Talk 10 — Inspiration
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Occasionally, someone will sum up his feelings about life or about certain experiences by saying, "Oh, what you're going to do? That's life for you." But one thing he can do is to correct this error in judgment because this is not really life at all, it is simply existence. Life itself is whole. Life is complete. Life is rich. Life is full and it can be fulfilling. In other words, it's not life that needs to change, it's the way we lay hold of it, the way we view it, the way we accept it. As Brooks Atkinson once said, "There's nothing uninteresting, there are only uninterested people."
The nearly universal deficiency in preparation for life is in the realm of the soul, the inner man. It could be said that man is essentially amphibious. In other words, by this we mean that man lives in two worlds. Not in succession as the old religion would have taught us but concurrently, we live in two worlds at the same time. In other words, to put it in on another context, you are a spiritual being. Even though you live in a physical form and are completely involved in the material world, yet you are spiritual in your roots. Your true life then is rooted in another dimension.
This is one of the big complications of life because we forget this. The inner man, the soul of you, is so often neglected and starved as it were due to the almost total preoccupation with the outer and with the world at the circumference of life. So, we tend by habit, by practice, by example, by tradition to get on the merry-go-round of working for food, to clothe the body, and to provide for the essentials and even the luxuries of life and all of the many little things that become so important to us in outer life. But we neglect the time, and the attention, and the effort to cultivate the soul, the inner man. So then, what happens is we lack the ability to enjoy and appreciate the very things that we worked so hard so much of our lives to acquire and then we wonder what's it all about.
As Jesus said, "Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that precedeth out of the mouth of God," and this refers to the inner flow, the inspiration that the real source of meaning, the source of vitality, the source of interest, the source of fulfillment in life is this inner flow, not the outer experiences at all. What is inspiration? Does it just happen? Is it something that just comes like a bolt out of the blue or is inspiration the result of soul cultivation?
As a person who depends very heavily upon inspiration as a flow, I find that there are times when I need to do something very special to cultivate this flow and it may be some impractical things, something that you would not normally think about. It may mean just taking a walk, taking a break as it were. It may mean listening to some music or one of a number of forms of recreation. Some kind of a change of pace. Something that, as I think of it sometimes, is kind of a seeding process of the dynamics of the inner man.
Though none of these things are essential, any one of them can be helpful depending upon my level of consciousness and where I am. Inspiration, in terms of the inner flow, is always there and is always available. But sometimes we become so rooted and grounded in the circumference of life and in outer things that we're not listening, and we're not receptive, and we're not responsive, and we're out of gear or out of synchronization, if we use the term that Olga likes to use.
In the notebook of Leonardo da Vinci is a paragraph that I think is rather interesting and revealing. He says, "Every now and then, go away and have a little relaxation for when you come back to your work your judgment will be sure since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose the power of judgment. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is thus more readily seen." "The need to get away for a while, come ye apart a while into a desert place and rest," as Jesus says.
The reason for all this is that we tend to forget that our life is an inward-out process, and that we re essentially spiritual beings, and that the source of the means to make our work creative and our lives fulfilling is always within ourselves. We try to find it in our work and so we plunge more heavily unto our work or to find other work. We try to find it in relationships and we work hard at relationships or seek other relationships. But the source of the means to make our work creative and our lives fulfilling is always within ourselves. So, we need to take time or to make time to let go in some way and to cultivate this inner flow of the divine process.
There's an ancient poem, it's a Persian poem, that says, it translates variously, but it's roughly, "If you come to the end of your store and you have but one loaf of bread, sell that one loaf of bread and buy some white hyacinths for your soul." This has many meanings and we'll try to deal with it from several approaches. I think of it all the way from something very whimsical and very practical in terms of the outer routines of life, all the way to something very deep, and mystical, and transcendent. But at any level, it has a beautiful meaning. We should never be too buys or too frugal, to use the Persian poet's thought, to buy a few white hyacinths for the soul.
