礼品之路 ( Lǐpǐn zhī lù ) – The Gift of Having not the Faintest Clue

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I am receiving happiness,  in place I never imagined it would be.

And somewhere I always knew it should be.

Somehow.

Even if everything pointed to a different location.

It is a gift.

Happiness.

And every gift is a burden.

That I am learning as well.

I have no idea.

No answers.

The certainty of my younger days has evaporated.

It is gone.

And you may think, with the loss of ‘youthful certainty’, happiness would be lost too.

But it is not.

It is gained.

Slowly.

Painfully,  even.

Thinking about it now, I’m not too sure what I was so certain about.

Perhaps invincibility?

Or my own ability to do whatever I set my mind on.

In that sense, I do have a new certainty, in this new place.

The certainty that I do not have the faintest clue.

I am clueless.

I do not know.

I don’t know if tomorrow will be.

That is how little I know.

I don’t even know if I will get to fall asleep in my Zuko’s arms, tonight.

Or if I’ll get to play with my little Maddi again.

I don’t know if what I attempt will lead to anything or accomplish anything.

I don’t know if any of my plans or solutions will work, if they will solve anything.

I just do not have any idea.

I never had.

I thought I had.

I was confident and brave.

I was bold, in all my certainties.

Convinced of a future that will be bold and beautiful.

It was an illusion.

For death comes without warning.

And we have little ability to bring our plans to fruition.

Life flows and there are just too many variables, too many things which we cannot control or predict or manage.

They jump into our lives, unpredictable by even the best statistician.

Not that my life isn’t bold or beautiful.

It is.

Just not in the way I thought it would be.

I look at the ‘big lives’ held up to us, the ones we are encouraged to aspire to, and I wonder if these lives were really so well planned?

Or if they merely happened, chance and luck and grace and fortune, giving discriminatingly to one or two in one or two ways.

They are always ‘successful’, these people.

Wealthy.

Famous.

Accomplished.

And as they tell their story, we get the impression that they reached a goal they set out to hit, a long time ago, their success not so much the wealth or fame, but the ability to have reached that goal.

To have aimed at something and have made it a reality.

“An arrow needs to be pulled back I  order to shoot forward, fast and straight to the mark.”

That’s what we are told.

And therein lies their greatness, their value, their importance and success.

These people set out to do something,  and they did it.

Enduring set backs and being pulled backwards.

They persevered.

They faced the storms.

They allowed nothing to let them drift off course.

To let them lose direction.

I aimed at stuff too.

As a teenager I decided I would go to University and qualify myself as a Theologian, so that I could boldly tell people about God and help them live life meaningfully.

I did go to University.

Studied 7 years.

I don’t know if, in all of it, I ever qualified myself as a Theologian.

I got degrees.

And I worked in Churches.

I doubt I ever told anyone anything meaningful about God.

For, what do we really know?

How can we say: this is God?

Without any doubt?

Except for what we believe?

Our belief always somewhat subjective.

The product of an eclectic combination of our experiences and the ideas we have been exposed to.

As children.

And teenagers.

And young adults.

And students.

And older adults.

And workers and employees and employers and citizens and vagrants adrift in a world filled with war and injustice and loss and gain and death and disease and malice and a little kindness hidden amongst the high walls of the relentless system in the hearts of a precious few people who love, despite all of it.

Always evolving.

What we believe.

Even if we want to deny it.

Changing, as we are changed, through the motion of existence,  trapped in time, subjected to decay.

As I consider this uncertainty,  which translates into desperate vulnerability,  my son tells me his life plan.

And I listen with interest.

And I admire his hope and certitude.

He is 15.

Almost 16.

It is beautiful.

He will finish school at this age.

He will establish this business.

He will create wealth, in a certain period of time and use that wealth to further educate himself.

He will use that education to further bolster his already growing wealth.

It will be good.

And I wonder at his aspirations.

And I compliment him o  his ideas.

And I believe him.

I believe that he has everything to realize his dreams.

And then there is the fall.

My little Maddi, I am convinced, dying in my arms, as her almost 4 year old body goes limp and bodily fluids flee from it, while her being hangs on.

A mad rush through the streets of a Foreign Far Eastern City.

Midnight CT scans.

No skull fracture.

No bleeding.

“You overeacted there a little bit, didn’t you?”

But you didn’t hold her when her body went limp and life seemed to rush away from her lifeless body, along with warm pee against my scared limbs.

Experiences.

Unexpected.

Overwhelming us.

And I go home, with my Maddi in my arms.

