“She is like a newborn sun, fresh with promise, the just beginning moments
before the day fills like a bucket with good and bad, sweat and longing.”
~ Katherine Applegate
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Quantum explorers now assure us what spiritual pioneers have taught for years: time as we know it is a human invention; we actually live in an emergent reality, born fresh in the eternally new present moment.
The good news is simple: be here now. The bad news? Easier said than done.
What obstructs our experience of what we know in theory? For instance, many spiritually minded people espouse the principle of unconditional love, believing that the ability to give and receive love without conditions is a measurement of enlightenment. But how many of us are able to do that consistently? And when we fail, what happens?
What if that idea, just to use this as an example, is fundamentally flawed? Do we dare question such an enshrined belief? Unconditional love, what does that actually mean? It sounds right, it seems to set the bar where it belongs, establishing a state of being to aim for, to do the best we can to emulate a God of Love. So, imagine if all of us were able to give and receive love without conditions.
Would this mean that we treat a waiter the same way we relate to our husband? If our child asks for more ice cream would we just give it to him (because to withhold it would be a condition)? If someone gave us something and we wanted to give something back, why wouldn’t we give them everything we had?
Even a cursory examination reveals that we always have conditions on what we give and receive and that there’s no inherent problem with this. We (hopefully) feed our children a balanced diet and we drink one glass of wine, not five. A historian chooses from a life-time of learning to share one hour of material in a college lecture. The electrical current transmitting to your home from the utility company stepped down to a useful voltage so it doesn’t destroy your appliances.
In other words, there are conditions in every aspect of our day to day lives. And we are always making choices. We determine what exactly to receive and give and doing this with intelligence is not a human fault to overcome! There’s a difference between judgment and discernment. And what the term “unconditional love” illuminates is our human habit of withholding love because of judgment.
Judgment says: “You don’t deserve my love. I will punish you by withholding from you until you change. Here are my conditions.” Discernment says: “I love you. You’re my wife. I vowed to be faithful. I am, I will, no matter who else I’m attracted to. They will not receive the same love I give to you. That’s my condition.”
God made decisions during creation, perhaps even mistakes. If you ever watched Oh God!, the 1977 film where George Burns played God, you may remember a quote or two about this: “Tobacco was one of my big mistakes. Ostriches were a mistake. Silly looking things. Avocados… made the pit too big.” 1
At one point during that movie, “God” mused: “You know, Voltaire may have had me pegged right. He said I was a comedian playing to an audience who was afraid to laugh.”
Life is fundamentally joyful. We can learn to take everything in stride, using discernment to make wise decisions while avoiding judgment. The good, the bad… it’s all just the content of the moment, emerging fresh exactly as it is (before we condition it). Of course, what’s “good” sometimes turns into “bad” and vice versa.
There are jokes about that. Like this one: A meditation student confesses to his teacher that he has been sleeping in and missing morning meditation. “That’s bad, isn’t it?” he inquires.
“No, that’s good,” his teacher replies, “because this has forced you to be honest about your lack of commitment.”
“Well, I guess that is good, then,” the student agrees.
“No,” his teacher responds, “that’s bad because it’s revealing that you may not have what it takes to become a good monk.”
“You’re right,” the student sighs, “that is bad.”
“No, it’s actually good because you could have wasted years here. Now you could choose to get on with your life and do something else.”
“Oh, OK, that’s good then.”
“No, that’s bad. Because I’ve grown very fond of you and would ask that you reconsider your commitment. With the honesty and humility you’ve just shown, I think you can become a great teacher.”
Each moment dawns, fresh in the moment. and we determine what to do with it. That’s an unconditional condition!
1. From the 1977 film, Oh God!, directed by Rob Reiner.