For instance, this is what a vacation is all about or occasionally taking time for a music concert or just a walk in the park. In a sense, it may be worth 10 times what it actually costs in time or money. Remember, Jesus referred to this when He said, "For what has a man profited if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?" Of course, let's face it, there are a lot of scrooges around who look upon such thing as handbook. The busy person wants to make his time and money count. To him, it might appear to be a total waste of time to take a half hour at the noon day to sit in the park in quiet reflection on the beauties of nature or just to watch people or go on a love walk in terms of trying to get into the flow of the relationship on a transcendent love nature with all the persons that pass you by.
It seems ridiculous to some, but it may be the wisest use of time. Certainly, it is important in terms of getting the change of pace and cultivating the inner flow because after all, man is a living soul and unless there is something of the releasement or the cultivation of the soul process, no matter what else he may do or no matter he my succeed or no matter how many interesting things he has around him, there's always something empty inside him because he's never really quite getting it together, as they so often say today.
Emerson says, "I think it's the best of humanity that goes out for the walk." In happy hours, I think all affairs can be wisely postponed for the walking, the change, the white hyacinth experience. I think Isaiah had this in mind when he says, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread and your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness." In other words, get the inner experience of enrichment rather than simply the bodily experience or the outer materialistic experience.
Many years ago, a young man leaving his home for the first time was making his way through the hills of rural Massachusetts and the cold autumn evening was coming on and he was quite homesick. He was going out to a new life, but the uncertainties of this challenging change appalled him and he was very discouraged and depressed. As he walked in this dusk of the evening, he was searching his heart for answers, for strength, for the courage to go on and do what otherwise he had made up his mind to do. Then suddenly, he looked up, literally and figuratively, and the great lesson that was revealed to him could be attributed to the fact that he instinctively picked a few white hyacinths, allowed the seeding process of this soul experience to flow for him. Suddenly, against the sunset of the evening sky, he noticed a lonely waterfowl making its way with strong wing-beat toward the south in its winter home.
So, William Cullen Bryant, for it was he, addressed himself to this lonely voyager of the skies in one of his most beautiful poems and the first stanza goes, "Whither, 'midst falling dew, while glow the heavens with the last steps of day, far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue thy solitary way?" In other words, in a time of illumined meditation, he was wondering, "Where did that bird get that unfailing confidence as he made his way across the vast and illimitable spaces of the sky? How could he be so sure where he was going and that there was something there when he got there?" Then the lesson sank into his mind and he tells it in these concluding lines of the lovely poem, To a Waterfowl, and it goes like this: He, who, from zone to zone, guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight, in the long way that I must trace alone, will lead my steps aright.
So, in a moment of looking up came the answer, the revelation. The moment of turning away and picking a few white hyacinths. In any time of challenge in life for many of us is replete with challenges of one kind or another and a commitment to look up as quickly as we can snap our fingers. We can establish a flow of inner light and suddenly find that which Shakespeare so articulately describes as tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in every thing. Suddenly, there is a relationship with the transcendence of life.
Of course, the white hyacinths may take many forms. It's a very vague thought, actually. [inaudible 00:12:55] with the transcendence of life. Of course, the white hyacinths may take many forms. It's a very vague thought, actually. It can be most anything. It can be a meditation. It can be some change of activity. It could even, for some person, the purchase of some little bubble that lens excitement and interest to his life. It's sometimes a practical sort of impracticality.
In other words, when you're low in spirits, as the poet would say it, sell one of your loaves and bread and buy some white hyacinths. Something that will lift your spirit. Something as simple as just deciding one night if you're the one who prepares the dinner table, to get out the very best linen and your silver that you've hidden away for the special time, and putting some candles on the table, and doing some special little thing, and putting on your prettiest frock and all that in itself is just a white hyacinth experience. Something that makes you feel good, that changes your tone, your way of seeing things and it's all, you might say, very superficial, but it's a seeding process that causes something to happen within you. A practical kind of impracticality.
In other words, something you do not normally do all the way from buying roast chestnuts on the corner at Christmas time to riding a bicycle in the park or perhaps purchasing an item of jewelry or clothing that may be totally impractical at the moment, but which gives the spirit a boost, or perhaps planting some flowers in the window box or going out in the garden and planting some lilies or some roses, or maybe deciding to redecorate a room in the house even though it doesn't need it. It's because in some way there's a boost to the spirit and a new feeling of oneness with something transcendent to the usual things of life.
