Your True Self: Is Your True Self A Creator Or A Servant?
In addition to the mockingbirds, we also had ants in our neighborhood. tiny brown Argentine ants that mount mass invasions into houses when the winter rains come, the way the swallows return to Capistrano. They invade again in dry weather, looking for water.
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Actually, when we moved into our new house, we we're the ones invading the ants territory. In one of those little surprises that new homeowners sometimes discover after they move in, we realized that the builder had put the house on top of a vast anthill. Whether they we're waging a retaliatory war or merely looking for food and water, the little critters swarmed by the thousands throughout the house.
My homemade, environmentally-sensitive, borax-and-honey mixtures we're no match for the invading armies. Finally, I decided that the ants had prevailed over my environmental scruples and called a pest control company.
Before the ants lost the war with the Orkin man, I had ample opportunity to watch them at work. I have no idea of the consciousness of an ant. I'm quite sure that they don't sing.
As far as I can tell, each ant has no sense of it's uniqueness and no particular concern for the life of any individual ant. They came by the hundreds, following trails set out by their scouts, to form a living ant-ring on the saucer with it's lake of honey spiked with a touch of borax.
They seemed oblivious to the carcasses of their relatives who had succumbed to the dangerous sweetness before making the long trek back to the nest. These little ants worked and sacrificed their lives for the good of the community.
Individual Creativity Or Self-Sacrificing Service
These two species demonstrate profoundly different models for the relationship of your self to your world.
There is something truly noble about each creature as it lives according to it's essence. The ants offer a model of community and self-sacrifice for the common good while the mockingbirds offer a model of individual creativity and self-expression, a contrast between self-sacrificing servants and self-actualized creators.
The little ants demonstrate great power and purpose as they work with resolute determination for the good of the community. The mockingbird demonstrates the heart of a creator, loving a new song into existence each time he perches on the highest branch at three in the morning, singing his heart out to impress the lady mockingbirds.
The question is, which species comes closer to demonstrating the true nature of human beings? Which species offers a better model for the relationship of your true self to your world? Are you meant to be an ant or a mockingbird?
The Relationship Between Your True Self And The World
Religious Visions Of Your True Self
One of the most important sets of assumptions in any religion concerns your true nature and the necessity and possibility of changing your current self into the true self you are meant to be.
Every religion offers a vision of your true self. From it's particular vision of your true nature, each religion makes claims about what you can and cannot change about yourself, and it offers appropriate remedies.
If your religion regards you as a sinner, flawed to the core, it offers salvation through repentance and forgiveness.
If it regards you as wounded, a product of the hurts of your past, it offers healing, and a redemptive purpose for your suffering.
If it regards your true self as perfect, it offers corrected thinking to remove the shroud of the imperfect false self.
If it believes that all you perceive with your five senses is merely illusion, it offers assurance that your essence can never be hurt.
Behind it's teachings and it's practices, every religion has a view of your essential identity and what can or cannot be changed about it.
Your True Self In Traditional Christianity Versus New Age Religions
The contrasting claims about the nature of your true self and the possibility or impossibility of changing your self lie at the heart of differences between traditional Christianity and new age religions.
It is important to emphasize that the category traditional Christianity comprises an enormous variety. The Church is not a single entity. Similarly, the designation new age refers to a wide variety of different and often conflicting teachings and beliefs.
My differentiation between them is a broad generalization intended to make a contrast between general tendencies.
Much of the new age is a pendulum-swing reaction against the claims about your true self and the possibility of changing that self.
Since traditional Christianity emphasizes self-surrender and service to others, new age religion emphasizes care of the self.
In reaction to the Churchs emphasis on sin, the new age emphasizes healing. Since the Church has taught obedience, the new age emphasizes free choice.
Your True Self As An Ant
In terms of the question, Are you an ant or a mockingbird?, traditional Christianity comes down on the side of the self-as-ant . You are part of a community and your highest obligation is to that community. Given a choice between self-expression and community service, the higher path is to serve the community.
Taken to it's extreme, religion based on the model of self-as-ant teaches you that you are your role . Your individual life does not matter as long as you fulfill your role in the community.
In such a religion, the greatest sin is selfishness. You must repent of your selfish pride and serve others, for the good of the whole community.
Your True Self As Mockingbird
In reaction to this emphasis on self-as-ant, many new age religions claim that your true nature is that you are self-as-creator . You are a mockingbird instead of an ant.
Instead of other-directed and other-focused self-surrender, the religion of the new age is self-directed and self-focused. Your highest obligation is to be true to your own self, to follow your own pathway, to fulfill your own dreams.
You are a creator, able to create whatever song you wish. Your life is your own, free of all obligations imposed upon you by religion. Nothing stops you except your own lack of imagination and commitment.
The Critical Difference Between Good Religion And Bad Religion
What can you change about your self?
The well-known Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr, which was adopted as the motto of Alcoholics Anonymous, makes a distinction between the possibility and impossibility of change.
O God, give us serenity to accept what cannot be changed,
Courage to change what should be changed,
And wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
This little prayer expresses one of the primary differences between good religion and bad religion . The difference between good religion and bad religion is not a distinction between traditional religion and new age spirituality. There is much good religion in both traditional and new age religions. There is also a great deal of bad religion in both.
Whether a religion is good or bad is not so much a matter of doctrines or beliefs or practices as it is a matter of making accurate distinctions.
The Wisdom To Distinguish
Bad religion lacks the wisdom to distinguish as it insists that people change what cannot be changed or requires them to accept with serenity what could be changed.
In contrast, good religion has the wisdom to help people make these distinctions.
Whether or not your particular religion or spiritual practice is good or bad for you depends on how it helps you make these distinctions.
Good religion helps you accept with serenity those things you cannot change.
It also encourages you gives you courage to change what you can.
And through it all, good religion offers wisdom to make distinctions between these two categories.
Are you meant to be an ant or a mockingbird? Are you meant to sacrifice your own individuality for the good of the whole, or are you meant to be the creator of your own life? The more important question is, Must you choose?
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Posted in Churches/Faith/Religion Post Date 12/14/2016