Deconstructing Life, A Series

When we awaken each morning, we do so from within the confines of life under the sun. By that I mean all the beauty, emotions, and grandeur of that which our animal senses provide. Unfortunately, it also binds us to this animal world, and rather than study what “might” lie beyond, we fix our attention on that which we can touch, taste, see, smell, and hear. The traveling of great distances all begin with our knowledge under the sun. Earth is the starting point, or so we believe. The mere suggestion of time travel is the stuff of science fiction, with its warp speed, jump drives, and time travel machines. All of it begins with the assumption that, as animals, we must develop our science around that animal experience.

One of the greatest revelations in my own life was the discovery that I am a spiritual being on a human (animal) journey, not a human being on a spiritual quest. I can’t make myself or ever be any more spiritual than I am today. This body of mine is the vehicle within which I live and move and have my being under the sun, as Ecclesiastes puts it. As such, I’m bound to a perspective of life as an intelligent animal, and time travel is limited to my imagination within that perspective. But, if I can allow my mind to wander, I find that a whole new world of rules apply, beginning with the filter that there are no rules, other than that which can only be understood from outside, beyond, or from deep within our animal experience.

This makes questions far more important than answers, because we know so little about the subject.

For example, in the Messianic Psalm 110, David writes: The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” It’s a very important Bible verse, because Melchizedek was a “priest of the most high God” in the book of Genesis, which is essentially the story of the birth of the Jews and their priesthood on behalf of Jehovah. Abraham encountered Melchizedek early in life and paid a tithe to him, thus validating his priesthood for all time as being greater than the priesthood of the Jews. Abraham’s son Levi was the head of the priests of the entire Jewish faith, and yet, his priesthood was lesser than that of Melchizedek. Why is that, and how is it so?

“You could say,” Paul notes in the New Testament, “that Levi himself paid a tithe to Melchizedek — while in Abraham’s bosom.” And, this not only validates the Psalm as Messianic but also raises some interesting logic for our consideration, namely that Levi, who hadn’t yet been born, was bound in his life to the deeds of his grandfather. For those who think only of life under the sun, this is impossible, for Levi was his own man, with his own agency, his own set of responsibilities, his own sense of time, and completely separate from his father.

And yet, we have evidence presented that Levi was present when Abraham paid the tithe to Melchizedek. So, if Levi was so bound, what can be said of the rest of us? Are we all subject to the actions of our roots? Are we then responsible? Do we carry forth in the shadow of our roots or are we actually guided by them? Was I there — in my father’s, grandfather’s, great-grandfather’s bosom — when he ruthlessly managed his slaves? Do I carry the mark as a slave owner? If we are to understand this correctly, the answer must be yes.

This is why it’s so preposterous to argue our terminal uniqueness. None of us are truly unique, because we are all human beings. Now, can we be unique in our view of life? Of course, but that view often attempts to escape roots we’d rather not be a part of them, and in so doing, we can make enormous mistakes.

Consider the new rage among us with the use of the word “agency.” The Urban Dictionary describes it this way: “The new hip word, meaning one realizes and uses their power to further their ends.” Basically, it means that you have tools available to develop and shape your own reality, and — here’s the important part — nobody else has a right to deny you your agency. What it really applies to is life under the sun, for your agency is lost the moment you try to separate yourself from everybody on a human level. That’s not possible, so even those who “identify” a certain way, may be setting themselves up for future disaster, because humans are more alike than different.

You’re entitled to create your own best version of yourself, but you have no right in stating that we must accept your agency. It doesn’t work that way, for your being has so very much in common with mine. This is a key part of the pathological fantasy that Donald Trump is living. We just can’t bring ourselves to believe his view of himself (and we don’t have to). Donald Trump is a garden-variety human being, just like the rest of us.

For most believers, time is a linear construct, one that is always moving forward, never backwards. For those with knowledge beyond the sun, however, time is fixed, and we are the ones who are moving. And, if time is a fixed construct, then time “travel” isn’t nearly so mysterious as we think. The problem we have is that we’re attempting to travel forwards or backwards from our lives under the sun. Why? So we can bring things back to use in positioning us for this life. We can’t help it; it’s our animal nature to be so.

Einstein proved that time is relative, and this is down to the cellular level. Each day for me as a 74-year old man moves at a speed that is much more rapid than when I was a young man of 18, for each day today represents 1/74 of my life, whereas at age 18, it was only 1/18 of my life. And while it moves quickly for me, that movement is different than all others, because time is fixed for everyone. Immortality under the sun is absurd, because such a person would burn and move at such a high rate as to be invisible.

