Category: Faith & Doubt


In the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross five stages of death, Depression is fourth. In this stage, one is likely to feel like withdrawing from life, feel numb, live in a fog, and not want to get out of bed. That wasn’t me. As subtle as it was, my stage was able to poke hole my otherwise stable façade.

To the normal reader, one may look at the event and say, “Why the fuss?” However, to all-knowing inner soul, it was “Reality bites.” At 4:38 PM, standing over a cutting board with knife in hand, ready to chop a white onion, my hand shook so bad I nearly couldn’t perform the task.  I looked like a construction worker using a jack hammer to cut vegetables.

Stage four started a few days ago with internal tremors in the legs and bradykinesia, a slowness of movement or impaired ability to move as commanded (like chopping vegetables. Frustrating, because I’ve spent a lot time making everything appear “normal.” Yet, I placed my knife on the kitchen counter, sat and in a chair and realized that I don’t know what normal is.

I had only a few weeks post-diagnosis before the Coronavirus struck hard and either forced everyone to place life on hold or work like crazy. Being in the later, I’ve kind of buried the deepest feelings. It was the first time I experienced any anxiety. In the several hours thereafter, I am beginning to understand something larger, bigger, and more determined is about to happen to me.

What if the façade fails and I must out myself? There are other things that take precedence over me. Certainly, my father’s stroke and potential death is significant. My mother’s care is critical, not to mention the subsequent estate settlement. Personally, I’ve had a tumor, multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, and now Parkinson’s.

As I sat looking out the window, I realized how tired I am. Tired of being sick. Tired of being in pain. Just plain tired. I suppose the fact that one’s body is trying to either make you miserable or kill you will, in fact, make one really depressed. I haven’t thought about mortality in any sense. I mean I have thought about it, maybe I haven’t processed it. Then again, we’ve all gone through some tough things–many a lot worse than I.

Outside of this moment in my life, I’ve been lucky. I’ve traveled well, seen places most will never see, had many a great love, and experienced God first hand. From a Buddhist perspective, what more could I ask? Sure, my hands and legs are beginning to fail, but I can write. And write I will.

As death approaches, Buddhists are taught to think about their holy writings. Focusing upon the Buddha’s teachings is supposed to bring good luck to a new existence. I will not focus upon superficial images of happiness, material and sensual pleasures, or technological innovation. At this point of my life, I am focusing upon whatever love available. I believe only true love will transcend death.

Thus, for a person who has awareness of death, every moment becomes a lesson in death and a lesson of love. Every moment should be viewed as being infinitely precious, and we should make the utmost effort to use our time to the best advantage.

In theory, every day is a gift. Actor Richard Evans said, “It is often in the darkest skies that we see the brightest stars.” And true to Evans’ words, I have witnessed tremendous kindness and generosity. 

A Buddhist would say our Coronavirus times should remind us of what is essential: Grandparents, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, and family. More importantly, is there a call to review personal responsibility? While Presidents, CEO’s and our state leaders speak, cite statistics, and map out a post-COVID world, are we morally and ethically making the ‘right’ sacrifices? As we celebrate Memorial Day, would those (the “Greatest Generation”) agree that this generation is sacrificing anything?

I worry we’re not.

Tom Brokaw referred to the “Greatest Generation” as those men and women of the Great Depression, who had watched their parents lose their businesses, farms, jobs, and hopes and went directly into uniform into the military to fight tyranny. Brokaw noted that very stage of their lives, they were part of historical challenges and achievements of a magnitude the world had never before witnessed and credits them with much of the freedom and affluence we experience today.

It wasn’t all good. As many noted, during the early pre-war years against Germany, the government asked more of the public as the nation shifted to an all-out war footing. Like today, defiance of the government’s dictates was not uncommon across ideological boundaries. Just as early appeals to gather scrap metal for munitions production were ignored, today, we find it difficult to social distance and wear a face mask. And just as the Roosevelt administration’s plea for nonstop factory fostered strikes and work stoppages, I can only imagine how a person making more in unemployment than working will become motivated to sacrifice.