An ancient Persian poet sings, "I was common clay until roses were planted in me." Obviously, the only way roses are going to be planted in you is for you to plant them. Nobody else can do it. People may provide all sorts of beautiful experiences for you, but if you don't listen, if you don't see, if you don't take it into your own consciousness, nothing happens. So, it is a commitment. It's something that involves an actual decision to turn aside and to find a change of pace, a new way. In other words, we need to make very sure that occasionally, we plant some roses in our consciousness so that suddenly, things begin to take on a different tone. Things become interesting, but they become interesting because we suddenly become interested.
Actually, planting roses or, if you will, buying white hyacinths is what we're about and what is often referred to is recreation or leisure pursuits. In one of the criticisms that is still occasionally brought against the American people by foreigners is that American people are, to a large extent, all work and no play. In other words, a person's business become such a complete preoccupation that he tends so often to fly through life on one wing and once away from his desk or once away from his work or his bench or whatever, he seems frightened by his mind and he wants to kill time and not to fill it. So, often he flips on a television or a radio or does something not really to get the white hyacinths experience but to prevent it from happening. To prevent anything happening within himself.
I noticed an interesting thing, for instance, about English people. I don't know what this really means, but I think it suggests something. In other words, in England, a person may ask you, "What do you do," and he literally means what is your work, what is your profession, what is your job. You may be a great expert at your work, but that isn't what he has in mind. He probably means what do you do for recreation in your spare time? What do you do? In other words, it could well be one reason why, as Thoreau puts it, that the massive men lead lives of quiet desperation. In other words, as one poet puts it, they keep their nose to the grindstone until ultimately, they know nothing but the grindstone and their darned old nose.
In baseball, a pitcher talks about the need of change of pace. He may have a good fastball, but unless he can vary his delivery, the batters will soon catch up with this style and learn to hit his delivery with ease. This, of course, is meaningless to a person who's not interested in sports, but it's all [inaudible 00:18:04] to a sports fan. In other words, it really doesn't take a great deal to give life variety or diversity or change of pace. It's a matter of challenging oneself to break out of the monotones of thinking and living and to develop a new self-image of excitement. To get a new awareness of something like I am a dynamic creature and my life is filled with interest and fulfillment. Is it? If it isn't, then why not? Then we need to seed our consciousness in some way so that we can begin to release that kind of flow.
People often talk about the challenges and the difficulties of drastic changes and there's so many drastic changes that occasionally come into one's life such as being moved in one's work. Suddenly, you're get a notice that in your job you're going to have to leave New York and move to California or to Dubuque, Iowa or somewhere. It means selling your house, giving up everything, starting all over again or perhaps, to look at it in a much more somber note, it may be being laid off work and forced to make a great adjustment in your life and to begin a new way, perhaps begin a new career. But all these can be the most profitable experiences of your life if you determine that that's the way it will be.
As a matter of fact, I've given a lot of thought to this and I think it probably sounds utopian and idealistic, but I think in an ideal society that people should actually be encouraged if not forced to be uprooted every 10th year from their every day routines, and absorptions, and even careers perhaps to go back to school and start all over again. In other words, if we're going along in a life and things get so difficult from time to time that people are not even willing to dream in this way, but over the long haul, man is going to live forever and probably work less. The question is how are we going to stay alive as long as we live? How are we going to keep interested as well as interesting?
The need is then to find ways, to encourage ourselves in ways to actually get into changes, whole change of direction in our lives and, in a sense, transplant ourselves into something entirely new from time to time periodically in our life. I don't mean encouraging a person just changing jobs every whim and every year and so, but I mean at certain periods of life, to feel the importance of a great change that will open up a whole new dimension in his experience. Many persons, if you want to look back for a bit and reminisce with feelings of nostalgia, you may find that there were certain positive benefits to such a horrible conflagration as the Second World War.
