Saturday, December 15, 2007

Fighting household gods


Around the world different people have worshiped both “household gods” and God in another house called “The House of God.” Even today many churches call themselves The House of God. There have been many ideas regarding where God lives. A popular thought is that God lives in heaven located in the sky. When asked, Jesus said that God lives in each of us, but that idea didn’t get too far. I guess not many people could buy that notion, so they went back to the tried and true idea they were most familiar with—God lives in the temple, or the church, or the synagogue or some other “holy place” but for sure not in our inner being (Too dirty there for God). But this placement for his holiness didn’t stop the household god practice and people still have both: the everyday god and the special God, who lives in the church, but neither in us.

In ways this arrangement seems to work well since it keeps God/god conveniently located so that he/she doesn’t become pushy and intrusive. After all shouldn’t everyone get some private time? Who wants a judge sitting on your shoulder watching your every move. Teens today have an Internet lingo worked out for that. It’s called POS—Parent Over Shoulder, which they can send via text messaging to their friends to signal, “What I’m going to send now is the cleaned up version since my parents are snooping.” So it looks like keeping God located is a good thing. That way we can be two faced—One face we use normally and one face we dust off and use when someone is watching.

Unfortunately it is very tough to fool ourselves. We are always there, snooping and it won’t do much good to send POS to get away from our self. So in order to reconfigure that dilemma we have split ourselves into different compartments which in some cases develop into split personalities. Apparently this becomes highly sophisticated with multiple personalities in the same body which gets very confusing when trying to relate to someone like that. “Is that you Jane? Mary? Lucy?...Who’s home today?”

All jesting aside, these are poor souls who can’t manage to integrate these conflicting aspects in a way that is acceptable to them (whoever them might be). It’s a sad situation but not so very far from the dilemma we all wrestle with when trying to present the “right face.” This is a genuine problem when you don’t know who you are in the first place. Heck, you can be just about anyone you choose to and not be anyone at all.

Lots of people spend years in therapy trying to come to terms with this problem. It plagued me for a long time so I’m not making light of it. In this state of confusion we are simply imprisoned by delusions which are rooted in the phantom known as ego—The mythical monster that doesn’t exist but seems very real. That monster causes us to become wholly self-centered which creates a cascade of problems. In that state we think we are the center of the world. In effect we become the household gods and expect the world to bow down to us. It is very maddening (which makes us angry) when the world doesn’t respond well to our self-absorbing antics. And often times, after the fact, we think to ourselves: “Where did that come from? I can’t believe I was such a schmuck?” Then the guilt sets in, especially when we see ourselves repeating over and over the very behavior we just acknowledged we were embarrassed about. That emotion fills us with self-doubt, self-hate and overwhelms us with thoughts of shame and inadequacy, all of which we experience as caustic and degrading.

In the midst of this all together nastiness what we fail to realize is that these emotions are like the warning light that switches on in our car when we need a change of oil. We should feel this way since these are signals to bring us up short and cause us to pay attention to what is fueling this causal chain. If we are really careful (usually takes years before we stop putting ourselves through this wringer) we’ll back-track these nasty emotions and come to see the phantom—our ego is the culprit. And after that, if we’re really careful (more years) we find that we are not any phantom. We are real boys and girls who share a common base of just your every day household variety, everywhere and nowhere, not special Buddha-Nature. Jesus was right.
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