While American patriotism and wartime fervor played essential roles in successes, it was active leadership from the Roosevelt administration, especially its rhetoric and propaganda, which secured the buy-in. Today, we have an administration weaponizing division, promoting bogus health prevention (hydroxychloroquine) and refusing to explain what is needed and why.

We have failed to adopt clear, consistent, repeated messaging to encourage Americans in the battle required to slow coronavirus’ spread. I looked at the photos from Osage Beach, Missouri. Osage Beach is in the ‘Lake of The Ozarks.’ I am unsurprised by the crowded bars and disregard for social distancing. Yet, these people will beg medical clinicians to make every effort to save them, while simultaneously professing how innocent they are and how they did nothing wrong. 

The Atlantic summarized my thoughts well.

Some people who carried on with their nonessential weekend outings shared their rationale with reporters. One 40-year-old who went with a friend to their favorite bar on Sunday explained to the Los Angeles Times, “This could be the last bar we go to in a long time.” In Boston, a man in line at a bar with an hour-long wait reasoned to a Boston Globe reporter that, as a pharmacist, he was already going to have a high risk of exposure at work anyway, so “there’s only so much I can do” to avoid the virus. And one compassionate, though still risk-taking, D.C. diner told Washingtonian, “As long as businesses are open and the condition doesn’t worsen, I want to support those folks depending on patrons to make their living.

Writer Joe Pinsker noted, “These are extremely weak justifications for a choice that ultimately puts one’s short-term social enjoyment ahead of the health—and maybe even lives—of countless people who are more vulnerable to the disease. Beyond lacking clear and forceful guidance from President Trump and his administration, … people have failed to apprehend the gravity of the outbreak and the importance of staying in.

What happened to Memorial Day 2020? For first responders, clinicians, and rescue personnel across the country, sorrow will intertwine with pride of service and sacrifice. For those in Osage Beach and others with the same mentality, F••• it. It’s Miller Time.

Unfortunately, I see darker skies on the horizon.

There are a haunting feeling untold numbers of Americans who must decide whether to risk Coronavirus (COVID) infection while traveling to see a parent dying from natural causes. Such experiences are reminders of the unanticipated scope of the suffering caused by COVID. 

Sons and daughters are forced to make risky choices, either by love or distance. Should they be allowed to visit? And will they be the exception, the one who can travel across and not become infected?

Three days ago, the call I’d been expecting for several years came. After a long battle of successive mini-strokes, my father’s time is nearing an end. The latest stroke occurred Monday morning, and cost my father the use of his left side as well as other functions, but his humor remains. There aren’t any good options, damned if you do something, damned if you don’t.

It’s a natural part of life,” said the neurologist doctor.

I know. Losing a parent is inevitable, and it isn’t easy,” I replied. 

In the COVID world, it’s hard to describe how complicated such a decision is. If I travel, I could carry the virus to my mother, age 82. If I don’t go, I presume my name will be added to the immortal “primadonna list” for not being concerned enough to say a final farewell. There isn’t a safe choice, except for one: don’t travel.

The COVID pandemic has had a profound effect on grieving. Many who’ve lost loved ones have been unable to be at the bedside as their loved one passed. Death becomes remote. There’s no herd immunity for COVID. There’s no airplane, taxi, bus, boat, or other vehicles that can guarantee a barrier from the virus. Likewise, COVID cannot be segregated from my mother or others.

I looked up to God and muttered, “I probably will not be able to say goodbye.

Like my father, people have been dying alone for centuries. Some have no close friends or families. Distance separates others. In those cases, a volunteer may be able to sit with them during their last moments. My father has two people sitting with him, each taking a twelve-hour shift, holding his hand, and asking them what they loved most. It’s a service I will be forever grateful.

My father always said no one dies alone. After his near-death experience twenty years ago, my father said there were two sets of angels: ‘Helpers’ and ‘Takers.’ Helpers are those that assist those in need during trying times. Takers are those that help those move into the hereafter.

