[Delivered live on New Year's Eve, 2017]
How do you know when to fight for something, versus, how do you know when to let go?
How do you know when to hook up to the life support machines, and when do you choose to allow someone you love die?
…Oh, did those sound like rhetorical questions? My bad, 'cause I’m genuinely asking. I hope ya’ll didn’t come here for answers tonight, 'cause all I got is questions. Like, I thought I had enough answers to this question to write a whole sermon, but then I saw the new Star Wars movie and I don’t even know who I am anymore. I saw a piece of myself in every character, even in the dark side.
This is seriously something I’ve been struggling with this year, especially recently—when to fight and when to release. It’s like my inner social justice warrior and my inner zen Buddhist are at odds.
Because there’s a lot of injustice happening in our world right now that needs to be met with resistance -- fierce, strong, compassionate resistance. But where does the idea of resistance belong in the heart of a spiritual warrior who has been called to resist nothing?
I met a young teenage girl at a church in Carson City a few months ago, who had just failed her probation drug test, and was awaiting the judge's verdict on whether or not she would have to return to jail for 6 months. She was absolutely terrified. There were a number of hoops she could jump through to fight it, but mostly she felt the whole thing was out of her control. She told me the only reason she had finally stopped fighting the whole thing was because she sat down in her sadness and made a list of all the reasons she thought God might be sending her to jail:
1) No more survival (she was homeless, and in jail she was guaranteed food and shelter)
2) To force her sobriety (which she had been struggling with in the outside world)
3) To teach others in jail about God (during her last stint in jail, she taught other young girls about the power of faith, and positively affected their lives)
Sometimes our mistakes come with consequences we want to defy. Other times the mistakes of our corrupt and unjust system weigh down on the innocent. Either way, through faith, we can trust that God is always leading us to where He wants us to be.
So, I asked God this question, about fighting vs. releasing, and I heard three answers in return:
1. Follow the signs –whatever they are. Pray and then obey.
2.Remember change is the only constant. So, if you’re fighting to change a system for the better, then fight. But if you’re fighting to hold onto a system or an old version of yourself, it’s probably time to just…let…go.
3. Whenever you approach this fork in the road, do I fight or do I release, take just a moment to totally allow whatever it is you’re fighting. Even if you know you must fight soon, take just this moment…and let the storm sweep you away.
So, let us do that tonight—take all the perceived injustices of our personal lives and our world, and, just until midnight, let’s completely allow them to be. And through this allowance, we will release 2017.
Dear Ms. Morales,
I am Reverend Levity with Alchemist Theatre. We are holding a 30 day pad drive to collect menstrual products for our 42 Title I schools in Washoe County. I was told to reach out to you to see about distributing the products. Our main goal, though, is to actually get these products INTO the bathrooms (at least one bathroom in as many Title I schools as we can), not just send the products home with girls in need.
We want to eliminate the girls' need to go to the office or the school nurse to ask for donations; we want to minimize their time spent in the bathroom, and reduce the shame that goes with needing help, or getting your period unexpectedly.
Ideally, once approved, we would host a box-making party at Our Center (the LGBT youth center on Wells Ave), and decorate small boxes to hold the donations that are then placed in the bathrooms. We want to decorate the boxes with positive phrases about being on your period, and do away with all the shame-inducing popular idioms.
Can you please inform me of what steps we need to take to get this approved? Our drive ends on Friday, and we have collected thousands of donations. Here's the article in the RGJ: http://www.rgj.com/story/news/2017/10/13/group-fill-pods-pads-washoe-county-school-girls/763651001/
Thank you for your time! I look forward to hearing from you,
Alchemist Movement, LLC
By: Joseph Daylover
For all of my twenties I shunned the idea of the service. Fresh out of grad school and teaching part time, what I valued most was lying in the grass by the river or hanging with comrades, not working to have adult things. I didn’t have health insurance, a nice car, or take vacations, the things of the full-time working world. Instead, I worked toward working as little as possible, stacking up a few part-time jobs onto three, sometimes two days per week. You can get away with this as a part-time college prof, a life of stipends and spontaneity.
As a teacher I was decent, but I cared more about things that didn’t make me any money, Writing and Theatre. My only problem was that I let my idea of work get tied up with American capitalism, the grind, the herd, as they say. Working to have things. Like Tyler Durden says, “we work jobs we hate, so that we can buy shit we don’t need.” Much as I love books like Fight Club, I overate on the idea, believing work to mean servitude to an unchallengeable system. Why work for that?
My thinking started to shift when I read “The World’s Religions” by Hustom Smith. The chapter on Hinduism describes various Yogas, or pathways to God; among them are Knowledge, Love, Exercise (Yoga), and Work. Wait—work? As a method for knowing liberation? Wasn’t work a conspiracy to serve the selfish elite, a greedy machine? Smith explains, karma yoga (knowing God through work) means, “you can find God in the world of everyday affairs as readily as anywhere.” Moreover, “he who performs actions without attachment, resigning them to God, is untainted by their effects as a lotus leaf by water.” Hold on a second—I could work for service to God and not the ruling classes? The Bhagavad Gita says, “...do this an offering to Me. Thus you shall be free from the bondages of actions that bear good and evil results.”