And another parent goes home, after weeks at the bedside of a little boy who were in a coma.

And another parent goes home to make funeral arrangements.

And we all are changed.

For none of us expect the unexpected.

None of us expect death.

None of us expect malice.

Or accident.

Or disruption.

Or destruction.

We plan.

We decide.

Confidently.

Take a job, believing our employer will be honset and stick to our agreement.

Move into a house, believing our landlord will be good and kind.

Rent out our house, trusting our tenants will look after the place and pay the rent on time.

We save, if we can.

Put away something for when we are old.

We believe we will be old.

Yet many never are.

Still we believe.

This faith, I have lost.

I don’t know.

I don’t know if I will grow old.

I don’t know if I will even live to spend the salary I earned this month.

I have lost knowing.

And with the loss has come the gain of indubitable certainty that I do not have the faintest idea.

I do not know.

And as this dawns in me, I consider a boy who lived a peaceful life.

A life ‘unexpectedly’ disrupted as war came to his country and he was carried away, a slave, to a foreign country, to serve a foreign ruler.

To face lions who should have devoured him and a fire which should have burnt him and his friends to ashes.

To influence.

The world.

I doubt Daniel had a lifeplan.

Or if he did, I don’t think all of what is told was neatly listed on that plan.

1. Wait for War.
2. Make sure to be one of the boys carried of in exile.
3. Get foreign education.
4. Gain the trust of the ruler by defying him.
5. Survive lion’s den.
6. Survive fire.
7. Speak to Angels about a future time.

Nope.

This happened.

It just happened.

Outside of whatever may or may not have been planned.

And whatever may or may not have been foreseen.

Then there is the story of another boy.

Maybe he planned to run his father’s business,  as his father grew old and he became an adult.

Seeing himself, in all of his naiveté,  doing the accounting,  organizing payroll, paying suppliers, making sure the business is sound, while his brothers looked after the practical things.

Then they sell him.

Tell his father that he was mauled by a wild animal.

And he is sold into slavery, to serve in the house of a foreign rich man.

To be falsely accused of trying to rape that man’s wife.

To be imprisoned.

To rise to the right hand of the prison warden.

To explain some dreams to some prisoners.

To be forgotten.

To be remembered.

To explain some dreams to a ruler.

To become ruler, deputy prime minister, if you will, of the wealthiest and most influential country in the world at the time.

To marry.

To save his family and the known world from hunger.

To resettle a nation.

Perhaps, if he lived, in our time, his biography would tell the story of how, as a young boy, he dreamed of ruling and saving the world and how he planned his way to it, all the steps, the hardship of slavery and prison part of his carefully constructed plan to make his way to fame and wealth and influence.

“Yes, it was hard, but I knew, if I wanted to achieve this dream, I would have to make sacrifices.  It was a bold step to get my brothers to sell me to the traders, but it was really the only way I could make it to a far off land, having no money of my own.  Off course, being sold to the rich man, I thought I would be introduced to the ruler, but it didn’t happen, so I created a scenario in which I would go to prison, where I knew I would be allowed to show and express my greatness as manager.  Those were hard times, but all along I knew where I was heading and that made the hard times bearable.”

No.

There was no certainty.

Surely there were plans.

If people are the same from age to age.

And maybe a desire to be happy?

Perhaps?

As I see a young boy, who became a man, who became a powerful world ruler and saviour of nation and nations, cry.

So loudly his advisors knock on his door telling him he is an embarrassment.

Sobbing, as he sees his family again.

The brothers who sold him and told his father of his death.

We do not know.

Despite everything we are told by life-gurus and religion and positive thinkers and all the promises made by rulers and priests and pastors and Immams.

We do not know.

But there is One Who knows.

I believe.

From all I’ve heard and experienced.

They, Who are the Origin of life and being.

From Whom we are and in Whom we live.

The Source and Sourceror of everything that is good.

They know.

I don’t think They plan.

Not the war.

Or the death.

Or the injustice.

Not the displacement or the destruction.

That, I think, is created by our fear.

Our misplaced and desperate attempts to create certainty, for ourselves, as we are aware of our vulnerability and try to limit it, as much as we possibly can.

In anger.

And anxious diffidence.

Groping.

Grabbing.

Whatever we possibly can.

So as to build walls and foundations and gates and fences and roofs and citadels through which we may construct a semblance of safety in an increasingly hostile environment.

Building armies and arms.

Fighting.

To defeat.

I find it interesting,  in the stories I remember,  of Josef and Daniel, of Esther and Mara – the flow.