My Lord, can you be with him?” I prayed

I am with all who suffer. I am with your father.

Not a second later, “I will go and stay with him,” Ms. K. said.

I’m convinced my father has a volunteer, God, and a Helper. I presume he’ll have a Taker soon enough. That alone provides enormous comfort. I hope we’re all just as lucky.

Upon waking, I marvel at how my back feels, how natural the rhythm of the first few hours are, and how naively I think I could do it forever. Such feelings last an hour, maybe two. After that, I quickly relearn the cumulative effects from an early February tumor removal and Parkinson’s diagnosis. 

In the cool of the pre-sunrise morning, when I’ve had a good night’s sleep, all seems well. As the day wears on, weariness smolders the day, and that beautiful early morning feeling evaporates. Life becomes weightier, and every step begins to take its toll. My neck and back hurt, I fiddle with chairs aiming for a stable fit, and comfortable position. Yet no matter how much I tinker, I remain uncomfortable for the day.

Most cancer follow-up appointments remain canceled. As the W.H.O. noted, many patients with cancer are struggling to receive treatment due to hospitals canceling or delaying surgeries and other procedures. This includes those patients who are otherwise healthy and have curable diseases that require the timely implementation of surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Contracting COVID while undergoing treatment is too high a risk as opposed to cancer slowly eating away your life, one day at a time.

I have the utmost respect for my medical team. When I’ve texted (usually about medication), they’ve responded and provided care. However, it seems strange to be standing in the cancer wing of the hospital, updating their applications, with full knowledge that I cannot gain access to very services that can verify my prognosis. No matter how much I understand Coronavirus’s impact, I feel caught in a Rod Sterling “Twilight Zone” episode.

Walking the hallways, working from home, or looking out to the lakefront, I notice how the world has stopped. Driving through the subdivisions, I note, “… even in this place where time stands still; it seems like everything is moving. Including me (Heinrich Harrer).”

The ‘new normal’ is strange: things once marking the days—commuting to work, meetings, projects, and having a drink with coworkers, vanished. Time appears flat, seamless, without structure.

Before COVID, I needed to believe each day would get better. I needed to feel my doctors knew my tumor would abate, and that if I gave everything to treatment, I would be delivered more life opportunities, something I fully don’t deserve. Such needs are gone. I am too comfortable with the sharp edges of my reality. I accept my tumor, my back, and Parkinson’s will have its inevitable conclusion. 

On these days, when it all stands still, I no longer feel the need for bravado. I give up my self-delusion. I hesitantly embrace the knowledge that no matter how many stairs I climb or ellipses I travel, no matter how hard I push my heart or how much weight I lift, neither heart nor head will be healthy enough to pump meaning into COVID.

And in these ‘still’ moments, I reclaimed missed opportunities. I love strangers with an intensity I never knew. On this day in mid-May, as the night begins, I walk and find silent streets: no restaurant lines, no children riding bicycles, no couples strolling in the park. It had taken the combined will of thousands to love one another so much that time stopped. Millions ultimately accepted the immense challenge and silenced life, their life. 

I feel so grateful for the sacrifice. And for this moment, I am so profoundly proud of everyone that nothing more critical exists for me … neither cancer nor a lousy back.

In his book The Heart Aroused, David Whyte wrote of a time he found himself working with a roomful of thoughtful managers. The group was looking at the way humans find it necessary to sacrifice their sacred desires and personal visions on the altar of work and success. Whyte instructed the class to summarize their life in one sentence.

In the back of the classroom, a woman read slowly, unaware that the silence struck the room. 

“Ten years ago . . .

I turned my face for a moment, and it became my life.”

Whyte was demonstrating how we have the patience for almost everything, but that which is most important. We look at the life of our own most central imaginings and see it beckon. For the most part, we neither dare to follow it nor leave it. We turn our face for a moment and tell ourselves we will be sure to get back to it.

