In 1970, George Harrison released his magnum opus, All Things Must Pass, to universal acclaim. Ben Gerson of Rolling Stone 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.”
What always struck me is that Harrison’s Hindu faith rang out clearly over American airwaves. My Sweet Lord contained chants to Krishna, and Give Me Love prayed “Give me light, give me life, keep me free from birth.”
Ahhh…there it is…keep me free from birth…
Liberate me from the tedium of endlessly starting over, the travails of failure and rebirth. I long for release from these wearisome character traits that plague me repeatedly, undermining my freedom and joy as a human being.
For most of us, the spiritual concept of karma makes sense – the notion that for every action there’s a re-action. We reap what we sow is a truth found in proverbs around the globe.
Does this spiritual axiom echo in eternity? The vast majority of us – even those lauded for our sterling characters – will die as unfinished works of art. Too often we 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 fated for new incarnations to get it right, to push these Sisyphean karmic stones up hills of our own invention and finally hurl them into the abyss?
Ultimately, I believe the question is more critical for this life, right now. Are we resigned to thoughts and actions that spin us in the hamster wheels of our minds? As a pastor for 30 years, I have performed hundreds of memorial services, and on too many occasions I thought “How foolish to live an unexamined life, to tolerate these insanities that dictate our life’s scripts!”
Like you, I have my own. Patterns of impatience and self-entitlement. The futile need to exercise control. Expectations that ferment into resentments. Fears that borrow trouble from the future.
It’s getting better. My own spiritual pathway is helping me experience what we 12 Steppers call daily reprieves. I recently collaborated on a book about The Twelve Steps as a path to freedom for all of us. Read it freely at this link.
But I want my Cinderella Liberty to last longer. Much longer. So, at this point in my journey, I sing with George: “Keep me free from birth.” 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 death. Become as self-realized as possible in this (re)incarnation. This one! Learn to shed the cultural and genetic overlays that blind you from what Jesus called the Kingdom of Heaven – not a future reality, but present, right now, within you.”
Whatever your notion of eternity, 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!”
Let’s do this, my friends.