Hence, spiritual truths like the above involving Melchizedek cannot be understood without knowledge that doesn’t exist under the sun. It must come from the world of the spirit.

If I’ve lived my life in the past, then I will live my life in the future. There. That was pretty simple, right? If I was there a thousand years into the past, then I’ll be there a thousand years from now. Time and distance are physical constructs within which human life exists. But it also exists outside these dimensions, beyond them, and within them simultaneously. This is Zoe life, the Life of God, eternal life, the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God. Think of a portrait plane traveling left to right across a landscape plane. Only dead center of their connection is fixed. Everything else is moving.

And, it is to this Life that we must give our attention, if we are to grow as a species. The price is a high one, though. We must first possess a soft and giving heart, for the life of God flows from the source, through us, to the rest of the human race, and only then, beyond.

Religion fears sex above all, because sex threatens their logic by occupying all of our animal senses simultaneously. In this way, their thinking goes, it’s impossible to be connected with God when even such thoughts of sex occur. The animal is not the spiritual, they would have us believe.

However, the truth is that sex is one of the very few human sensual experiences that can actually do the opposite. By occupying all of the senses simultaneously, sex completely frees the spirit and the mind to fly to and from the source. There is no higher calling for animals than to reproduce. Throw in the deep spiritual connection available to humans during the act, and it’s also very high on a spiritual level. Our species has it so wrong here.

When we die, our spirits don’t really “go” anywhere. They simply return to occupy their place back within the whole of life, which then influences those living under the sun. It’s why evolution is undeniable, despite the insistence of some believers that we were made exactly the same as all those who’ve come before us. There is not a lot of logic in such a belief, because life is much too efficient to toss aside everything that a generation has brought to its table for dispersal among the population yet to come.

Evolution comes from a spirit filled with possibilities based on all that has gone before. Evolution is the result of the species learning, bringing that knowledge to life beyond the sun, sharing it widely, so that life in time brings it about. What do other animal species do with what they’ve learned? It’s imprinted forever in the life that governs all in the here and now.

Just because I leave life under the sun does not mean that I lose my ability to influence this life, because, for all practical purposes, I will be, indeed, still here. Just because your animal senses can’t detect me doesn’t mean that I’ve disappeared into nothingness. My thoughts and views are actually more influential beyond the sun, because of what I’ve learned and applied in my animal life, a life that requires marketing to the masses for influence to be counted. Influence coming from within the whole of life beyond the sun is lasting, because it speaks to the inner man instead of the outer man.

There ought to be an entire branch of science that investigates this, but science under the sun requires measurements that only exists under the sun. Therefore, it’s a useless enterprise.

When a baby breathes in life, she’s automatically entered into time and distance from an animal perspective. But, she also has the ability to access all that came before her and all that will come ahead, because this connectivity is what will determine life’s quality or quantity throughout her days under the sun. It’s hard to look upon a baby and see her potential as anything less than amazing. Parents can set her on the right path, but she will need to do her own living without outside interference.

Such interference is the curse of the wealthy, because discontent increases with opportunities for acting on it. We never learn the necessary lessons of humility and sacrifice absent the lack that encourages both. This is why every act of humankind is ultimately vanity.

Time and space are only for our animal selves, as is Maslow’s quest for self-actualization. In truth, we are all part of the vast resources that make up our planet, but life doesn’t begin or end there.

And that, my friends, is our hope, and the best way to prepare ourselves for that hope is to first align ourselves with it, then to consciously keep ourselves in the moment, and then finally try our best (it is the nature of human beings to be born with clay feet) to live in accordance with a new set of rules that begin with self-sacrifice.

To be continued…

Thinking About Death During the Great Quarantine

What a better use of time during this isolation than to talk about human death and dying. After all, isn’t that what’s really on our minds as we sit in our own homes awaiting the all clear? We can’t help it. We’re afraid of our own deaths, so as best we can (which is probably not much), let’s take a walk down the path of what that means.

We’ll begin with life, that misunderstood and grossly underestimated aspect of being human. In the Bible, there are several words defined as “life,” including the remarkable book of Ecclesiastes, which describes life “under the sun.” This is the world of our senses, and this book describes it as “meaningless” or “vanity.” Within this marvelous scripture are thoughts of great wisdom for our lives within the context of living here on planet Earth. It describes seasons of living that go far beyond Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. It’s often referred to as the book for cynics, because its wisdom is confined to life under the sun, the world we understand only through our senses.

