Old friends...

Yesterday afternoon there was some commentator on the TV talking about the need to learn how to lose your old friends.  Really - I'm not kidding - learn to lose your old friends.  Now, I've been reading Wendell Berry of late, who talks a lot about the importance of place and time in a grounded life, so I listened a little more carefully.  And, as I expected, the so-called wisdom being hawked boiled down to two things:

+ If you want to be a happy and independent consumer, you need to learn how to let go of the constraints of place:  Cut loose from your historic ties of place and time because if you want to be all that you can be you're going to need mobility.

+ Old friends keep you thinking and acting like you were still in high school - and who wants to be a 30 year old high school student?

My first reaction to this pop psychology was, "OMG have we become SO freakin' shallow that friendship and home have been reduced to a McDonalds-like drive through sensibility?  Get what you want and then move on to the next purchase?"  And, of course, the answer is yes we have become that shallow and obsessed with marketplace understandings of life, love and friendship.  To be sure, I've moved all over the place - and love to travel and explore - and wouldn't change this for anything in the world.  But there is a difference between travelling and returning home and wandering aimlessly in pursuit of the next bargain, yes?

So I started to wonder about my own experience with old friends.  In just the past 3-4 years, for example, I've reconnected with a quite a few of my old buddies from high school through the mixed blessings of FaceBook and I haven't once felt constrained, trapped or denigrated. These men and women are not commodities to be traded and used; they are living souls who have given me joy and insight. They are loving beings with families and pain who have created beauty and justice in their respective lives.

What's more, it became clear to me that one of the truly exciting things I've experienced over these past 10 years has been renewing some of these old friendships and relationships that had fallen by the wayside.  Whenever we took the time to reconnect, it was always filled with laughter and tender hearts. And after a little bit of reminiscing, we quickly moved on to conversations about how life has changed us over the years: without exception our time was spent considering the way both blessings and curses have altered who we thought we were back in the day - and there was nothing demoralizing or inhibiting to any of it.

Berry wrote:

A family member or neighbor is by definition needed - and is needed not according to any standard of usefulness or any ration of cost and price - but according to the absolute standards of kindness, mutuality and affection.  Interestingly, the Amish have remembered, unlike most of the rest of us, that the best, most dependable, most kind safety net or social security or insurance is a coherent, neighborly, economically sound local community (of friends, family and neighbors.)

This morning I read Fr. Richard Rohr's words about the movement of the historic Jesus into the Christ - how it involved the totality of his life but also his death and resurrection - and what that means for us, too.  And the alternatives between a life of chasing bargains and following Christ were never more clear to me...

Jesus is the microcosm; Christ is the macrocosm. There is a movement from Jesus to the Christ that you and I have to imitate and walk, as well. A lot of us have so fallen in love with the historical Jesus that we worship Him as such and stop there.  We never really followed the same journey He made, which is the death and resurrection journey—Jesus died and Christ rose. 
Unless we make the same movement that Jesus did—from His one single life  to His risen and transformed state—we probably don’t really understand,  experientially, what we mean by the Christ—and  how we are part of the deal! That is why He said, “Follow me.” The Jesus that you and I participate in, and are graced by and redeemed by, is the risen Jesus Who has become the Christ, which is an inclusive statement about all of us and all of creation. Stay with this startling truth in the days ahead, and it will rearrange your mind and heart, and change the way you see everything, because you are the Christ Mystery too!

Jesus didn’t move from Jesus to the eternal cosmic Christ except through death and resurrection to a larger space and time. We don’t move from our independent, historical body to the Christ consciousness without dying to our false self, either. As Stephen Levine says, death is the “imaginary loss of an imaginary self.” Imaginary because it thinks it is separate.

We, like Jesus Himself, have to let go of who we think we are, and who we think we need to be. “Dying at 30? I am just getting started!” He must have thought. We have to let go of the passing names by which we have tried to name ourselves and become the “naked self before the naked God.” That will always feel like dying, because we are so attached to our passing names and identities. Your bare, undecorated self is already and forever the beloved child of God. When you can rest there, you will begin to share in the universal Christ consciousness, the very “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

When we finally allow life to take us through the Paschal Mystery of passion, death, and resurrection, we also will be transformed into the Christ Mystery. At this stage we will have found the capacity to hold the pain of being human, not to fear. When we finally allow life to take us through the Paschal Mystery of passion, death, and resurrection, we also will be transformed into the Christ Mystery. At this stage we will have found the capacity to hold the pain of being human, not to fear it or hate it or project it onto other people. Actually, it is really God holding the pain in us, because our little self can’t do it.

But the Big Self, God in us, can absorb it, forgive it, and resolve it. We know it is grace when we no longer need to hate or punish others, even in our mind. We know someone else is working through us, and for us. Our little life is not our own; henceforward, we do not need it so much. We are now a part of the Big and One Life of the eternal and cosmic Christ, “who will inherit everything and through whom everything that is, was made” (Hebrews 1:2). The early Franciscan tradition put it this way: Christ was the first idea in the mind of God and will be the last idea. As Scripture puts it, He is “the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13). History now has a definitive arc and direction—and we are part of that arc of history and God—which includes both life and death.

The life part is so big now that we can trust the death part.

I think that is just about perfect - so now I have to cut the grass before the kids arrive later tonight.


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