In writing this piece, I am standing on the shoulders of Jesus, Buddha, Meister Eckhart, Rumi and a host of other spiritual teachers and philosophers over the past millenia. This is simply my take on a subject which affects all of us–but only if we give it some thought…or perhaps some pure being!
Most of us start out as children. I say most of us because a significant minority have gone through the ages of childhood without actually having lived as a child. And, sadly, some in this world of ours are denied childhood due to warfare, famine, poverty, etc. Having a good childhood is important because it is our introduction to the art of pure being: no pretense, no shame, no need to have ‘all of the answers.’ It is a time of wonderment, imagination, being the hero in our stories, and more.
We recently had the pleasure of keeping our neighbours’ 8 year old son for a week. When we watched “The Wizard of Oz” together, he was in the story. When we took him walking in a nearby forest, we were inducted into his world of make-believe which, as Bruno Bettelheim has pointed out, is important work for children. Some adults are lucky enough to have jobs that allow them to keep the child in them alive: artists, writers, playgroup leaders, etc. And I stress that this is not some sort of Peter Pan existence. It is simply giving our right-brain as much time as our left hemisphere. To use the cliché, it’s about living as a human being as opposed to a human doing. When our young guest was at play, he wasn’t constantly looking over his shoulder to see if anyone was watching or worrying about what someone might think. That is pure being. Numerous saints, Zen masters, mystics and artists live into the art of pure being. It is also where joy resides. And joy is the lifeblood of being.
For my part I also have important teachers in our goats. All my life I have found more pleasure in being with animals than with my average human counterparts. Animals live in a state of pure being–and they can share that with us–if we will only give the necessary time to be with them–and listen and watch. As I look back over my life and career, I find that being a goatherd is by far more enjoyable than being a university lecturer, parish minister or commmunity development worker–roles in which everyone had an idea of what and how I was supposed to be–particularly as a minister (a role which seems to invite projection of all sorts–mainly negative)! Like their fellow four-footed creatures, goats use a variety of bleats, eye contact, nudges, head movements, etc. to communicate. And dare I say they are even responsive to mindfulness(!). But that first requires that I must be present and mindful. Some people who see my goat posts on Facebook respond that the goats are probably training me as much as I am them…well yeah! It’s a relationship; and in that regard it’s no different than roommates or spouses learning to live together. We have to learn and adjust to one another’s peculiarities.
Mr. Jesus said that if we want to enter the kingdom of heaven we must turn and become as little children. Amen (or Ba-a-a!) to that! Children (and goats) live in the only existential, real time: now. If we had a good start with our childhood years and–if we’re mindful enough–we might just be lucky enough to live into the ‘second childhood’ promised by old age. But why wait, why not start now?