Standing by the ocean

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Jan. 18, 2007

Dear Julie,

In "Groundhog Day," Bill Murray plays an egotistical weatherman doomed to relive Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pa., over and over again until he finally gets it right. On the day for dreaming of spring, the movie presents a bizarre scenario that turns out to be an allegory for life. Imagine that.

Over and over again we find ourselves in the same situations, the same relationships -- we are confronted by the same problems until we figure them out. Most often our ego must die in some way so that we can be more alive.

Winter is a time for death, Rumi said. "Do you think death is a bad thing? Then you still haven't got it. You've lived countless lives and died countless deaths in an endless process of evolution. Each death has brought you more life. Without death there is no rebirth. The ultimate death is nothing to do with the body. It is the death of yourself as separate from God."

That separation is strongest when we are concerned about making our way in the world, about our own survival. In my 20s I viewed the world sometimes from a high cliff and sometimes from a dark cave. Very little was in between. In my relationships I was a boy among women. As you might expect, lots of fumbling occurred.

Living beside the Pacific Ocean seemed to soften that separation. Something about the power of the waves, the way they enveloped the rocks, smoothed them out. The sound was a sound we yearn for. I listened.

Rumi: "You are standing at the edge of His ocean of Love. Plunge below the surf of separation. Dive into the mystical depth. Dissolve yourself into that sea."

This ocean is big enough to contain all religions. This is an ocean of Allah, Jehovah, Jesus, Buddha, the Holy Trinity, Brahman, Jah, Mwari, Great Spirit, Satnaam. Just for starters.

I have known people who were cruel to other people because of the color of their skin. I have known people who took advantage of other people because they could. They are capable of those things only because they still feel that sense of separation. All crimes against ourselves and others are committed because of that feeling of separateness.

It's not real. Each of us is one of a kind, but we are all much more alike than different. We all want and need love. Deprive us of love and things go haywire. It's as simple and as complicated as that.

In "Groundhog Day," Phil the weatherman can't believe his misfortune at first. Then he tries using his predicament to his advantage -- but it's an empty life with no escape. Self-loathing leads him to attempt all the various ways of ending his life, which he can't, of course. Most everyone seems to go through these changes and at some point to try things that amount to finishing ourselves off, figuratively if not literally.

Given no other choice, Phil refines himself day by day, all of them filled with mistakes. Life usually gives us second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth chances to make corrections.

Eventually he discovers he is not fulfilled by filling his pockets with money or taking advantage of another because he can. It's helping others that makes him feel holy. Just like all the good books say.

Immorality is everyone's birthright, but my experience is that to know how to love God is not a given. The true treasure is in learning that to love ourselves and others with passion is to love God.

"Like a moth around a candle, be irresistibly drawn to the light until you are engulfed by flames in an inferno of communion. The lover chooses the fire because he knows the secret: 'The honey is worth the sting.'"

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is managing editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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