It’s important we begin with life, because, in thinking about our own deaths, we can only consider that which we know, and that means leaving everything familiar — no matter how good or lousy it is — to move into the unknown. Religion complicates things by attaching future meaning to present behavior and dangling a rich and wonderful afterlife to those who follow. It’s the most manipulative game in town and has been for a very long time, for it asks that we believe only that which our religion teaches, and this can be a serious trial for the very logic and reasoning that life has given each of us. The choice that religion offers us in the West is an afterlife in heaven or its opposite, hell. If offered a deal that connects our current behavior with one or the other, who would choose the latter? Nobody, of course, and that’s the plan to recruit others to our religions, where they pay tithes and offerings that benefit the religion in the here and now. It is impossible to take religion seriously when representatives of the institution benefit so greatly in the process. This ate away at my soul during my years of service at CBN and The 700 Club and eventually led to the writing of my book, The Gospel of Self.

We must train ourselves to seek that which is beyond life under the sun. The problem is that science gets in the way by insisting that the ability to measure something is what gives it meaning or “reality”. Therefore, that which we can’t measure doesn’t belong in our studies. The entire “Make America Great Again” thinking — while fully embraced by White Evangelical Christians — actually gives life under the sun preeminence by wanting to go back to the more ordered times of the past. In so doing, it refuses to acknowledge the prophets of today who are leading cultural progress. We err when we do this, because we’re suggesting that we have the power to control our own lives, and this is quite contrary to our religious teachings.

It’s a part of being human to question, to ask about those who don’t know or believe our religion. What happens to them at death, if we’re all going to “heaven”? If our God is both just and merciful, how does it follow that eternal fire is the end of those who don’t know? This is the fuel that evangelism, regardless of the religion that practices it, uses to motivate people to convince others of their rightness or righteousness. This is sold as an act of love, but benefits to the evangelist include that which profits the evangelist, and this cannot be set aside in our reasoning. We humans can be a sneaky bunch.

It’s important here to note the division in Christianity between those who follow the red words and those who prioritize, for example, the writings of Paul. Muslims question Paul’s contributions to the faith, for the New Testament was penned largely by him. They argue that we only have his word that he ever even interacted with Jesus, and for some, that’s just fine. In asking questions, however, it’s an important perspective for our consideration. Regardless, the words attributed to Jesus, to me, carry weight beyond the other writings, those deemed holy or otherwise.

For example, we learn so much about this “Christ” in three verses of the The Gospel According to John.

I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

John 10:9–11

People of faith can argue as they wish about these words, but let’s just take them at face value. Jesus describes himself as a door or a gate, which is a powerful spiritual metaphor. He equated entry through this door to being saved from the thief. This is because, he said he had come to provide life to those who passed through Him. But “life” here doesn’t mean the same as the word used in Ecclesiastes. The word in this passage comes from the Greek word Zoe, which means the life of God, terribly translated in English as “eternal life”. This is then taken to the extreme by religion to mean the afterlife in heaven, but with these words, Jesus himself describes a life that’s here with us today thanks to the sacrifice of the Son of Man. In this passage, he says nothing about belief in him as a prerequisite for the results of his sacrifice. It’s simply the mission he was given, which has little to do with our response. We — as in humanity — are spiritual sheep who need this sacrifice in order to put an end to the rules and regulations of the church — even God Himself — because we could never fulfill them on our own. Such is the depth of our fallen nature. In this case, Jesus is referring to Judaism, because God knows the heart of man has an evil core and cannot be trusted to love God with all our hearts, minds, and strength and our neighbors as ourselves.

Our views of death are many. They’re reflected in our art, our literature, and especially in our music. Here are the first two verses of the bluegrass tune “Someday” by Blue Highway:

Some day when my last line is written
Some day when I’ve drawn my last breath
When my last words on earth have been spoken
And my lips are sealed in death
Don’t look on my cold form in pity
Don’t think of me as one dead
It’ll just be the house I once lived in
My spirit, by then, will have fled

This is a very common view of death, that we are spiritual travelers who’ve left our human bodies to return to the source of all life. I can’t tell you how this narrative has influenced my own life here on earth through the process known as recovery. I’ve been sober over 20 years, and I’ve learned much in that time. Like, I’m a spiritual being on a human journey, not a human being on a spiritual journey. I can’t do anything in this life to make myself any more spiritual than I already am, but there’s plenty I can do to become a better human being. This knowledge will absolutely change your life, if you’re open to it. It puts everything into a proper perspective, because if it’s true, then we actually are “going home” upon human death, and who could possibly be afraid of that? Known or unknown, we’re going back to the place from which we came, the world of the spirit, no longer prisoners of time and space.

