October 01, 2007
Wherever you go, there you are.
Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ, ca. A.D. 1440
Aristotle and Ptolemy presented the concept of an earth-centered universe, which, until the 16th century, held firm as the accepted belief and understanding of the cosmos. Nicolai Copernicus, in his last book, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies, radically denounced the views not only of the great philosophers before him, but also of the all powerful church, to put forth his hypothesis for a heliocentric system. Moving from a concept of ourselves as the center and focal point of all we see and know, to a larger power around which everything revolves still quakes us on a personal level.
The maze of Maturity
As part of our humanity – the essence of being human – we move from complete auto-centricism as an infant through various stages of maturation which eventually embrace our autonomy with an inherent understanding of our significance in the world. As a newborn, the world did revolve around us. Our every need and desire lovingly attended to, we existed not as an autonomous being, but as a totally dependent entity relying on others to care for our very basic needs. We needed only to cry out or non-verbally communicate our desires and, for the most part, someone satisfied them.
As we progressed through life and reached those rebellious teenaged years, we faced the glaring realization that, no, the world really did not revolve around us and we lashed out in anger and pain because our needs no longer commanded resolution from our loved ones. Over and over again, life called for us to adjust to our changing 'centricity' and accommodate others along with ourselves, and (shudder) put someone else’s needs before our own, from time to time. And finally, when we searched for the wisdom of our existence, we faced life knowing that very little has anything to do with us, and we acknowledged that a higher power, truthfully acted as the pivotal point around which all life revolves.
In almost every team sport, the position of “Center” or one of similar role, exists. Varying in degree of function, the center possesses the capability of witnessing the game playing out all around him or her. Still part of a team, like our human families, the center often takes a leadership role in moving the ball or vying for possession. Also similar to individuals, the center operates within a larger set which revolves around him or her, yet maintains autonomy in the team environment.
In team sports, as in our spiritual life, we are not alone in the game. As we grow, we shift from our role as the center and let our Creator move in to drive us forward on our path to success in the game of life. Watching the opposing forces of self-doubt and insecurity, we wrestle to accept God as our team leader, while learning from the competitive forces we, ourselves, devised. When we trust the Universe and leave the strategic moves to the Infinite, we find all our plays succeed, and the result is a victorious self-awakening to the life we dared to live.
So, you want to be in the middle of things?
Like a skydiver landing in a river of hungry alligators, life sometimes gives us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in our challenges. As an auto-centric, the world revolves around us to our detriment when we fall into the splashing, gnashing frenzy of self-doubt submitting to a crocodilian death-roll of negativity. Struggling to both survive and to prove our mettle, we reach into the center of our ego to look for hope from the frayed edges of our selves, and we gather our strength from the furthest reaches of our radius of understanding. In fear and desperation, we put ourselves up to the task of solving everything, as if it were ours to solve.
J.D. Salinger, a 20th century author, earned renown for his technique of putting the reader immediately in the center of a conversation or situation. Through his masterful command of fiction, he enabled us to reach a complete understanding of the story line, while sparing us the often tedious prequel to our entry point. Like a Salinger tale, many of us find ourselves immersed in the calm pond of alligators only to find conflict quietly waiting for us beneath the still waters of circumstance. It’s almost as though God challenges us by saying, 'Ok, so the world revolves around you? Try this on for size!' Situated at the center of our existence, we can choose to feel either surrounded by life’s difficulties or empowered by our vantage point to successfully break free no matter which direction we take. When enlightened, we can remove ourselves from the circle of challenges altogether and let God take over while we quietly and humbly take note of the perfection of life radiating out from the purest form of thought.
Life’s Traffic Jam
Sometimes it seems we’re always in the middle of a traffic jam. When you think about it, of course you are! No matter where you are at the moment, that’s where you’ll find all the congestion. What serves you best - the desolate roads of isolation with little stimulus to propel you on your spiritual path, or the speed traps of life’s lessons? In our little vehicles, be they our human bodies or our automobiles, we can only travel in one direction at a time, and this causes frustration. When I was younger, I’d concluded that I could never experience both sides of a situation. Whatever the outcome, I could only imagine the alternative, never live it. Sure, my car moves forward and reverse, and even sometimes it rides in neutral, but I can only travel one direction at a time.
When we see our lives intersecting with others', we realize we all travel in one direction at a time and everyone searches for direction and destination. At the steering wheel of our journey, we serve as navigator, pilot and tour-guide on the road-trip of our lives. Fully automatic and auto-centric, we never consider abdicating the driver’s seat to a higher power who might actually possess a better GPS than ourselves. We’d stop for directions if we really understood where we’re going, but choose instead to wander the streets of indecision and the alleys of ignorance until the light changes in our favor and we happen across the one-way street to our truth. It’s not until put our ego in the backseat, that we allow God to be our driving force.
Imagine a soap bubble or glass Christmas ornament. If you picture yourself inside the globe, you can see not only 360 degrees around you, you can see above and below, as well. While floating in the center of this orb, you have amazing perceptive capabilities, yet you remain helpless to impact what you see around you. In life, we have a landscape view of life around us and our feet take us in lateral directions, thereby changing our relative position as the center of our own Universe. In a constant rotation of thought and action, at the axis of our existence, our perspective limits our vision since we rarely control what occurs outside our reach. So, auto-centricism both benefits and hinders our progress as we float like the clear bubble through the atmosphere of our world.
There may be times when we clearly see the pins of life coming toward us as we cower in the precarious bubble we created, and other times when life bursts our delicate shell and we face our nemeses without our protective shields. When we learn we cannot affect our lives, good or bad, from inside the auto-centric persona, we welcome the shattering influence of outside forces to stimulate us to a barrier-free approach to living a full life.
As the center of your own universe, and the commander of your journey, you’ll discover along the way that you cannot control that which surrounds you. Stuck in the middle or empowered by the opportunities that exist, auto-centricism eventually admits limitation and submits to the Source. While you may be lulled into the illusion of control while the rest of the world rotates around you, dare conceptualize new ideas, like Copernicus before us, and change the world by setting aside old notions which never worked in the first place. And when you do, the hand of God reaches out to catch the bubble of your existence, and allow you to rest quietly in the palm of his hand.
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