Monday, October 12, 2015

The Oak, The Reed, and the Multiverse

I spun out a favorite old wisdom story during the children's message a recent Sunday, Aesop's brilliant and pungent little tale about the mighty oak and the humble reed.  I'm fond of those ancient fables, beautiful and pagan and wise, and the way they sing in harmony with the wisdom and graces of Biblical teachings.  I also like, honestly, that this tradition records--or purports to record--the stories of an owned person.

Unlike so many of the faceless, powerless slaves of history, Aesop's name remains.

I also like those stories because, like all narratives, they hang in our memories.  As the Teacher knew, nothing clings to our souls like a good story, and the Sunday after I taught it, the kids still remembered when I asked.

This is not always true about my sermons.  Ahem.

The story of the oak and the reed is a tale of the illusory character of power, about how those who rely on their own pride and strength do so only until they meet a power greater than theirs.

Even the greatest tree falls before the storm.  Better to bend than break.

As I wove the tale out for the children, there was a harmony there that rose from the sermon most of them would not hear.  The reality parable in the sermon was the life of James Arthur Ray, a quantum-prosperity guru who rode The Oprah to great heights less than ten years ago, and whose hubris destroyed him.

What had struck me so strongly in reading Ray's best-selling book was the degree to which it harmonized with some of my own theology and cosmology.  There are parallel universes!  Quantum stuff is cool!  Engage with your best future selves!  Be aware of your co-creative power!  Don't abandon discipline and focus as you maximize the probability of your vision!

These are staples of my own thinking about the nature of being, and our place in the cosmos.  And here they were, being pitched out by someone who achieved wild success, followed by equally catastrophic failure.

What struck me, throughout the book, was the confidence of it.  Ray's confidence in his own power was utter and complete.  His confidence in our ability to direct all of the energies of the universe towards our material desires, just as complete.  Just buy the book, follow the instructions, and badda boom, badda bing, all the wealth you want thanks to the Law of Attraction or some such quantum hoo-hah folderol.

That confident self-assurance, I suppose, is the difference between he and I.

Because if the Creator of a linear, single-narrative spacetime is intimidating, the Creator of an infinitely complex, churning, radiant multiverse is rather more so.  My awareness of the multiversality of God's manifold providence only makes me feel very, very much more tiny and mortal.  It has deepened, not lessened, that fear of God that is at the heart of wisdom.

Having read Aesop's old story, it sounded against that churning vastness, that great roaring deep of Being Itself, suddenly felt like little more than the whirlwind out of which the I AM THAT I AM speaks.  Or the storm that roars, against which even the Oak of the mightiest ego cannot stand.

If you stand in encounter with that impossibly vast power, imagining that you in your miniscule way can control it--or you in your ego can withstand it--is absurd.

Better to dance with it, to bend and twirl in the energies around us, than to lie to ourselves about controlling the storm.