In 1970, George Harrison released his magnum opus All Things Must Pass to universal acclaim. Ben Gerson of Rolling Stone magazine called it an “extravaganza of piety and sacrifice and joy, whose sheer magnitude and ambition may dub it the War and Peace of rock and roll.”
I was 14 years old at the time, and it struck even then that Harrison’s Hindu faith rang out clearly over American airwaves. Driving in our cars, we heard his songs My Sweet Lord that contained chants to Krishna and Give Me Love that prayed “Give me light, give me life, keep me free from birth.”
I love those words, keep me free from birth! Liberate us from the tedium of endlessly starting over. Keep us from being mired in recurring issues that reach no resolution. Release us from character traits that repeatedly undermine our freedom and joy as human beings.
Our most popular notion of karma makes sense – the idea that for every action there’s a reaction. We reap what we sow is a truth found in proverbs around the globe. But does this spiritual axiom echo into eternity? The vast majority of us – even those applauded for our sterling characters – will die as unfinished works of art. We too often take repetitive and destructive behavior patterns to our graves. If there is an afterlife, will we receive a gift of peace and rest? Or are we slated for multiple incarnations until we get it right, fresh opportunities to push our Sisyphean karmic stones up hills of our own invention and finally hurl them into the abyss?
My mind is open to any possibility, but ultimately, I believe this question is more critical for our lives HERE AND NOW. What have we done to secure liberation in this (possibly) one life we’ve been given?
As a pastor for 32 years, I performed hundreds of memorial services. Too many of these were for people who had not done the work required for personal freedom, and I thought, “How sad to live an unexamined life, to tolerate these insanities that dictate our life’s scripts!”
Think about your own life. Are their thoughts and actions that spin you on the hamster wheel of your mind? I certainly have my own: impatience and entitlement, the futile need to exercise control, expectations that ferment into resentments, fears that borrow trouble from the future.
It’s getting better, much better. Assisted by diverse influences – Taoism, the Twelve Steps, the teachings of Jesus and the Buddha, writers like Wayne Dyer – I am experiencing longer reprieves from the madness within and without. But I want this liberty to last, so I resonate with Harrison when he sings keep me free from birth.
Join me! There are so many disciplines to help us recognize and overcome our character flaws on a daily basis. Meditation, centering prayer, recovery programs, therapy, spiritual regimens from many traditions, the counsel of trusted mentors and spiritual guides. We must use our willpower to employ these tools.
If we listen to the still, small voice inside us, it says, “Awaken. Be free NOW, not after you die. Become as self-realized as possible in THIS (re)incarnation. THIS ONE! Learn to shed the cultural and genetic overlays that blind you to the beauty of this present reality that shines with possibility!
Whatever your notion of time, hear these words attributed to Marcus Aurelius and spoken by Maximus to rally his troops in The Gladiator. “What we do now echoes in eternity!”
Yes, give us light, give us life, keep us free from birth!