In so doing, all of our happiness, travails, lessons learned, wisdom garnered, truth known, ideas we’ve shared, love that we’ve known, all that we are as individuals separate from our source, gets thrust back into the entity known as life, and everybody else gains through what we bring back with us from our journeys as human beings. That’s because, life, too, is ever evolving and growing, and those who are ignorant of all this tend to stifle that growth by returning prejudice, hatred, lust and the other deadly sins — and above all arrogance — to life, which speaks loudly about the need for us to be more human when we’re here and not trying to be more spiritual. This knowledge would change the world, but there are powerful forces at work under the sun that prosper through this arrogance. They prove a formidable foe in this life.

My most intimate encounter with death occurred in the Spring of 2006, when my beloved Alicia died from an accidental overdose of opiates. It was the worst experience of my life, because it was so unexpected and she was only 41 years old. On my knees next to her empty body, the 911 operator instructed me to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and pump her chest. If you know what the “death rattle” is, it’s not something you’d wish for anyone to experience. It’s what comes back from a dead body after deep breaths and chest pumping. Her body lay there before me, but Alicia was already gone and not coming back. I couldn’t even grasp what that meant for me, and I was very afraid of that particular unknown.

Those first few days afterwards were filled with pain and God’s grace, for I was suffering the most awful pain humans can know. Two things happened during the first 24 hours that helped me greatly. The first was the strong smell of sulfur coming from the vicinity of her pillow on our bed. It was also very strong on her mother’s pillow just beneath our bedroom. I can’t describe the feeling of awe when I was later told by a friend with deep roots and connections in the occult that such occurrences are common when someone dies before their time. It’s deemed an attempt by the lost loved one to reach out back to this life to express that they are alright.

The day after her death, Alicia’s family gathered in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee to mourn. I was outside on this otherwise beautiful day crying and in pain. I was arguing with God and begging to know that she was safe on the other side but mostly fearful about what was going to happen to me. “Just tell me it’s gonna be okay,” I repeated over and over. After a period of grieving, I went back inside and sat in a recliner alone in the dining room with her pictures everywhere. Two of her nieces that she dearly loved, ages 8 and 10, came into the room and sat on my lap. As they cried with me, the 8‑year old whispered in my ear, “It’s gonna be okay.” In that moment, I knew she was with us and trying to comfort us. That event led to my eventual acceptance that she was gone, that I’d never hold her and kiss her again, that I’d never again read the Bible to her as she snuggled up against me, and that I’d have to go forward without her.

I also had to forgive her for leaving me alone, and that was made easier by my acknowledgement of her presence despite being on the other side of the veil.

It also helped shape my views about death and dying. For one, I don’t believe we lose our individuality in the process of reuniting with life. In this life, we call it consciousness, through which we accumulated the wisdom and experiences that life needs to advance. Any other view is a stretch for me, because life wastes nothing and our lives under the sun matter. For example, life is currently defending itself against our selfish intrusions into the sanctity and real power of life’s leadership. Think global warming is a hoax? I feel sorry for you and your progeny. Life will protect itself.

When Israel’s first king, Saul, badly needed Godly advice in his battle with the Philistines (I Samuel 28), he tried ungodly means. He traveled to meet a woman known as “the Witch of Endor” to conjure the dead prophet Samuel to advise him. According to the story, Samuel “came up” and was not happy with Saul. He told the king that he and his servants would be killed the next day for disobeying the Lord, just as Samuel had prophesied when he was alive.

This story is remarkable and controversial, for it reveals that the dead don’t lose their individuality or consciousness; they are simply transformed, and this should provide a great sense of comfort to the living. Will I know Alicia after I’m gone? I think yes, although the senses, which are bound to life under the sun, won’t be a part of it, and that has to include emotions. Even the word “comfort” is a word we can only understand as part of our human experience.

This leads us to two important warnings about death and dying, our own and that of others. One, life doesn’t want us to play in this realm, because it’s a path to danger, for deception is likely and we’d be led right back to knowledge gained while under the sun anyway. Hence, it’s a self-centered act, always, and life abhors selfishness. Two, our tendency as humans is to anthropomorphize when we don’t have actual knowledge. This is why we give heaven “streets of gold” and mansions for a dwelling place. We were built to handle the comforts and discomforts of life under the sun, and it’s a fallacy to assume that human methods of living and communicating are even a part of life beyond.

