter what happens, the story must end with our “rightness”. Otherwise, it becomes very difficult to orient ourselves in the story. If the “creator” is not always right then the story may turn out “wrong”. So what is “wrong”? Well, for most of us, “wrong” is whatever makes us feel uncomfortable. And as such, “right” is what makes us comfortable.
Unfortunately, when we get to this point, it means that we have become lost in our own story. It is like a swimmer who goes too far out into the water and gets tired. They then begin to fear drowning and may very well do so without help. Or better yet, it is like an actor who gets so lost in the character, that they no longer can tell the difference between themselves and the character that they are playing. That is all well and good for the movies, but at some point and time the person has to be able to get out of character. If they can’t bring themselves out, then they will need help from someone else. So how can one do that? Well first off, the person doing the extraction has to be able to live in paradox. Secondly, they have to decentralize themselves when they enter into another person or group’s story. Third, they cannot value comfort over discomfort. Fourth, they must be willing to become whatever the other requires in order to clandestinely guide the other out of the illusion—even if it means looking like a jerk, liar, or hypocrite. You can see this principle at work when people like Jesus went nuts on the moneychangers or when Abraham Lincoln said to Horace Greeley that:
“If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear,
I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”
The ultimate requirement of an extractor, however, is that they have to be willing to die in the story. Think about the likes of Moses and Martin Luther King Jr. who made it to the mountaintop in the stories of which they are a part, but were unable to enter the “promised land” themselves. Of course the above mentioned Abraham Lincoln did this too. And if you really want to see this principle at work, you can’t see a better example than Jesus Christ. If the person is not willing to die in the story, then they will, out of necessity, try to shift the story for their own benefit. They must be other focused or the extraction will definitely fail. At all times they must work like they will live forever, but be willing to die right now. And, this death does not simply mean the physical death. It includes everything from being willing to walk away from a job to having your reputation tarnished. You must have no attachment to the world that will supersede the prime directive—which is to steadfastly stand in reality while in the presence of illusion.
The above poem explains how this is done. It requires faith. Hebrews 11:1-3 teaches “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” (Check out the whole Hebrews Chapter 11 for examples) This is extremely important for someone doing extraction to remember, because if they do not have faith, they will be more likely to rely on their own understanding and be swayed by what things seem to be. A person operating out of faith knows that the only Universal story is the one that emerges out of the context of eternal life—God’s Story of infinite abundance (If you can call it a story). If the true story is emerging out of a context of eternal life, then all actions that have as their aim preserving the life of the actor, are illusory at their root. This is why Jesus said in Mark 8:35 “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s (Good News) will save it.” And this is precisely why we cannot share our individual stories. To live our lives in such a way that our purpose is to avoid death makes us death’s slave. This is the ultimate illusion.
Paul makes this clear in Romans 6:16-18 when he says, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”
Given this summation of things, to live in the fear of death is to be the slave of death. But to live in and toward eternal life is to serve eternal life–the only life there is. When one lives out of this reality, they can understand what Paul meant when he said, “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” This has to be the mindset of one working toward the freedom of their friends lost in their own story. In John 15:13 Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” For many people this may sound like martyrdom. It is not. Death is a part of every life. Ultimately, nothing tells us more about a person’s life than how they face death. When one understands this, the love that Jesus is talking about becomes clearer as well. It is this Love, born of faith that sets all people free. There is no reality beyond the scope of this freedom. All words fall short of describing this reality. It must be lived.
Once someone begins living into eternal life, they will wonder why they did not give up their limited story sooner. They will see their rescuers actions in a different light and they will appreciate the risk that their rescuers took to bring them back to true life. Some may even choose to share the true life with others. But none of this is a possibility until they break free from their story–until their feet feel the solid ground. As long as they are in fear they cannot know the love that would enter into their death story in order to bring them to life. For as 1 John 4:18 teaches, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” Those operating from faith must put off fear even when we feel it and trust the promises of love that we have never been forsaken even in our darkest hour.
When right before he died in our story, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lamasabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” he showed the very depths he was willing to go to free us from illusion. He put on the lie of death so that we could see life at work. He lived wholly into every moment even into what we fear most and he did not try to avoid any aspect of it even the worst mental, physical, and spiritual pains that we could imagine–total abandonment, rejection, helplessness, and annihilation of our story. But as I receive this choice he made in faith, I believe that he and others who have surrendered their own story of who they are for God’s story, have done so to show us that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18)” when we go the Way of Life in faith.