So it seems that with work we become caught up with personal reward, likely to stoke the ego, materialism, all that jazz. But with service, our duties carry a sacred force which fulfills others in service of God. This equals the shift from the finite to the infinite self. My old stance of “fuck the machine” meant I was stuck in the finite, in empirical reward or loss. With an eye toward the infinite, I saw how much my life revolved around service in fact. While working part-time, I helped found and build GLM, this very Theatre we’re in. Most work here is volunteer, done in service of art, of patrons, among other things. I also rewrote my Master’s thesis into a novel; wasn’t this an attempt to serve readers an entertaining tale and worthy ideas? I had helped build a garden out back. You get the idea.
Everything is service, but that is a choice. So I chose to become a better teacher, to see the divine in talking about how to write proper conclusions, to foster true connection when responding to my student’s essays. Obligation became purpose, a mission to serve the divine. In doing so, I found a truer vocabulary, a vocation within the campus confines. Admittedly, it’s hard to find vocation in most jobs, to not resent the idea of service in the culture we live in. The demands are great, and the true rewards are not advertised. The machine is real, but we choose whom to serve.
By: Joseph Daylover
Growing up Catholic, I read an illustrated version of the Bible for kids, Old and New Testament, cover to cover. The story of Passover, like many others, scared the bejesus out of me. The sacrificing of first-born children, the blood on doors, and the wrath of God—all of it felt more like a ghost story rather than Holy Scripture. I remember feeling the heaviness of that book, a bulky thing carrying the weight of expectations and all the punishments spelled out to warn the sinner against wrongdoing. My first experience of God was traditionally Catholic, and that was being afraid of God.
Now, part of that has to do with my strict, traditional upbringing, but it’s also the prescribed method, even if we didn’t really know it. In St. Augustine’s “On Christian Doctrine”—one of the earliest authoritative texts of the Post Apostlistic church, he identifies fear as the first step toward true faith, or wisdom. While this has merit, my path would be far more roundabout—moving across the country, substituting the Bible for Literature and the arts, graduating with a Master’s in English, starting a Theatre company, meeting my dear Wife and coming back to belief via the Tao. Ironically, we’re reading St. Augustine for a course I now teach in Ancient and Medieval cultures. God certainly has a sense of humor. Now that I have reclaimed faith after years of being an agnostic, I can understand the context and relish in that book’s power.
It’s also worth noting that, growing up, I was never taught how to interpret the Bible. The metaphysical meanings of each story, I would later find out, are profound, all encompassing. Passover represents the victory of faith, or the soul—represented by the Israelites, over the self and sense experience, represented by Egyptians. I can relate, having turned away from God early on toward the self and the experiences of this world being our only teacher. Basically, that happened because of distrust--since God’s wrath could reign down upon me for any transgression, then why should I should trust Him? And if I can’t trust him, who can I trust? Well, I can trust myself. That’s more or less the thought process ending in isolation and the worship of my own flawed rationality over faith.
Back to Passover and the blood on the doors. I interpret that as a sign of trust between God’s chosen and the Creator, that he would lead them out of slavery and toward salvation. They should trust him despite the bleak reality before them. The journey would be long, but God would deliver his first born to rid us of our reliance upon the karmic wheel where ritual sacrifice was supposed to curry God’s favor. Similarly, trust lied at the heart of my journey, all along. Perhaps that should be the starting point over fear. It gets tricky, though, because in order to trust I had to distrust first. I had to get it wrong to get it right. Surely no one can relate to that. Yeah, that sounds like an original story.
Note: for the curious, St. Augustine’s 7-fold path to wisdom goes: Fear, Piety, Knowledge, Resolution, Counsel, Purification of Heart—Wisdom.
By: Joseph Daylover
A creative writing teacher of mine once spoke of dynamic characters, those who have “The Fire”—a passion or thirst for experience. Stereotypically, these characters drive plots, take action, and are romantics. But the quiet ones have it, too, an intuition that must be explored at all costs, an unknown force pushing them forward. They seek. They aren’t jaded. They hold out for possibility and refuse to accept adversity. And my favorite: everyone feels their magnetic power; the room changes when they enter; everyone wants a taste of what they have. Why? Because we all love a good burn.
But of course, danger lurks. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a story. The Fire can be used for evil as we know. Those possessing the true fire, then, create instead of destroy. And they don’t hoard it. There’s plenty to go around, and they want others to feel it. There’s too much beauty to experience to fret over lack. I’ll bet some of your favorite stories are about characters with the fire or rediscovering the fire—true self-actualization….in other words, a greater awareness of their own capability, an awe for the magic surrounding themselves and in nature. Why are we so excited for the next Star Wars? To witness Rey’s Jedi training, of course, the glory of her catching fire. In literature, some of my favorite examples are “The Razor’s Edge”, “A Separate Peace”, and “The World According to Garp”, to name a few.
So then, as our lives and stories unfold, we journey to find and sustain the fire, but nothing good comes easy. We slip into the mentality of “the herd”—feelings of routine and insignificance, the crushing idea that nothing matters so we might as well conform, play it safe, hedge our bets. Somehow this feels safer, because, actually, we fear what the fire may bring…perhaps an early death. The irony is, we find a slower and more painful demise living with the herd. In “The Fire Next Time”, James Baldwin said, “…one ought to rejoice in the fact of death—ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life” (124). We decide, right? That must mean every moment represents a chance to connect, to rekindle, even when you’re in line at the DMV. Turns out everything matters.
Baldwin, James. The Fire Next Time. New York: Dell Publishing, 1962.
What kind of life would you lead if you had no fear? #AlchemistMovement