I read Whyte’s book in 2002. Every once in a while, the urge to write my one-line life summary resurfaces. In a darkened stairwell my left hand shook uncontrollably from Parkinson’s. “Just one of those days,” I muttered. In utter exhaustion, I quickly penned, “Days became decades.

“Days became decades.”

Almost everyone I know understands this sentence. Work hard for your goals, sacrifice, commit to the ideas of others and forget your own, receive promotions, and get rewarded for success. Through the years, your hard drive gets full, life fills, investments pay off. Yet you stop to look around, and nothing seems familiar. 

Weariness is the fulcrum for introspection. At 59, doctors claimed I had approximately two good years. At 60, eleven months remain. I descend into a cadence of thought of just how I got here. I have a ton of shit, but little else. My inner soul longed for a truer sanctuary, a hunger for something money can’t buy. 

St. Gregory once said, “Grace is given not to them that speak their faith, but to those who live it.” I’ll have to admit, I haven’t lived in faith until about eight years ago. I mean, I had faith, but I hadn’t lived in faith. Right now, amid a pandemic, amid all my suffering, I am just plain weary. Exhausted. Exhausted of words, ideas, thought-provoking mission statements such as “First things first” or “Turn the ship around.” When people die every few minutes, such things seem rather small.

Moving to the bathroom, I splashed water unto my face. Looking upward to the mirror, I asked the man on the other side, “Where does this end?” I didn’t know.

The Response

Lovers of words and computers are prone to endless study. Yesterday, my boss asked if I had performed any research. With accouterment of medical support alarms, laughter was my only reply. 

We’ve become so involved in all things that we forget to live. We are propelled to make the best use of time, study the world, and absorb everything. Interactions become “deep,” “philosophical” or “analytical.” And when we’re done, there’s no joy.

The real proving ground of living a faith-based life does not reside in our ability to study it. It’s about how we treat one another, and whether we’re fully present in each moment of service. Can we find pure gratitude, a joy in the heart, a desire to serve? 

Faithful living is not an intellectual assent. Service to those in need is a path, it’s faithful living. The real proving ground of our faith isn’t how articulate, or how deep it may sound, it’s how we live. Thus, when I looked in the mirror, the man looking back responded: 

“… if there is no room for humanity, pain, sweat, doubt, and discouragement if your life, then you need to change who you are.”

Man downhill observing mountain landscape at sunset

Forgiveness is a tough exercise. It’s necessary for peace in life. It’s natural to hold onto the wrongs of life and vowing to get even at some future day. Unfortunately, it rarely works out.

I passed by a COVID patient wishing for some old-time jazz music. I am not talking about the 1970’s jazz scene. I’m referring to classical legends such as Glen Miller. The gentleman tried humming PEnnsylvania 6-5000, but couldn’t remember the lyrics. PEnnsylvania 6-500 was a Glenn Miller hit lasting twelve weeks. Miller wrote the song in an era when most local telephone calls in large cities were dialed directly and required an operator.

PEnnsylvania 6-5000 was recorded by many stars, including the Andrew Sisters. Unfortunately for the Andrew Sisters, Maxene and Patty Andrews had a falling out. Some claim the issue was due to a family estate, others claim it was from show royalties, and according to a documentary, Maxene Andrews lived two parallel lives: the professional and personal. For years Maxene Andrews had a relationship with her manager, Lynda Wells.

For thirteen weeks, the Andrew Sisters sang together but never spoke to one another. LaVerne passed in 1967, Maxene in 1995, and Patty in 2013. Maxene and Patty never reconciled.

I hoped the patient I passed was not in a similar situation. I pulled out a cell phone, opened YouTube, and placed the phone by the man’s ear. The Andrew Sisters filled the room with angelic harmony. The softly smiled and comfortably rested his hands on his chest.

There’s always a hearing. It comes to us in dreams, or maybe a song, after a reminder of some long lost love or slighted friend. Perhaps we’ll hear that voice at a gravesite, hospital, or in the wake of a simmering feud. However, it comes, it is the voice of God calling, beckoning to remind us of the power and love in forgiveness.

