Monday, June 16, 2008

Acts of Initiation

Initiation was an important consideration for the Jewish faith; the early church also picked up on it. Being initiated into manhood is almost universal to all cultures, except perhaps western peoples, unless you consdier getting drunk when you turn 18 to be an authentic form of initiation or a spiritually significant rite of passage!

Pampered Child Syndrome

Parents such as you or I are trying to raise children who are:

…are comfortable and happy
…are stimulated and enriched
…have fun
…can make their own choices and be independent
…are included in family decisions
…are given reasons for what they are asked to do
…are treated equally and fairly
…can express their feelings and be heard
…feel loved and appreciated
…have positive self-esteem

However many of the children come away believing:

I should never be unhappy
I should never be bored
If it’s not fun, I won’t do it
No one can tell me what to do
Adults should always consult me
I won’t do anything unless there’s a good reason
I should be treated the same as adults
I should only do things I feel like doing
If I want it, I should have it, and if you love me, you should give it to me
I should always feel good about myself

JK Rowling recently gave the commencement address at the 357th graduating class for Harvard University. Her words are very significant for us because graduation from Harvard would be considered an initiation into an upwardly mobile life- "My Own Little Happy LIfe."

J.K. Rowling said, "I have wracked my mind and heart for what I ought to say to you today. I have asked myself what I wish I had known at my own graduation, and what important lessons I have learned in the 21 years that have expired between that day and this. I have come up with two answers. On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure. And as you stand on the threshold of what is sometimes called ‘real life,' I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination (empathy)."

"I cannot criticize my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. Of all subjects on this planet, I think they would have been hard put to name one less useful than Greek mythology when it came to securing the keys to an executive bathroom."

"What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure.... Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew."

"Now I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. . . . So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all of my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me."

"You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case you fail by default."

"I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies. The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. . . . Such knowledge is a true gift for all that is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned."

The seven Harry Potter books have sold more than 375 million copies & been translated into 64 languages, earning Rowling literary acclaim from young & old alike.

"One of the greatest formative experiences of my life occurred shortly after I graduated from college, namely, doing research at Amnesty International's headquarters in London."

"There in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without a trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries. I opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts of summary trials and executions, of kidnappings and rapes."

"Every day I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or maintain power. . . . And yet I also learned more about human goodness at Amnesty International than I had ever known before."

"Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people's minds, imagine themselves into other people's places."

"Many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know. . . . I might be tempted to envy people who live that way, except I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. . . . I think the willfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid."What is more, those who choose not to empathize may enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy."

"If you choose your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped to transform for the better. We do not need magic to change the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better."

That is quite a talk on initiation. It is remarkable for what she invests time in speaking of & what she avoids.

What do you consider an important initiation? Making your first million?

I have long thought of initiation as strictly adventure. I am waking up that it is so much more...

The Five Basic Truths of Life (Richard Rohr):
1. Life is hard
2. You are not that important
3. Your life is not about you
4. You are not in control
5. You are going to die

These sound very harsh & arbitrary- but virtually every culture has these.

Given the similarity of structure, sequence and motive in the rites of passage among disparate and geographically separate cultures, one would have thought their ceremonies ordained by some central committee. James Hollis

Most of our life is spent fighting against them. Jesus has a message spoken to each of the five truths that transforms us & initiates us into spiritual adulthood:

1. It is true that life is hard but: ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:28).

Don't waste your pain. God can bring us true joy no matter what the circumstances. This is a key to growing a thick skin but having a tender heart.

2. It is true that you are not that important, but: ‘Do you not know that your name is written in heaven?’ (Luke 10:20).

If we know our original blessing, we can handle our original sin. Our soul needs meaning as much as the body needs food, but we live in an addictive society that constantly ups the ante of need and desire because the last ones have never satisfied. (see 'Envy')

3. It is true that your life is not about you, but: ‘I live not my own life, but the life of Christ who lives in me.’ (Galatians 2:20).

Colossians 1:27 & 3:4
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

The most courageous thing you will ever do is accept that you are just yourself. It takes a weight off of us- you & I do not have to be God- we only have to participate!

Luke 10:1-24 was the early disciples being sent on a learning journey of what life with God in charge is really like. They returned with joy!

Romans 9:16
It does not depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy.

Original sin is humanity’s endless capacity for self-rejection. Henri Nouwen.

Note Jesus’ story about a wedding banquet to which nobody wants to come!

4. It is true that you are not in control, but: ‘Can any of you for all your worrying, add a single moment to your span of life?’ (Luke 12:26).

They say the first half of life is like being in the self-help section of the bookstore- take control and exercise self-control; and the second half of life is about learning to give up control!

We are high-maintenance people: when you set yourself up to think you deserve, expect, or need something to happen, you are setting yourself up for constant unhappiness.

Are we perhaps suffering from "Pampered Christian Syndrome"?

We can exist in a state of perpetual worry; we can have a case of spiritual hypochondria.

Practice giving up control early in life. Surrender is a willingness to trust that you are really a beloved child, which allows God to be your Father.

5. It is true that you are going to die, but: "I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39).

Yes, we are going to die, but death is not final – and it takes the form of love. We cannot make God love us any more, and we cannot make God love us less.

Death is a personal and spiritual event. We mainly concern ourselves with the medical. Ira Byock

John 12:24
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

Sounds a little like what JK Rowling experienced through failure.

Eternity starts now. Let God initiate you.

It is heaven all the way to heaven. Catherine of Siena

The grace of God is given, not earned.

Listen for God. Listen to God.

Receive His message. Receive His love.

Surrender to His voice. Surrender to what you hear.


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