On Guard?

The more we presume the ego’s sovereignty, the more we breed monsters.

Dr. James Hollis

My granddaughter Pepper diagnosed the situation. She weighed in to her mother: “Gal is doing alright, but what she needs is a sword.”

Credence to advice out the mouth of babes is a sublime hobby. Down to business, I tracked a cartoonish foam sword at the local toy store. I swished its quishiness in a mime of aggression. “On guard!”

Exactly. Isn’t that what bubbles to the top of your mind?

I turned 68 today. While circling the mental wagon of how I got here; I realized that the truth of the moment advocates for fewer swishes. Woe to us all along the broken road, unconsciously adopting weaponry for whatever we believe needs defending.

Before we have time to think better of it, we magnetize the sticky stuff, the ruinous stuff of meager spirit which we really never wanted to be part of our experience. With that, the stink of fear begins to hover. Love stalls. Growth is blocked.

On the other hand, in some cultures the sword represents “the penetrating power of the intellect.” Well, dibs on that. But to clarify, just exactly what is the intellect?

To release any personal distortions, I turn to my trusty membership in the “look it up club” of which I was initiated by Bob McKnight. In an act of ultimate fatherhood, he placed new words and their definitions atop our breakfast place settings.

Intellect: the faculty of understanding in a way that is not influenced by personal feelings or opinions.

How completely novel to the current day and utterly civilized. Sadly this understanding of intellect (to shed the layers of feelings and opinions) appears to be the rarest of human feats.

Would we, if awakened, actually gain mastery over our feelings and opinions? With just the least bit of self-awareness could the origin stories of these ego add-ons be examined and then considered as the detrimental drag that they are to the future tense?

Since I’ve taken some of these damaging phantom frills for a ride, I see that underneath all of life is a childlike curiosity that yearns for growth and a bigger picture. When God’s imaginative mind begins to fade choked by pompous concerns, I am reminded that my lenses are shuttered by a tawdry dream.

Sorrow floods the fields of Eden and magnifies isolating fear. Our knee jerk is for self protection against anyone who is not of like mind.

Staying on track in life involves uplifting our curiosity whose powers of optimism and opportunity exposes the lazy obstacles of stagnancy. An easy feeling of generosity is the sequel. With that, the on guard mentality dissolves and a sense of rebirth is guaranteed.

Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Loving oneself is the foundation for loving another person.” The gentle image of moving forward in the company of a bendable sword is a tool for earthly good.

Sometimes I circulate inside a story that when I pass over into the great next chapter, my eyes will be opened to an emerald door behind which all things that I lost in life are curated. Naturally I’ll spy the butterfly ring my parents bought me on our trip to Sedona. And most certainly, the cameo that my grandmother got for her own graduation and later gifted to me will be there.

There’s that positive loss of a fear of being alone at night that withered by grace. Standing to the side are a few beloved friendships who did not stand the test of time, not to mention the countless socks without a match that litter the way.

Loss in life, of course, is relentless.

With stunned grief, I’ll address the room which is crowded with family members who chatter away as if they had never been lost to me. They nod toward a pureness of love that I had squandered – the loss of unimpeded joy and the truth of innocent faithfulness to life’s mysteries.

They remind me that my legacy was never to be stymied by scant messages like “born into sin”. I alone am responsible for absorbing unworthy opinions and feelings even though they often are sanctioned by would-be adults.

My original gifts of exuberance cowered and shrank in a crisis of confidence. I allowed it all in the name of fear. With eyes now open, I pray that the authentic gifts of love return home in full measure.

Swords sneaked into the picture and became a poor manufactured substitute for all the good that was freely given at the start. Trading the harsh metal of defense for a softer, more pliant sword is the grown up’s act of a loving faith, a spiritual teaching that is old as time.

I cannot help but think that in our moments of free will, the well nourished intellect knows how to choose and rise to the heart of things.