Some of us will wrestle with its authentication. Was it divine? Maybe it was the wine? Yes? No? But if we’re willing to risk abandoning that which matters so little, perhaps we can discern its lesson and experience the power of love – the ability to forgive. The power of God’s love propels us to understand that we can’t live in the now while holding onto yesterday.

Our journey will define our lives. The best route is one that lived in physical, spiritual, geographical, and emotional balance. Yeah, we’ll all walk the valley of doubt, difficulty, anger, and sometimes hatred. Through all of it, we’ll learn to navigate, meet God in the doorway of eternal love, and finally reconcile all that we were, all we are, and all we’ll ever become. It should be the warmth of intimacy, not the allure of fault.

A few minutes later, I left my jazz aficionado asleep, caught in the memories of an earlier life. I could catch snippets and slight moments of a dream. Was that dream from early life? The Andrew Sisters? Glen Miller? Or was the dream of some long feud remaining unresolved? Hard to say. Whatever dream occupied him, I hoped it indeed was peaceful. I hope it was love.

Working nonstop on our company’s Coronavirus Tiger Team is exhausting. Let’s face it; coronavirus news is depressing and impossible to get secluded. On Friday, I mentally shut down. Finally, getting several days off, I extracted myself from any form of COVID news. As valiant as that effort was, my Samsung flooded with COVID-19 messages. 

Our Task Force required daily watching of our current Washington administration updates. Many team members left wondering if any intelligible life existed on Pennsylvania Avenue. We can’t stand the constant political bickering and stream of negativity. As Seth Meyers stated, any time, a world-renowned idiot like Donald Trump tells you to think about that’s your queue to exit the conversation. “He’s like the dumbest guy at the cocktail party trying to make conversation by telling you something he read on a Snapple cap.”

Truthfully honest, I don’t give a s••• if Coronavirus gets me anymore. I used to, but not now. Of course, there’s the anxiety associated with still going into a hospital, as my work is considered medically necessary. Sure, there’s the reality that every time I enter the front doors, it increases my probability of catching the virus. And of course, I take exceedingly due diligence, even when I stop for gas. However, at the end of the, it is what is.

Why? Well, there are a lot of people out there worse off than me. For many people, it’s a rather dark time. Jobs are gone. Savings are being depleted. And we’re experiencing long-term isolation never intended. 

Humanity survived worse. There were World Wars, the Black Flu, Spanish Flu, smallpox, H1N1, HIV/Aids. Yet, it’s those who find purpose under unimaginable circumstances will survive – and eventually prosper. Frankl called it the ‘quest for meaning.’ 

Sometimes we find meaning in extraordinary places. I find it in the transcendental power of Love. Frankl noted this form of Love accordingly.

“Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance.”

Frankl’s words, “life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose,” are a call to action today. Finding purpose, a fundamental requirement for human health and well-being, will not cure the Coronavirus, but may well mitigate its effects and enable a more rapid recovery.

Zig Ziglar stated we could either react or respond. Sure, many of us will have good days. Many of us will have bad days. But each of us can choose to adopt positive attitudes and control our response to the circumstances.

Therefore, when I say, “I don’t give a s••• anymore,” it’s because I do. I refuse to ‘react’ to COVID-19. Instead, I am responding by finding any semblance of Love possible. I choose to find meaning and purpose in what I do. If I die, then so be it. I die in meaning and Love.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

~Victor Frankl ~

In a world of COVID, we’ve suddenly become confined to small spaces with our spouses, with little to no reprieve. During the ensuing weeks and months, we’ve got to balance work life and personal life, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

In a lot of ways, many marriages will receive a glimpse of life in retirement. Spouses will look from different lenses—one may think the sky is falling, the other believes, “Eh, no big deal.” Jada Pinkett Smith related her experience. Smith, who’s been married to actor Will Smith for 23 years, realized she didn’t know him.

