Proponents of chaos theory love the story of the butterfly in Kansas. The butterfly flaps its wing, and a bird misses its prey. The bird banks, and in banking cools a column of hot, rising air. That decreases the pressure ever so slightly at higher elevation, which causes a slight change in the direction of a breeze. That breeze joins with a northerly gust along the coast, rather than merging with a sea-going breeze. That sea-going breeze then isn’t powerful enough to prevent the formation of a wind vortex in the Gulf Coast, and so a hurricane is born.
Does the butterfly “cause” the hurricane? No way in hell. A hurricane is enormously powerful, and the energy it contains must be dissipated somehow. All the butterfly does, in combination with a huge number of other actors, is influence the place and time of its occurrence.
Our lives are much like that. We have a primary personality, the personality welcomed by our mother and united with our body during gestation, but around us swirl other personalities, many without bodies. Because people have powerful tools, these spirits, ranging along the spectrum from angels to demons, seek to influence us in an attempt to improve their habitat.
Imagine your body as a nectar. Like hummingbirds and butterflies, an entourage of souls surrounds you. Sometimes we blow the sweet zephyr of peace, but when the wings flap the wrong way, we become the gale of rage. Just as in the warm, steamy air of the Gulf, the greater the power stored inside of us, the harder it is to maintain control.
When you meet with someone else, your entourage mixes with theirs. You have a relationship. Sometimes that meeting is a struggle for control. It can be a war, which is what I often see happening between men and women when I go out dancing at a nightclub. In other situations, it can be a creative celebration, which is why I love so much to dance to live music.
Over the centuries, humanity has developed some lore regarding the dynamics of our relationships. Certain types of spirits tend to generate constructive relationships. We call these virtues: patience, prudence, chastity and others. Some types of spirits cause destructive relationships. We call these vices: sloth, greed, and lust are examples.
Now the advice of most religions is to surrender the vices and assemble virtues. The ascended personality seems to be above it all. They are free from petty human concerns. In the extreme, they go without food or clothing. The spirits that surround them provide them all the sustenance they need. What we have to ask about such people, though, is this:
Are they really still alive?
The gift of having a body is to have the ability to reorganize spirits. In the way that we touch and speak, through the things that we eat and drink, even in the way that we walk and gesture: everything that we do involves mixing of the spirits that surround us, whether consensual or coerced. (Yes, that is why it is called intercourse.)
Here, then, is the greatness of Jesus’s ministry. He didn’t surrender his vices. He suffused them with love, and so transformed them from destructive to constructive influences.
If greed is the desire to accumulate wealth, when mixed with love it becomes a restless seeking to find the place where we can create the greatest value. It was this seeking that took Jesus away from Nazareth, where he received no honor, to Jerusalem.
If pride leads us to undervalue the contributions of others, with love it becomes enthusiasm for the things that we do well. It was enthusiasm that led Jesus to surround himself with people and share the skills he had in loving.
If sloth is an attempt to acquire resources without effort, when mixed with love it becomes a surrender to the caring of others when we can no longer care for ourselves, and thus to give the affirmation of our gratitude. It was with this surrender that Jesus affirmed the woman that came to anoint him, holding her dearer than the men that called him to greater nobility.
If lust is the desire to reside always in those sensations that give us pleasure, when mixed with love it becomes passion for the source of that sweet stimulus, and thus a willingness to pour out our strength in service to its existence. It was this willingness that led Jesus to the cross, where he poured his blood out for humanity and the world.
This is the greatness of his Abba: by its nature, unconditional love doesn’t choose. It seeks for all things to manifest themselves in greatness.
The greatness of a spirit is evidenced by the willingness of other spirits to associate with it. How much faster can the eagle of passion fly than the worm of lust can wriggle? It is because passion is welcomed by the recipient that it moves so freely, while lust must push through against resistance.
So the call of Jesus is not to stop being human. It is rather to surrender to the yoke of love, and enter into the greatness of your humanity.
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This really is a lovely post! I too enjoy the butterfly story, it speaks to the interconnectedness of us all in a way that is easy to understand. I often think of it as ripples on a pond.
I really like what you said about vice, about transforming vice. In perfect synchronicity, I’ve actually just heard a sermon on that very issue and been involved in a discussion about the true meaning of dying to self. LOL, no it is not supposed to be about “dying inside”, it is supposed to be about coming alive, about becoming a better version of “you.”
People often have archetypes, avatars within ourselves, that don’t really need to be rejected and cast out, but rather loved and transformed into something more positive. In the bible for example, Peter is brash and bold and lops off a man’s ear when they try to take away Jesus. In that context his fierceness is a negative, but it is also that same aspect of his character that also makes him perfect for the concept of, “upon this rock I shall build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” An alleged character flaw can actually become a great strength.
For me, that transformative potential is also the thing that makes us so cherished by the love that calls to us. It is actually in our difference that we are so precious. So it’s only choice is to guide us into self-regulation.
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Celebrating the power of love in the human greatest of Jesus.