INTEGRITY

Yeshua answered,
“Stop lying.
Do not do what you hate,
because everything here lies open
before heaven.
Nothing hidden will remain secret,
for the veil will be stripped away from
all that lies concealed behind it.”

Logian 6, The Gospel of Thomas

 

What the &%$ is this?!!!!

I stared at the corner of our basement bedroom floor with total disbelief.

We had gotten possession of our house one week prior only to discover that the former owner still had a lot of furniture and items throughout the house.   When she finally hired someone to come in and remove it all I was gifted by an extraordinary surprise in the basement:  mold.   Clearly there had been extensive water damage that the inspectors had missed due to the excessive furniture the owner had cleverly used to hide it.

While we worked with our agent in trying to contact her, she had gone MIA.  After months of phone calls and emails to no avail, we made the most of it by roping off entire sections of the finished basement to keep our kids away from the mold.  As fate would have it, the pipes burst in our house 4 months later, flooding our entire basement and parts of the upstairs.  The whole downstairs was gutted, and gratefully, the mold was remediated and rotting wood dealt with.

There was an absence of integrity all around, both by the seller and in the structure of the house itself.

Whenever I think of the word “integrity” I tend to picture a building, or a solid structure.  

I’ll blame my Baptist childhood for that, thanks to a decade of singing “The wise man built his house upon a rock," but it is a correct use of the word integrityIntegrity does not just define someone as trustworthy and honest, it can also describe a structure as sound, well constructed, and solid (with no hidden mold or rotting wood, for instance. ) 

The Latin root for the word integrity is integer…which interestingly enough is the same root both for Integrity (meaning intact) as well as the word “entirety” (meaning whole, undivided).  So while we culturally mostly use “integrity” to mean a person’s moral uprightness and honesty, a truer definition of it is “the state of being whole and undivided.”

As I look around at the polarizing divisions happening in our country it’s pretty clear that learning how to live a life of integrity is not just a nice moral goal, but an ethical responsibility.   Our political landscape has become an all out circus, both parties claiming to be trustworthy and full of integrity.   It’s easy enough (you would think) to look at our candidates and see some gaping discrepancies in those claims, and be totally baffled at how we got here.   

While it is always easier to point out the absence of integrity in politicians, integrity will become what will define us in this moment as a country: whether or not we will collectively move against ideologies of fear, sexism, racism, isolationism and policies that threaten our very evolution as a members of a global society.

But when it comes to discerning our own personal integrity the dissonance, division, “mold”  (or hidden rot like we explored last week) is harder to see and identify.  The reason for this is frustratingly simple in theory but much trickier to re-orient in practice: 

We tend to approach the concept of integrity from the outside in, rather than from the inside out. 

Our western, ambitious roll-up-your-sleeves and work hard culture has taught us to keep a strong external game:  look good, be put together, belong to the right kinds of groups, proceed through life in the expected trajectory and in the right sequential order.

Integrity, therefore, while still carrying its benchmark definition of honesty and truthfulness, has culturally become coopted to mean fitting in, of belonging to a particular set of rules and systems of thought….which is particularly true in political or religious contexts. 

We desperately want to do the right thing, but the right thing becomes ever more elusive as we flounder between the expectations of “our tribe” (which often includes our family’s expectations of us) and our own interior instincts.

If our lives are so highly driven by the desire to belong and externally fit in (particularly to specific political or religious contexts)

...is it even possible to live a life of integrity? What will we do when our conscience or instincts begin to speak up within us?  What if those instincts are evolution calling us to more...to an option that wasn’t on the prescribed “this is what we expect you to do” hand-out?

Will we just keep piling up the furniture, throw a carpet over it and pretend there isn’t an internal discrepancy? 

Like a single out of tune instrument in the whole orchestra, that little part of us that we are trying to cover over, hide, or ignore will create an internal friction: a nagging dissonance capable of disrupting the entire unity of the symphony of our lives.  You might think you can fool yourself by just beckoning the horn and rhythm section to up the ante and play louder…but the cohesive whole has been compromised, and eventually there will be a reckoning: either the one instrument will slowly make all the instruments go out tune, or the cacophony will slowly grow within you until you have no choice to stop moving the baton and address the internal dissonance one instrument at a time until you locate its source.

There are many references of Jesus addressing integrity as the act of aligning our interior landscape with our external actions and vice versa…but my favorite has to be from the above Gospel of Thomas quote.

 “Stop lying. Do not do what you hate!”

What is most shocking about this Logion is that Jesus doesn’t say:  
“Just try harder to fit the prescribed version of your life that your (parents, religious institution, societal framework) want for you!!!!!!"

Nope. 

Jesus pairs the request to stop lying with doing something that you KNOW deep down you hate doing.

