Thursday, October 22, 2009

Transcending and including

Ken Wilber, in his book, A Brief History of Everything, writes "Evolution always transcends and includes, incorporates and goes beyond." In The Seeker's Guide, Elizabeth Lesser helps us understand Wilber's concept with these wise observations:

"A healthy person grows into individuality, incorporating the best of inherited and taught behavior and beliefs, and transcending those parts that no longer serve the mature self. If we try to transcend only, in a compulsion to separate from the past, we end up damaging parts of ourselves --root parts that keep us connected to our basic nature and our place in the world. Yet if we reject the natural urge toward transcendence and turn around, grabbing on to the past with nostalgia, we also do violence to life, because life is also movement, creativity, evolution... this means evolving beyond the limits of the past while honoring the wisdom of those who came before."

I think the tension between inclusion and transcendence is one of the most difficult aspects of the maturation process: how do we know what NEEDS to be transcended, and what NEEDS to be included? And when we come to those inevitable spots when nothing that went before seems to work for us anymore, how do we keep from "throwing the baby out with the bathwater?" I watch my daughters struggle with this as they find their own way in the world, sorting out how they are like their parents, and how they are different; what to keep and what to toss from the messages they received both consciously and unconsciously from their childhood.

And for myself I see this tension on several different levels -- both in my efforts to sort through those old messages to see which ones might be outmoded, and in my efforts to forge a spiritual path. Though I have known the love of One God most of my life, my understanding of the Divine Presence has taken many different forms, as have my worship and devotion practices. Mostly this is good, because it allows me to speak many different languages: having been involved for a while in a charismatic fundamentalist Christian community, I can speak that language, and can understand the power those beliefs can hold. Having worshiped in a Quaker congregation, I appreciate the value of communal silence. Having grown up in a Presbyterian church and served as an elder in a Congregational church, I know and love the beauty of pastoral prayers which vary from week to week according to the themes of the lectionary. And having worshiped for years in a Rite I Episcopal service, I love the glorious rhythms of the traditional liturgy, repeated with little or no variation week after week.

I say the Lord's Prayer weekly (though I confess I often skip the first two lines, even though some part of me persists in thinking of God as male) but I LOVE the New Zealand prayerbook's version: "Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver, Source of all that is and that shall be, Father and Mother of us all, Loving God, in whom is heaven: the hallowing of your name echo through the universe!"

And, of course, there is the wash of other religions in my thoughts and speech: the mystic poetry of Rumi and Hafiz, the wisdom of Jack Kornfeld, Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Hanh and Eckhart Tolle. But sometimes it's challenging to hold all that in tension, to transcend my childhood models and beliefs while still holding them tenderly, still knowing their truth for me. I feel that pull to Buddhism, yet cannot abandon the hope and faith of my youth, which feeds me still. And my reluctance to either abandon or commit fully to either side of that equation keeps me on what feels like a suspension bridge between the two, swaying unsteadily as I try to hold the balance.

I am grateful for all those who hold with me a sense of mystery, who are willing to sit with me in the midst of the paradox, not knowing if that deep current in which we swim is sea or sky, who understand the path is sometimes straight and sometimes wildly curved. Thank you for your wisdom, your willingness to learn and evolve, and your open acceptance of the unpredictability of things!

2 comments:

Maureen said...

Your image, Diane, so fits your words. All the narrow criss-crossing lines so difficult to trace, no straight paths, none wanted.

Rite I. I was baptized just 7 years ago (my parents did me no favors in not giving us religion; we were left to try what we might) and as much as I'm drawn to tradition I'm pushed away by the roteness of it, by an insatiable need to hear words not steeped in tradition and set in "limits of the past" but of this day, that speak to what our hearts need when words can't be enough. An impossibility to reconcile.

We read the same writers.

We're both still looking, I think.

I like the mystery of not knowing when I'll find what I think I'm looking for.

karen gerstenberger said...

I love that NZ Prayerbook version of the Lord's prayer. I think Bev read it at Katie's memorial. (Isn't it amazing that I'm not sure?) Maybe you remember...