“I gotta be honest. I think one of the things that I’ve realized is that I don’t know Will at all. I feel like there’s a layer that you get to, life gets busy, and you create these stories in your head, and then you hold onto these stories, and that is your idea of your partner; that’s not who your partner is. Will and I are in the process of him taking the time to learn to love himself, me taking the time to learn to love myself, and us building a friendship along the way. Let me tell you, that’s been something, to be married to somebody 20-some odd years and realize I don’t know you and you don’t know me and also realizing there’s an aspect of yourself you don’t know either.”

Building friendships is something all must do.

Just before COVID closing the world, I overheard two men discussing their lives. One man was determined to force his wife of 27 years out of the marriage. He hated everything about her, from sunup to sundown. By his logic, if his wife left, he would not lose his children’s honor, and he could marry a younger wife. He wanted a younger wife. A younger wife will fix everything.

My wife says, ‘I just want everything to be back the way it was in the beginning,’” the first man says. “God. My wife is old. Since her chemo is over, she smells old. Her skin sags and nothing she does is satisfying. She disgusts me.

No one can ever go back to the beginning. It will never be, “… the way it was back in the beginning.” Relationships either evolve or devolve. The problem is we misperceived what our futures will be. 

COVID kind of hits that home.

Final Thought

A couple was dining and celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. After the meal, the husband presented his wife romantically with a beautiful, ancient gold antique locket on a chain.

Amazingly when his wife opened the locket, a tiny fairy appeared.  

Your forty years of devotion to each other has released me from this locket, and in return, I will grant you both one wish each – anything you want.

Without hesitating, the wife asked, “Please, can I travel to the four corners of the world with my husband, as happy and in love as we’ve always been?

The fairy waved her wand with a flourish, and magically there on the table were two first-class tickets for a round-the-world holiday.

The fairy looked to the husband, “Your turn.

The husband thought for a moment, and said, “Forgive me, but to enjoy that holiday of a lifetime – I yearn for a younger woman – so I wish that my wife be thirty years younger than me.

Shocked, the fairy waved her wand, and the husband became ninety-three.

My AAA Map

After posting the ‘AAA’ blog, a reader privately asked if I had a map, “Did I, in fact, ever get my own map?”

Before Google Maps, almost everyone went to AAA. However, my first response came out of nowhere and quoted Ralph Emmerson Walden, “Nah. It’s the journey, not the destination.” Pausing for several minutes, I decided this required a more authentic response. So, I deleted my quick ‘on the fly’ response and tried again.

Looking over the lakefront below, I realize just how overused Walden’s quote is. During my first colonoscopy, my father said, “Remember, it’s about the journey.” The same quote was uttered before February’s tumor surgery. And almost every spiritual guru I read (Chopra, Dyer, Ziglar, and others) used a similar version, somewhere, sometime. In the world of instant selfies and ghoulish cartoon meme’s, overuse has weakened its meaning, and truth has faded from intent.

I knew nothing of the journey upon which I set out. It’s a pilgrimage, not a trail.

My first spiritual teacher claimed my path as “… the intentional act chosen to the unwilled rhythms of the body to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being, and doing.” Elated by the teacher’s description, I told a friend. It turns out my teacher repeated the same to him.

Years later, I learned my map was unique only to me and remains harmonious to the rhythms of my body, and beating of my heart. It’s balanced. It’s a psychiatric highway of redemption, filled with ups and downs, cold and heat, tears and anger, peace, and tranquility. It changes daily. One day is unfamiliar; another, I intuitively know where I’m going.

Similar to the flowers of a garden, the smell of jasmine breathes during Spring. Summer is surrounded by endless wheat fields, and gnarled oak trees. In the Fall, men prepare the harvest. Winter’s frost nips at my lips, and hot coca fills my stomach. Life is an endless path.

Knowing that conquering challenges leads to transformation, I kept moving through the good and bad. There were times of homesickness, days of sadness, feeling lost, and moments of exhaustion. But these moments, these tests and trials, all taught something. The sun will rise again. Just keep walking.

