Random Notes From What I’m Reading

The story of my life is the story of my faith…

Heading Into The Desert

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Here’s a great excerpt from Rich Diamond’s book “Wrestling With God” that I wanted to share:

Most people under thirty-five today don’t see much hope in anything out there, but instead of going into the desert of spiritual searching, we just sit around and eat. We consume. We can’t help ourselves. We eat junk food, watch television or surf the internet for hours on end, play sports, play video games, play computer games, watch DVD’s and movies. We consume fitness, exercise, diet, running, yoga. We drink. We smoke – cigarettes are very much back in. The idealists of the seventies stopped smoking because it was bad for you. Now you say, “screw it; who cares? I won’t live forever and what’s worth living that long for anyway? This place is a total mess. So I’ll just have another Happy Meal, another cigarette, another sexual encounter.

But when you go into the desert – when your life demands that you go into the desert, when a tornado comes and throws you into it, since you’re probably not going to go voluntarily – you are deprived of all those consumables. It’s just you and your own stuff. You are made to pay attention and see what’s really there. And it hurts. It isn’t fun. You get thirsty and hungry. You get tired. You forget what time it is. You get lost. You get scared. You get angry. You don’t get to take your weapons. All your achievements, all your goodness, all your power in the world. All your control. When you’re busted, they take away all your weapons and just put you in the cell with the other convicts. You’re not special anymore – which is, of course, the ultimate in punishment in a consumer culture.

In modern terms, you can avoid this problem. You can think this is a testing process – like a product assessment. You get a new toy, or you build a new invention, or you get a new job, and then you test it out, or put it through a series of steps, to decide if you want it or not. You’re the subject; everything and everyone else is an object. You get to decide. How American is that – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is about everything and everyone else making me happy.

When true spiritual journeying into the desert, you’re not the thing deciding. You’re part of a cosmic struggle larger than your own mood or decisions. As in an initiation experience, you want to be in control. This tendency is very human. And very American. And very modern. We’re such individualists. We feel this pressure all of our lives to go out there and prove ourselves, achieve, make sure that we measure up. That’s what we think matters.

If you’re afraid, you keep grasping at everything. But this is a part of your journey that is about not grasping. It’s about learning what you want to grasp, an seeing how far you can be pushed before you either grab it again or realize that wasn’t what you wanted after all.

Twelve-step teachings say the toughest thing to do is tell the truth. Just to tell the truth. You’re afraid to face who you really are because it’s just to scary to admit that you don’t have it all together, that you really are afraid, that you lie or cheat or covet. You don’t want to go ‘digging in the dirt’ as Peter Gabriel’ sings on his CD, ‘Us.’ You’ll find ugly, hidden stuff down there that should’ve stayed buried: the stuff you’re scared to admit is a part of yourself, that stuff that you are willing to look at, but only symbolically and only in a controlled experience.”

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Written by Ryan

January 28, 2007 at 10:16 am

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