Elsewhere in the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says,

“When you are able to make two become one,
the inside like the outside,
And the outside like the inside,
The higher like the lower,
So that a man is no longer male,
And a woman, female,
But male and female
Become a single whole…
Then you will enter in.”

Now, this isn’t to mean we are on a path to become asexual amorphous blobs…but rather the challenge is toward becoming undivided:  the inside like the outside, and the outside like the inside, to become a single whole.  

Not surprisingly, the more we "tune" our inside to our outside and vice versa, the less we will identify with the external assigned roles or gage our integrity by the expectations set on us by societal or religious institutions.  The more we "tune" our inside to our outside and vice versa, the more we will discovery that integrity is an interior alignment as an undivided whole to the undivided WHOLE cosmos. 

Integrity becomes less about belonging to the pack, and more about becoming as sensitive as a tuning fork: capable of noticing not only where there is interior dissonance, but societal, economic, and environmental dissonance as well. 

Jesus modeled this well: as an evolutionary revolutionary he lived a life of total commitment to that kind of radical integrity and continually called people’s attention to where things were out of tune and creating false divisions.

Jesus didn’t at all fit the moral expectations of his religious culture but rather aligned with the marginalized, the poor, those whose voices were dismissed, silenced and ignored by the society of his time.  For that very reason he earned the nickname “Ihidaya," which we’ve incorrectly translated to mean “the single one” (as in celibate), when in fact its meaning is much closer to: “the single-hearted one” or…the “undivided one.” 

Mystic paleontologist and priest, Teilhard de Chardin, believed that evolution was on a path of convergence: that we are slowly becoming a unified whole.  Our world sure doesn’t seem to be on the path toward unity at the moment, but when we scale back and consider the very real technological advances and globalization that have occurred in the last 30 years we can see it:  in the midst of all this friction, we are becoming more and more interconnected...

The invitation before us is to leave behind our nationalistic identifications in favor of identifying ourselves as planetary. 

The invitation before us to trust in what science is showing us:  there is no action done in isolation without consequence to the whole, there is no “I”…only “We.” 

And if we have the eyes to see it and the ears to tune ourselves to that kind of radical holistic frequency, the invitation before us is to participate in the advancement of evolution itself by having the courage to trust that little voice in us calling us toward a possibility we haven't even dreamt of yet.

We must begin to see ourselves as active players in this great unfolding symphony and therefore recognize the very real responsibility we have to notice what is out of tune in ourselves so that we actively help tune the whole. 

How are you lying to yourself? 

In what ways are you equating integrity with an external societal or religious pressure to fit in? With the pressure to keep things as they are and not disrupt the “norm”?

What if having integrity means trusting that little evolutionary voice calling us toward something more than what is “expected” and has been prescribed?

Tune yourselves, evolutionaries… Stop lying.  Do not do what you hate.  Move toward integrity.  The more we become undivided ourselves, the more we will better serve this world in becoming undivided.

 

 

 

SEA LEGS

"To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
       You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstacy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
       You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
       You must go by the way of dispossession.."
 T.S.Eliot

I am out with Cynthia Bourgeault this week for one of her wisdom schools, this time a first time ever “in-gathering” in her hometown of Stonington, Maine; a quaint fishing village as hearty and weathered as the driftwood on the rocky beaches.

 This may be a town that vacationers come to in the mild months, but the locals are stout sea-people and they live a rhythm of life known only to those that commune with the ocean: out at 3 am (no matter the conditions) and back with their hauls at 2 pm at the earliest, a grueling “dual citizenship” orientation of life that is grounded as much on the ocean as it is on land.

Watching the lobstermen yesterday morning, I marveled how easily they move about on deck, seeming to locate their center of gravity with a fluidity and flexibility that comes from decades of experience on the water.  I don’t have that kind of experience, and I can queasily recall one particular sea-leg intensive on a ship when I was kid crossing the Baltic Sea in the midst of a terrible storm.  Needless to say we were fairly bruised and nauseated when we finally made it off that boat, and the rolling sensation remained for days, long after we made it to land.  I think we all bent over and kissed the dry land when docked… composing arias for the gift of solid ground and appreciating the more predictable sensation and weight of gravity of our “land legs”.

When the seemingly "solid" ground beneath us gives way, we become desperate for something to tether us to “familiar land”, don't we?

We cling to our own narratives and stories to orient ourselves and to give us a sense of meaning in our lives.  We grip our history, our traditions, our institutions and take pride in how we hang on to them, using words like “foundational,” “steadfast,” and “immutable.”

For all of our claims at scientific knowledge, however, we're ironically forgetful of the fact that even what appears solid to us (our bodies, the ground, the table I’m sitting at) isn’t "solid" at all.  