Our map (i.e., your path, my path) cannot be borrowed. And, if it is to be real and personal, it has to be something that lasts through trials and stands through doubts, questions, and worries. The map is about finding meaning in the challenges and feeling joyful regardless of the pain. It’s faith.

If you think about it, someone has gone before us. In the movie The Polar Express, the conductor says: “It doesn’t matter where the train (map) is going. What matters is that you choose to get on.” Most already know their map. The choice is about getting on the train.

My map is the AAA’s version of ‘faith.’

Closing Thought

Desperate for help, the people of the village held a meeting under a huge oak tree in the village  square.

Let us pray,” said an elderly woman. “Only God can save us now.

Since the village had citizens of different faiths, town leaders held their prayer in the open, late that night, under the open sky. Suddenly, two young travelers entered town decided to join the prayer and opened umbrellas above them.

“Why did you bring umbrellas? Can’t you see there is no rain? That’s why we have come to pray?”

“Yes,” chimed the travelers. “We are travelers, and the map used by our forefathers brings us through this town. Therefore, we will pray with you.”

“We don’t know your forefathers. Who were they?”

“Our forefathers come from the family ‘Faith.’ And we’re positive our prayer will be answered. That’s why we have umbrellas.”

So … Who had a better map?

Our forefathers knew the path. They’ve been there before, and they’ll get you home.

AAA

A friend discussed having difficulty getting several associates to get past their anger and fear of the other.

Unable to comprehend how to heal them, I interjected, “It’s not your duty to resolve.

Huh?

Your responsibility is to be triple-A (American Automobile Association). You can only provide a map. You’re not the driver.

Anthony de Mello noted the human condition well.

Most say they want to get out of kindergarten. Don’t believe them! All they want you to do is to mend their broken toys.

“Give me back my wife. Give me back my job. Give me back my money. Give me back my reputation, my success.”

This is what they want: they want their toys replaced. That’s all. Even the best psychologist will tell you that, that people don’t want to be cured. What they want is relief, for the cure is painful.

The path (map) before us appears unknown. It may be confusing and complicated, even dangerous. Before us lay potholes, debris, and potential injury. There are many unmarked highways and detours galore. It is all so confusing. Which way shall I go? What road shall I take?

Spiritual instruction has always been taught in bite-sized pieces. “Easy-peasy,” grade school friends would note. Formulaically, if we follow the prescribed set of Spiritual Laws, we’d get from Point A to Point B. Likewise, I had always presumed that the Bible was simple and provided a straightforward evacuation map to get us to heaven. These brief statements captured the essential kernels of Scripture.

I have concluded most Spiritual maps are not intended to be ‘evacuation maps.’ Neither is it an owner’s manual nor a love letter from God. What these Spiritual maps do is transform the traveler by teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training. The ‘transformation’ may be messy, and often, you will find yourself wrestling.

There was a passage in the Bible that described Jacob wrestling with God. Jacob wrestled God for a night. If you like me, I’ve found myself ‘wrestling’ for nearly forty years. Some nights, I fought all day and all night, continually asking for a fresh vision of who He is and what He wanted. However, until I had this very personal struggle, my life could not be cemented. I could not call it my own.

What Jacob discovers is that wrestling was a means to grace, a channel for spiritual blessing. The same applies to us. The AAA map my friend should have given is one that begins with struggle but is also filled with blessings and faith. And that faith leads to peace. Traveling the map will change one’s identity and can be a profoundly gracious gift of restoration.

As de Mello noted, “Most people don’t live aware lives. They live mechanical lives, mechanical thoughts — generally somebody else’s — mechanical emotions, mechanical actions, mechanical reactions.

Closing Thought

How do I find myself and the light?” asked a student.

By taking the path that leads to the truth,” the Master replied.

Will you help me walk the path?

I can only point the way. You must walk the path yourself.

Go to AAA and get your map. Awake! Arise and walk!

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