Accepting A Mental And Fragmented Life
This morning in meditation I noticed in reflection the fragmented nature of my life. I approached this reflection from a spiritual perspective, meaning that I was asking what has inspired me, what has given meaning to my life, what has energized and enlivened me. And I took this reflection back to childhood and then brought it forward.
In my young life what inspired me had to do with discovery and learning about the cosmos. My interests were in cosmology (wearing out my favorite paperbacks on astronomy by George Gamow and Fred Hoyle), in chemistry (even the history of chemistry, alchemy, organic chemistry, chemistry sets, etc.), in nuclear physics (quantum physics was just coming into its being), in nature (primarily trees, flowers, and butterflies), in electronics (building oscilloscopes, frequency generators, and the like). I also thrilled to Beethoven symphonies, which I discovered by accident at the local library and brought home to play on our inexpensive LP record player.
Regarding religion and theology, I approached this like I would a science, that is, learning the concepts of Lutheran dogma, using the Bible as The source of all truth, etc. Concepts, ideas, BIG ideas, these are what thrilled me in religion and theology.
I can feel my excitement even as I write about these mental concepts that inspired me and nurtured me.
But I noticed that my life was also filled with scouts, school, piano lessons, swimming lessons, band, summer camp, none of which I really related to or enjoyed much. However, these were the oughts and shoulds of my life growing up. My happiest times were not those with people but those moments where I was lost in my mind.
What I see looking back is that my life was pretty fragmented in a way and unbalanced toward the mental. Understanding was my key, while my experiences with my physicality, feelings within myself and toward others, and spiritual awareness were off somewhere in the unknown.
But even within my mental and conceptual approaches I was fragmented and not unified. I could not unify my passions and understanding of cosmology and science with the rigid dogma I was being taught at my parochial school and church. To eliminate or avoid this tension, I treated these two topics, science and God, as two separate areas of my life. And with both, my approach was mental. I did not know how to integrate any feelings I might have had, or sensations in my body, or sense of spiritual beingness into my mental world. Sexuality, intimacy, my physicality (you didn’t see sports anywhere in my list of inspirations!), and deep spirituality of my being were all pretty much unknown experiences, and avoided, a mystery.
As I grew through my midyears and into my sixth decade, I could see that my life, consistently mental, had been lived in a compartmentalized way. My career was one life, my church another, my hobbies and passions another, my family another, sexuality another, social life another, organizational roles another and so on. It was hard for anyone (even me) to know who I really was, for they would each see me primarily in the role I played in my relationship to them. In a way I kind of prided myself in this “managed identity” with folks.
When I focus specifically on my relationship with Jesus Christ, for so long the center of my faith journey, I can see that part of me was limiting Jesus Christ to my idea of Jesus Christ. And when one idea did not pan out, I just sought other ideas about Jesus Christ. I was not aware of ways of knowing Jesus Christ beyond my ways of thinking about Jesus Christ, beyond my ideas of and about Jesus Christ. When none of these ideas about Jesus Christ worked out, then I got really lost. Well before I got lost, I got really scared, thinking that surely I cannot be ambivalent about Jesus Christ. I surely had to have a definitive answer as to who and what this Jesus Christ was and perhaps is! But now I say, “No.” I do not have to insist on knowing what is beyond my present capacity to know (my present capacity being mostly mental), even if this lack of capacity is my own stubborn defensive refusal to know, defending against feeling the fear that knowing Jesus Christ is beyond my controlled mental construct of Jesus Christ. In my development I have to work through these stubborn defenses. I have a hunch that knowing Jesus Christ is way beyond mental constructs no matter how true these mental constructs may be in their more narrow perspective.
I experience such relief in letting go of this demanding of myself to declare where I am on Jesus Christ when where I am is so limited compared to what I imagine the full Truth of Jesus Christ to be. From this letting go I do not fight against or for a particular knowing of Jesus Christ. I await whatever maturity that comes upon me to expand my capacity to comprehend and experience the fullness of the Real Jesus Christ, Whoever and Whatever that experience might be.
As I sit with all this I am surprised by my reaction to my sense of my fragmentation and narrowness toward the mental. Surprised that it feels wonderful to see the extent of this fragmentation and the extent to which I have been so mental! A kind of freedom in seeing and accepting this fragmentation and mental narrowness.
And I really get that this fragmented Humpty Dumpty cannot be put back together easily. The fragmentation is on so many levels. And I am further surprised by my acceptance of the fact that I cannot be easily de-fragmented, expand beyond the mental, and come to wholeness. I am surprised that I can just be with what is in this moment. No pressure to hurry up and unify. No pressure to hide my fragmentation and narrowness to the mental behind a pretense of wholeness and spiritual maturity. So much freedom in seeing and accepting these present limiting aspects of my nature.
Yes, I read about the Oneness of All that is. I am even inspired by and celebrate those who have been graced with this experience. But this is not my experience at this juncture in my development. For now I just embrace the mystery of what is. By accepting my limiting mental orientation and my fragmentation, maybe this Humpty Dumpty can be put back together again — by Grace. Amazing Grace, as the song says.