I was reading a book by Joan Chittister entitled, “Following The Path.” I made it to page 75 before I stopped reading. Before I explain let me be clear… I liked this author. She was a little hard to follow in her writing rhythm, so-to-speak, but I have never felt such love pouring off the page since anything written by Thich Nhat Hanh. She isn’t anywhere near as loving as that monk, who I deeply respect and hope to meet some day, but she is still far more loving than any other author I have read, even Wayne Dyer, who is another man I would like to meet and one of my favorite authors.
Like Thich Nhat Hanh, Joan Chittister is a monk, or in her case, was one for a while, I am not sure on this. Maybe that’s where this love comes from. Maybe monks in general display it better in their actions and life. I appreciate her loving spirit, as I appreciate Hanh’s, but there is a problem with this book.
The text, insofar as I can tell, is trying to brainwash the reader into believing that service is the highest calling they can attain. Some form of service is found in your True Place, your Fate, Destiny, Calling, whatever name you give it. I have heard this before in other spiritual texts by other spiritual authors, but it is much more forcefully presented here. The problem is that while this may be true, its not for the reasons that seem to be alluded to in this book. Or maybe that’s not the right way to put it. Better to say that service is not the goal, not the end-all, be-all of a worthy life pursuit, anymore than happiness or joy is.
Service is not to be pursued, or attached to, or ran away from. Service just happens, exactly as happiness and joy happens, a by-product of finding the place you fit, as I understand it. I can not speak from experience here. I speak from some place else, some inner knowing or wisdom or something. I know a lot of things that someone who has been isolated most of his life should not know, and has no right claiming knowledge of, in most people’s opinions, because he lacks the experience. As if experience were some sort of prerequisite to knowledge, or the ability to speak with authority on some subject. Sometimes people just know things. Maybe that’s my inner voice, the Holy Spirit, my Higher Self, speaking through me. I do not know and make no claims, other than what is clear to me here.
Some people are artists. They are compelled to draw, paint, sculpt, carve, chisel or pursue their artistic tenancies through one or many mediums. I am an artist, although I am not entirely sure what my medium is. A painting or a sculpture does not serve any major cause directly. Maybe an image can bring about world peace, or a statue can stop a war, but I doubt either of them, by themselves, can feed the hungry or shelter the homeless.
I also doubt that most, if not all artists, can sit there, truly lost in their work, with a mindset or goal to sell the work to raise money for some cause. The art is pursued for the experience of the expression found in the pursuit. As an artist you get lost in what you are doing. Even writing, despite contracts to fulfill, can not be forced in most if not all cases. A writer that writes only for money probably doesn’t write very long or successfully. I may be wrong here, maybe there are a few who can and do, but they would be the minority.
The artist gets lost in their medium and some creation is produced. That creation may then be sold for some worthy cause, and in that case, serve others. Otherwise art, which is the calling and True Place of many, serves nobody but the artist. You could argue that the expression which is the final result serves in the way it inspires. But it is not service that has any practical effect on anyone in the majority of circumstances. The same could be said of any sort of athletic pursuit.
In her book Mrs. Chittister is constantly refer erring to things you would imagine a monk would be concerned with. Helping the sick, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless. She keeps bringing this stuff over and over again with the implication that this is the highest attainment, the most good, and I have just proven it to be a lie. Not everything that people are called to serves anyone in any meaningful way except the person him or herself.
Furthermore claiming your calling is to serve in a soup kitchen is probably a lie. It is avoiding what you were truly put here to do. In my opinion God, or what I call the Source, in its infinite creative energy, is not going to put people here on the planet whose immediate purpose is to be servants. This is actually a dangerous mentality to promote and try to put people into. As if we were meant to be worker ants, or drone bees, serving some queen, some authority figure.
Nobody is placed here to serve. Nobody is born a servant. We are all royalty, children of God, physical manifestations of the energy that created everything. We are called to a higher purpose, to find that thing that we can be lost in for hours and simply enjoy it. Out of that we may find a way, and want to, serve others. Out of that we will probably find fulfillment, happiness, and joy. But neither of these things are the reason why we do what we love to do.
There is another problem with the service mentality. When we give the homeless shelter and serve them food in soup kitchens, we perpetuate the illusion of a reality that does not exist. Life, as the Source intended, is the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, the beginning of the story before the fairy tale of the fall. Everything perfect and living harmoniously. There is no homelessness in the mind of God. No hunger, no dis-ease, no sin, no aging, no death, none of the negative and undesirable experiences we take for granted as being a part of the human experience. These states exist only because we believe they exist, and we perpetuate them by addressing them, and not their cause.