At the quantum level—and at the meta-level of deep time—everything is in motion and in the process of becoming through evolution.   

It is understandable, therefore, that we are a regularly a little nauseated and wobbly, running into each other and trying to find a way to steady ourselves.  So, we medicate the symptom rather than understand the reason behind our "sea sickness." We look for things to tether ourselves to, something seemingly we can "stand" on…an “object” we can become the subject of, or as Gurdjieff would describe it:  an identification.

Identification is any time we act out of a need to establish or assert a sense of who we are in the world.  While pop culture clearly praises this trait, Gurdjieff is adamant that it is a major block to our spiritual development, and surefire way to muck up whatever we are doing in the world.  Rather than touching upon the fluid sense of true selfhood that comes from experiencing personhooda word which stems from the latin "personare" (meaning: the whole resounding through the part), we become stuck in the smaller self of personality, which is run by the tyranny of the ego.  So while we think we're out there establishing our identity in the world and doing all sorts of good things, we're actually just slaves to the drama of competitiveness, insecurity and anxiety that our binary mind creates.

Our authentic selfhood is like a boat that is meant to be in the expansive, fluid and dynamic freedom of the ocean, but we keep launching ropes and tying knots to tether ourselves to the dock, defining ourselves in the smallness of a pier of our own making.

It reminds me a little of the movie “Contact” starring Jodie Foster.  In the futuristic sci-fi movie, aliens make contact with earth, and send a handy map to construct a spherical space ship that could take Jody Foster’s character, Dr.Ellie to the furthest corners of the universe to meet them.   Everything was going swimmingly until the humans noticed that the aliens seemed to have forgotten a seat for Ellie to sit in. 

(Stupid, aliens.  Don’t you realize we need seats to sit in and harnesses to keep us safe?)

Sidestepping the apparent oversight of the aliens, the humans built a sturdy looking seat with proper harnesses that would keep Dr.Ellie “safe” during the journey.

Of course, as she takes off Ellie is being violently jerked and jarred in her seat, the struggling structure making a deafening noise.  First as a viewer you think “yeah, I mean she’s traveling at lightspeed in an alien ship…so that’s probably not going to feel good and be super jarring.”  But as she’s getting her ass kicked by seat’s tremors, she suddenly notices that a necklace she had brought with her is floating peacefully next to her face, suspended in air.    Ellie immediately un-straps herself to the seat and in relief floats up within the sphere, utterly safe and comfortable in the fluid microgravitational force created by the spherical space ship.

(Stupid humans.  Don’t you realize the aliens had a leg up on you in aeronautics?)

We are moving into “uncharted” territory as human beings right now:  technology and life are evolving at the speed of light, institutional forms of religion are giving birth to much more fluid forms,  and the pace of change is making us desperate to cling to anything that gives us a sense of solidity, belonging, or identity.  With all this whiplash, it’s not wonder we try to make sturdy little seats for ourselves and strap into something we can use to create a false (and ultimately jarring) seat belt.

Whether in our day-to day lives, as well as on a meta-scale in evolution, what we need now is not to hang on to our identity tethers or construct another familiar structure, but rather develop capacity to trust a different orientation all together.

Cynthia described the transition that we are in the midst of religion as “finding our sea legs”: moving from a static God and cosmology, to a dynamic, evolutionary and relational paradigm.    In this constant moving evolution, the only unchanging principle is change itself…and rather than looking for “solid” things to tether ourselves to, we ourselves need to become inwardly dynamic and fluid so that we can move with evolution.

How do we work to create inner fluidity so that we don’t tether ourselves and entrench into old ways of thinking that create (as the Contact movie illustration) unnecessary jarring and nausea? 

How do we develop spiritual sea-legs and stop tying ourselves to the dock?  

On a practical level it begins with an honest inventory of our identifications: the many “tethers” we use to establish or assert a sense of who we are in the world, both individually and collectively.

What do I identify myself with?  In other words, how do I create an identity and tether out of what I do....or with an institution, cause, or ideology I belong to?

Observe yourself today and see how often we cast outside of ourselves and try to rope ourselves to “solid ground” for a false sense of security in identification.  A tell tale sign that we’ve roped ourselves in is when we catch ourselves using or thinking in terms such as "I am a person who...", or any time that we become inwardly insistent that things need to proceed in a certain way.

Keep those knees bent and your joints flexible, sea voyagers….if we’re going to learn how to understand ourselves beyond the tyranny of personality and permit evolution to move us beyond our addiction to familiar forms,  we’re going to have to reorient our gravitational center and find a new way of standing to our feet in this world:

with the fluid flexibility of un-identified spiritual sea-legs.

 Then, and only then, will we be ready to break out together into the freedom of uncharted waters of potentiality.