In this sermon/lecture presentation, Peter takes on a popular book and revisits its teachings. He asks each reader to examine IF there are some universal rules any or each of us can follow, or do we need any rules more than following one’s heart. Of course there will be those who will quote Scripture, and there will be those quoting law books… In this book and reflection, Peter looks at some universal rules and guidelines for living… Part I…
The 10 Rules:
1. You will receive a body.
2. You will be presented with lessons.
3. There are no mistakes, only lessons.
4. Lessons are repeated until they are learned.
5. Learning does not end.
6. “There” is no better than “here.”
7. Others are only a mirror of you.
8. What you make of your life is up to you.
9. All the answers are inside of you.
10. You will forget all this at birth.
When progressive spiritually minded people first hear the word, rules, many of us will gasp or bristles thinking that someone has the audacity to tell us how to live our lives, or that someone has the gall, the temerity, the brazenness or the chutzpah to try to act in some obnoxiously parental and pedantic way.
“[If you are open to all the lessons and gifts your body has to offer… it will provide you with all the basic knowledge you will need. …
Love or hate it,accept or reject it, this body of yours is the only one you will receive in this lifetime- there is no exchange or refund policy… its lessons act as a blueprint from which all other relationships will be built.]”
As this relates to a spiritual person, group, or to an inclusive religious community, the lessons we offer or that we provide for one another have to incorporate and advance these qualities of openness, choice, fairness, and grace. From my more Emersonian view, I consider that the model for an any spiritual group as a place that is designed for the greening of the spirit and the ripening of the soul. It is where a person or a family will be given ethical rules and tools, and the seeds of knowledge, responsibility and service. Then under the cooperative, egalitarian support of their sisters and brothers, be given space, and encouraged to grow.
Within the community, each person is nurtured so that they might grow toward the sun of their own completeness- to aspire, to discover, to know themselves and their world in an affirmative, inspiring way. as i see it, the liberal religious community is akin to an experimental greenhouse, and ethical hothouse, or a soul-airium. (please excuse the pun!)
Rules 3, 4, and 5: There are no mistakes, only lessons…
Lessons are repeated until they are learned, and that Lessons never end.
Life, as I understand it is a lively experiment. As the Existentialist philosopher Soren Kierkegaard put it, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”
Only through being willing to risk a full participation and responsibility for our lives, can the lessons of self and soul ever be fully known, appreciated or realized. Some moral philosophers insist on seeing life as a classroom or a school- a place where the texts, the tests, and the tasks are all on many levels, many subjects, and given all at once!
Given the complexity of such a teaching, the idea that life is a school has a corollary attached to it: You never, ever graduate! One never leaves the need to learn, to discover, to ripen knowledge into wisdom; Life has a curriculum that spans womb to tomb…
Life is a benevolent, compassionate teacher that requires us to pay attention, to have patience, to practice forgiveness, to laugh at foibles, and to have the capacity to be nonjudgmental about our own and others behaviors.
Without such an inclusive and broad perspective, life could appear downright gruesome and cruel. As the author puts out, lessons do have a tendency to be repeated, until we discover just what it is that these episodes and experiences are truly trying to teach us. The author asks: ” have you ever found yourself repeating a pattern or having the same challenge or problem? ” I would add lessons that make you feel as if the rut you are now in, feel like an ever-expanding black hole?
Lessons are repeated until they are learned. What is being asked of you, of me, of all of us on planet Earth, is to learn how to be more aware of our patterns and tendencies, so that we can act consciously, responsibly. We have to be able to acknowledge that a problem exists before we can either release or resolve it. Then we have to choose willingly to commit to any necessary follow-through, no matter how awkward or painful, and then be willing to affirm and celebrate every step toward freedom and resolution we are able to make.
So be It! Amen!
Selected Reading: Life is a Cafeteria
A friend’s grandfather had come to America from war-torn Eastern Europe. After being “processed” through Ellis Island, he went into a cafeteria in lower Manhattan to get something to eat. He sat down at an empty table and waited for someone to come over and get his order. He waited, and waited, and of course no one came over. Finally, a woman with a tray full of food sat down in the chair across from him, and realizing his dilemma, explained to him how American cafeterias work.
“You start out at that end, getting an empty plate,” she said, “then you just go along, and pick up or ask for anything that you want, and you either get it from the cooks, or you reach and get it for yourself. Then, when you get to the other end, they will tell you how much you have to pay.”
When the man came to his new home, he thought to himself, this must be the way everything works in America… That life is a cafeteria.
You can get any thing you want, you can achieve, accomplish and realize whatever you want to see happen, just as long as you are willing to pay the price. You can even get lasting successes, not only for yourself, but for your family and for your community, but you will not get or gain a thing, if you just sit, worry, or complain or expect someone else to give it or get it for you. In America, you have to learn to ask- to get up, and then to go get whatever it is that you want, for yourself.
Q: What is it that you want for yourself, and what do you want for this community? Are you willing to learn how it’s done, how to get up, go over, get it for yourself, and then share it with others?
How best can you choose what you want, and what you want to give to this community? Are we offering our members enough choices, enough encouragement, enough hope, security, and promise for the future?
Each moment of our living brings us closer to our dying, Young or old the knowledge of life’s end is with us, growing more real, more familiar with our experiences of time and loss…
So how is it that we can grasp more fully the urgency of life and to seize our moments together in a way that says, “we have truly lived? What will be the signs of such a full life?
As I see it, it will be a life that is shared with others, that leads us far beyond self preoccupation’s, or safe identities that seek approval. Life that is authentic, life that is really lived is a life that risks openness, and that gains fulfillment from unselfishness.
The measure and worth of our lives will be known by the commitments we keep and the groups and ideal we endorse. Our participation in life equates to our participation in those ideals and values that make our lives most meaningful. Then we can say that we have lived well.