I do not see Josef trying to escape from prison.

I do not see Daniel trying to avoid the den or furnace.

Or Esther trying to avoid the beauty contest.

Or Mara attempting to end it all as she is soiled with the dust of grave upon grave upon grave.

I see these people living.

Being.

Where they are.

In that moment.

Taken forward into time, by an inexplicable current, which they do not know the source of or the direction from  which it comes or will go.

I see people giving themselves to the flow of circumstances and unexpected variables.

And I see meaning.

Not because these lives of which we are told, were such great lives, for some were and others seemingly weren’t.

I see meaning, because in all these lives are the Origin of Life and Being.

Present.

Active.

And perhaps,  the wisdom, hidden in all these stories, is not that we should plan a life of greatness?

Or that we should serve whomever we call God relentlessly.

Or that we should pray and be faithful.

Perhaps the wisdom hidden in all of these stories, is that we can know?

That we can be certain of One in all of the uncertainty and not having the faintest idea.

Certain that our lives are not disconected.

Certain that our Source, our Creator and our Sourceror, the One from Whom all life comes, Who is the Source of everything we may recognize as good, knows.

Knows all the variables.

Knows everything that is and was and will be.

Knows everything that could be and could have been and could still be.

Knows the Beginning of everything and where and how and when all that is and was and will be, will end or would’ve ended or are ending, if it has an end at all.

And in the uncertainty,  the not having the faintest idea, I find certainty.

Seperate of circumstances.

Seperate of people and their honesty or goodness.

Seperate of political and economic stability.

Or war.

Or peace.

Or wealth.

Or poverty.

Or abundance.

Or lack.

Or prosperity.

Or trouble.

Or geography.

Or time.

Certainty in our Origin, Who is not the Origin of some or a few, but the Origin of all and everyone.

Certainty that our Origin is.

And knows.

Certainty that our Origin loves.

All that come from Them.

All.

For, if I understand old writings and stories correctly, even those who are called ‘demons’ come from Them and those shunned as Muslims or Heathens (depending on which yard you find yourself in), all called into being by the Original Being, Who are the Source of all.

Certainty that our Origin is at peace, is Peace itself, with and for and to all.

And what seems to be the meaningless destructive currents of a vast ocean in which we are lost, is unveiled to be They.

Or at least, in this vast unknowable ocean, I and you, we are not truly lost, but drawn, pulled, towards our Source, as water is pulled by the sun into clouds, to rain in far off mountains and gradually flow again, through rocks and rivers, to the ocean from which it came and comes and always will come back to.

And so I am happy to live this moment.

For this moment is all I have.

I am happy to love, in this time, in this place.

I am happy to follow my heart, as it is pushed by loss and gain and loss again.

To come to places and experiences unexpected.

None of it very well planned.

All of it seemingly senseless.

I am happy to believe, even if it seems stupid to a world obsessed with creating safety, it has meaning.

And it is beautiful.

And in time and on the other side of time, I might see the flow, from start to end and smile as the beauty unfolds of something which seemed chaotic and random, but was and is and will be perfect in its unpredictable chaos.

And I have hope.

Even as the chaos tries to overwhelm me.

Hope that if another day would be mine, it will be good and meaningful.

And so I design my lifeplan anew.

Savor every moment.

Don’t take anything, anything! , for granted.

Express gratitude.

Love.

Every one.

Even those who are not loveable.

Be patient, amidst loss and gain and loss again.

Enjoy.

Whatever can be enjoyed, without taking away from another.

Follow my heart, inside the circumstances.

Do what my heart finds.

Even if it is shoveling coal or wheeling garbage to the garbage dump.

Be.

Unashamedly.

Who I am.

And trust.

As much as it is given to me, the Origin of me and every other being and all that is, that They are the Source and Sourceror and in Them there is only love and peace and patience and goodness and kindness.

And relax into the flow inside which They are without a doubt.

And as I sit under an old Oak tree, with naked branches helplessly shielding a weak winter sun, this is what I breathe as I pray or think or hope or meditate: that I will be, as our Origin am.
that I will be happiness,  framed by love and peace, amidst loss and gain and loss again.
that I will be patient, despite what seems senseless and destructive and unfair.
that I will be strong in love and self-control, free of anger and fear and desperation.

Alive.

In all I can know with any certainty.

Alive in whatever I receive.

For we have nothing we do not receive, even that which we attempt to violently take, never ours.

Alive in the Gift from the Gift, Who is the Gift and the Way.

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