We’re not here to understand fully the things of death, because we were created to serve and rule in the realm of life, human behavior under the sun.

One of the greatest riddles of human existence is why our understanding of life under the sun reaches its greatest depths just before the end comes. This seems such a waste to those in their senior years. It’s also the primary reason Hollywood gives us fantasies of going back to relive our lives while retaining the knowledge discovered in later years. The allegation is that we’d then be able to “correct” mistakes made through those discoveries. This is nonsense, because the purpose of life is to advance life. Everybody gains for our individual knowledge and experiences, and this cannot occur until we leave life under the sun. That knowledge and those experiences are what advances life for future generations, and why we seem to always be struggling with the same struggles as those before us.

Life is waiting for us to learn.

So, everything that’s living comes back through life, and we know so little about what this means. In writing about my experience with a Questionmark Butterfly, I noted the impossibilities of the same butterfly returning to my Louisville balcony a year after I’d first seen the little guy perform, and the only explanation defies logic. These types of occurrences are all around us, but we’re much too busy just surviving to notice. Life is preeminent.

Death is the enemy of human existence, but it is not the end of life.

I don’t believe that readers here will find any of this out of line with their own deeply-held beliefs, but the reality of this doesn’t depend whatsoever on your belief or faith. Death is the way of life, but life under the sun is for us to build towards tomorrow by acting according to the proposition that we’re already joined together throughout our individual journeys here on earth. The author C.S. Lewis understood this more than most, which is why his writings are so useful for all of us. In The Screwtape Letters, he writes that humans are like amphibians, able to live in two completely different worlds at the same time.

This understanding is the gift of people of the moment, for we know that the only place that the present life meets the life beyond is here, and the only time they meet is now, for even time and distance under the sun are vanity.

An open letter to creatives

My brothers and sisters, I want to leave you something today that I hope will guide you throughout your days. It is the truth about those of us enabled with the blessing and curse of creative sensitivity. Most of us simply mask it as best we can, for the others around us simply don’t — or should I say can’t — understand. To them, we are “overly” sensitive. We get our feelings hurt easily. We’re “out there” or just plain weird. We’ve never fit into their world, and believe me, they run things with their math, logic and processes.

While I’ve written of this before, I feel a strong pull to summarize my thinking today, so that you can see if it matches your own experience, because if it does, I have an important message for you.

The Lesson of the Garden Hose

Garden HoseIn Richard Adams’ wonderful little book “The Unbroken Web,” he logically explains that the source of all creativity encircles the earth and rotates around it. Sensitive people touch this plane of existence, which explains why identical ancient stories appeared on different parts of the planet before intercontinental travel. I believe this is true, which is why nobody really “owns” anything they discover while touching Life’s Unbroken Web. I recall interviewing Bill Monroe many years ago, and he explained to me that he never wrote any song. He said he “just heard them first,” which was his way of explaining his touching the Unbroken Web. Bill Monroe made a decent living, but that was not his reward.

So let’s assume this is true. If so, then we can apply the lesson of the garden hose, which is this: opening the spigot to bring fresh water into the hose is meaningless, unless the other end of the hose is open, so that it can become a conduit for spreading the water elsewhere. This is the lesson of all Life, for we humans want to keep for ourselves that which we obtain from the spigot, but we seldom get more, unless we give away what we get. This is why being in love “feels” so good. We give away love to another, and it is replaced from the source of all Love. Likewise, among those of us fortunate enough to touch the source of all Creativity, we must give away that which we find in order to touch it again, or to have it flow through us to others.

Unfortunately, this is not a life of great profit, but that has been the way of artists from the beginning. The prophets of old were the creatives of their time, and they had nothing except the surety of their flow and the absolute conviction that they would be cared for, as long as they kept their channel open. This, however, takes a form of faith in Life that few exhibit today. Nevertheless, it is our way. It really is. Culture, I believe, owes us, but that is another story for perhaps another time.

As I survey all that is fresh and new around us today, I marvel and am hopeful that one day touching the source of Life will be seen as virtuous and not as a pathway to profit. I think we’re going to have to get this right in order to do something truly meaningful with copyright, for the logicals of the world have turned the act of creation into a profit center, and this is where justice runs into conflict with Life. I do not mean to suggest that those who touch Adams’ Unbroken Web should be denied a comfortable living. God forbid! But attaching oneself to the source of Life for creative purposes is a powerful end unto itself, as only those who do so can attest.

And for me, I’d rather be there than in any mansion on earth.