More and more I am coming to believe and understand the words of Joel Goldstien. It’s all about seeing the Truth. That these states imply a power outside of God, maybe even greater than God, and that can’t be true, so these states must not be true, which means they are a lie, an illusion, a myth. When we feed and clothe the poor, help the sick and the suffering, we are, in essence, agreeing that their negative or undesirable states are real, which reinforces their reality, and perpetuates that reality, not only for them, but for us and the rest of the human race!
All these negative and undesired states are merely symptoms of a dis-ease. If we are going to serve, at the very least we should go to their cause. What is that, you ask? We are. Humanity as a whole, the human race. What we believe and think, our inner states, the level of our spiritual development. I posit that when we are able to live harmoniously with each other and our planet, all these symptoms of our societal dis-ease will simply vanish as if they had never existed, because they really never did. Every person must, on their own and willingly, undergo deep inner change and transformation. We must stop collectively believing in things such as rich or poor, powerful or powerless, healthy or sick. But to begin with we must stop perpetuating the illusions of these states.
I am not sure how this works, not having found my own True Place yet. But I surmise that if everyone would simply pursue that thing they could get lost-in for hours at a time, then served in whatever flowing, natural way their pursuit led to, there would be some sort of positive change in the world. I think we are all puzzle pieces, and only God, or the Source, sees the whole picture. As long as we are trying to fit ourselves together, instead of letting God fit us together, we will never come together into the true picture of creation.
It is not that creation is broken, that the Garden of Eden is lost. It is that our perceptions are broken, and we have forgotten that we have been in the Garden of Eden all along. We have forgotten our innate perfection. How can any aspect of God, or the Source, be imperfect? What we believe to be our imperfection, is precisely that, our belief in it. What we believe to be as our separation from God is also precisely that, our belief. The truth is we have never left Eden, that we never been separated from our creator, and that we are perfect.
Until every human knows this in the same way they believe in what they “know” now, we will continue to be mislead into believing that serving the needy, poor and sick is the greatest thing we could do in our lives. We will continue to misidentify this as our True Place, our Highest Calling. We will never realize our connection with God, with the Source, which is found only in those times we are lost in doing what we love to do. Those times when we are well and truly lost, with no thought for the time that has passed.
If there is anyone out there who finds themselves in this state when they are serving others, then my guess it would be God having mercy on us,. Realizing, like the parent who checks for the monster under the bed for their child, that for now we have to be worked with through our childish, at a spiritual level, illusions. But unlike a parent who may get impatient the third or fourth time they have to get up and check the bed and the closet, the Source is infinitely patient, slowly putting the fragmented puzzle of our perception back together, one piece at a time, until the day we can all see this big, true picture clearly.
One more thing before I go… Am I saying that we should just ignore those we label as “less fortunate?” Certainly not! If it flows in our lives to help them, in other words, if we don’t have to make such service happen, then we should help. What I am saying is that we should not call any sort of service our Highest Calling, and that we should not be attached to or pursue service, any more than we should avoid it when it flows naturally for us to perform it.
Attachment, aversion and pursuit requires force, which means we are not allowing God, or the Source, to move us. Where we would put ourselves is not necessarily the place God has made for us. We serve the rest of the human race best when we are doing whatever it is we love to do, that thing we can get lost in, loosing track of time. The thing we were truly born to do. Maybe we have several such things. At least one of these is our True Calling, Destiny, Fate, True Place or simply where we fit.
By flowing, which a demonstration of grace, through these things in our lives, opportunities to serve in some way will manifest to us. By listening to the Holy Spirit, our Heart, our Inner Voice, or Higher Self, we will know exactly what to do. If we are going to serve, this is the way we should go about it, as a by-product, a natural extension of doing the thing or things we are called to do.
Our Highest Calling is not to serve. It is to experience oneness with our Creator, whatever name we give this energy or entity. That oneness is only experienced in the things we love to do, that we get lost in. Where there is no time, no subject, no object, nothing more than this present moment and the experience of what we are doing.
Like attracts like. When we enter this state of oneness, when we get lost doing what we love to do, that is when we vibrate an energy of oneness. That is when we vibrate an energy that is closest to the Truth. That draws Truth to us, and those in our direct sphere of influence. The more of us vibrating this energy, the closer to the Truth the human race will come, and this is how we come, one day, hopefully soon, to a point where we are living harmoniously with each other and the rest of creation.
Vibrating the energy of service only does one thing, draws more service to us. The more of us vibrating this energy, the more service is needed, which is why service is not, and can not be, our Highest Calling. Anything that takes us away from the Truth is a lie, an illusion, a false reality, a broken perception. As long as there is an us and a them there will be conflict, wars and need. Service will not stop this, only alleviate the symptoms. It is a bandage, as I said, over a broken bone, The only way to heal the brokenness is to go deep within, and set things straight.