Beyond the Containers

Beyond the Containers

The future is only an illusion inferred from our present state. What is important is not the length of life, but the depth of life. What is most important is not to make life longer, but to take your soul out of time, as every sublime act does. Only then does your life become fulfilled. And do not ask yourself questions about time. Jesus did not explain a thing about the eternity of life, but his influence brought people to the eternal.

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Foundations as Beginnings, Not Ends

For the last four years I’ve worked the majority of my Saturdays at our local farmer’s market selling produce for an organic farm that my wife and I interned at when we came back from living in Vietnam. An organic farm attracts an immensely diverse range of people all united by a of common desire to be healthier and better stewards of the environment. I love it and have met so many intriguing and lovely people. The people I love most are the people who are lit with life and appreciate the depth and interconnectedness between their habits, personal choices, health, the environment, the economy of small farms, and the real food on the table. It seems to all come together for them as they bag their produce, think of their families, and plan meals for the week. The food is part of the soil of their being that provides the richness from which the real abundance of life can grow and bear fruit.

But like anything in life, food and healthy living can become idols and forms of religion themselves. They can become ways of labeling and judging others. What denomination are you: vegan, paleo, vegetarian, plant based whole food, gluten-free, Weston A. Price based, or raw food only? Do you juice? Do you ferment? Idolatry happens when the thing that was supposed to be the foundation for something else becomes the end in of itself. I’ll sometimes hear people at the market table outright mock others because of their choice to eat a particular food, or because they omit another—because they eat too many greens, or too little. Its very strange. Idolatry and numbness creep in when the foundation becomes the end in of itself. The thing that was supposed to balance the organic and biological person so that person could live more deeply within themselves, and more freely for others, actually begins to create barriers.

This happens all the time in religion. Religion is a structure intending to help foster a deeper interior work and to live more compassionately toward others—but, as we are all too familiar, it instead becomes an end in of itself. We end up arguing about forms and beliefs at the expense of a transformed life—at the expense of actually doing the deep interior work. Religion becomes mere adherence to a set of beliefs and religious duties instead of the cultivation of a rich and fertile soil from which all sorts of wonderful and spontaneous things can grow.

Vitality and Complex Ecosystems

Maintaining our health and caring for the environment are forms of stewardship that can allow for the deepening of the human experience. We aren’t likely to to bring people to the eternal, as Emerson writes, if we exist in a foggy mental cloud and lethargic physical body that stems from our poor diet and lack of exercise; nor are we as likely to entertain the sacred depth of all things within a polluted and dilapidated natural environment. We steward the environment with care and compassion because it is our habitat—it grounds and roots us in very ecosystem that sustains us. We maintain our health because it gives us clarity in thought, freedom in our bodies, and a personal vitality that allows us to tap into a different way of being in the world. There’s no automatic correlation between the health of one’s life; and the depth of one’s life—but things are greatly enhanced when we carefully tend to the complex ecosystems that balance our minds, bodies, and spirits.

I’m a bit of an existentialist in that I think you have to discover meaning and purpose for yourself—no one can tell you or teach that to you. All I really want to do is encourage us not to let the method for transformation become the end in of itself. Stay focused on the transformation, the long journey, the deep interior work, and the depth of each present moment. We naturally gravitate toward systems and tribes that we sense are gateways to richer ways of being—be it a new way of eating, a new type of exercise, or a new form of religion; but remember, your original draw to that thing was likely the glimpse that it gave into a different way of being in the world.

I’m not very interested in whether or not one thinks yoga or cross-fit is a better form of physical training. However, I’m very much interested in the poetry behind that person’s decision to adopt such a practice. There is often an eternal moment at the root of one’s conversion to a new system or tribe which is very beautiful and inspiring; but it takes diligence and humility to not hold on to that form and to avoid turning it into a form of idolatry. In fact, our systems of meaning and transformation will change. It’s not good to hold on to an old system of transformation after its time has passed.

I encourage you to read Emerson’s quote again and pay attention to what it stirs in you. What are the things that have taken your soul out of time? What brings you to the eternal?

The future is only an illusion inferred from our present state. What is important is not the length of life, but the depth of life. What is most important is not to make life longer, but to take your soul out of time, as every sublime act does. Only then does your life become fulfilled. And do not ask yourself questions about time. Jesus did not explain a thing about the eternity of life, but his influence brought people to the eternal.

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson


Photo by Lance Baker

2 Comments

  • Ann Dayton

    November 29, 2016 at 2:52 pm Reply

    The timeless moments have been few, fleeting, but life-changing. They have been experienced through communion with nature, and whilst listening to music. They can never be prepared for, or be sought. They come, when least expected, out of the blue.

  • PAULETTE

    December 4, 2016 at 3:37 pm Reply

    Wow. Very profound. Would that we could continually live and thrive in the moment, that we could recognize those things that were good at the start but no longer serve us to live in the present. Thanks. You said what I feel but could not express clearly.

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