It's rather interesting that many people, when you stop and talk about the so-called war years, find that life seemingly had more meaning during those years than other times because people were forcibly taken out, maybe the soldier had to go war, maybe faced terrible experiences, and the family, some of them had to go into defense plans and to various things and perhaps to work for the Red Cross or the USO and so forth. But when you stop and think about it as you look back, there was a kind of excitement and a sort of enchantment. I don't mean that we should have wars to provide that experience in our life, but what I'm saying is that actually the reason those years are looked upon with sort of pleasant feelings is because we were forced into a total change of a way of life. Otherwise, unless something like it happens, we don't do it. S
So, we go along day after day, year after year digging ruts deeper, doing things in the same old way and eventually, losing all ability to allow the real soul dimension of our inner nature to flower forth into human expression. Now, the alternative of course for this kind of uprooting which, we're simply idealistically talking about, is to discover new interests. Something new to get excited about and if you think you are too old to get excited about new things, then you're too old. If one finds that tendency in his consciousness, then that's a dangerous and that's the time we need to be forcibly uprooted and sometimes strange enough by what you might call the grace of God, and I don't mean that to imply what it may seem to.
Sometimes, in those moments when it seems that we could not possibly get into any new things, sometimes then life takes hold of us and forces us to do it. Perhaps through a change of job, perhaps through the passing of a loved one. It may be many, many different ways but somehow, by a process that can only be a sort of a divine serendipity that's working within us, we are pushed into something new and suddenly, we find that we do have the strength, we do have the ability. We do have the inner fortitude to be able to get into the new thing and then getting into it, and putting our heart and soul into it, first of all just for survival. Ultimately, to find any sort of a creative outlet. Suddenly, it becomes meaningful and life becomes interesting again.
Leisure time is a very important time if it's properly used. Unfortunately, to a person who has never given much time to buying white hyacinths in his life, added time means increased restlessness and nervous tension and, quite often, all sorts of things like alcoholism, and addiction, and everything else, and even breakdowns come because of the inability to really relate oneself in any kind of a leisure experience. It's interesting that the Greek word for leisure is the origin of our word for school. The Greeks thought of leisure as the opportunity for moral and intellectual development and the participation in the life of the community. In other words, we must not forget that much of the development of the mind or the cultivation of the soul comes from relaxation, from periods of introspection, from periods of meditation.
Certainly, some people who work so hard at filling their leisure that old-fashioned loafing becomes a lost art and many times, one of the things we need to recapture is the ability to just sit, and lull in the grass, and look at the clouds, and steep ourselves in the allness of life. Josef Pieper once said, "Leisure is not only the occasion but also the capacity for steeping oneself in the whole of creation." Quite often, people take a vacation in order to have diversion and change of pace and then the typical man on the vacation sets a time schedule. We got to be here tonight, we got to be there tonight, zip, zip, zip, zip, zip. Passing by all the beautiful little experiences or if he would just cultivate the ability to pick white hyacinths sometime in the middle of the day's agenda to arrive at a destination, he might just drive down a little lane, find a little stream, take off his shoes, and dangle his feet in the water and just sit there with nothing more in view than just to be.
This is a white hyacinth experience and we tend to lose the ability to do that and this is one of the purposes of such a gathering as this on Sunday morning. We tend so often to lose our perspective. We say, "Well, I'm going to church and this is the Sabbath day," and on the Sabbath day you have a Sabbath experience. Actually, church, I don't care where it is, is not necessarily a Sabbath experience. It should be and it could be, but you haven't done it just because you've perfunctorily gotten dressed and gone off to mass or to service or down to the Unity Center.
In the earliest times, the Sabbath meant to desist from sin. It'd come from the word sabbatum, which meant to sever, to put an end to. So, it was a day of atonement. But the point is we know now that sin is the frustration of the creative flow of life so that atonement means at at one-ment. It means getting in tune. Getting out of the frantic pace of time and to the allness of eternity. So, the true Sabbath is a state of mind and it's a time when we turn from outer things and thoughts and just give ourselves up for a moment of reflection upon something of the transcendent of life, whether it be an intellectual experience or a spiritual experience in meditation, it's where we turn away from dealing totally with the exterior things of life and begin to think about and work with the inner part of life.
So, wherever and whenever we realize the need to pull back from our over-extended involvement at the circumference of living and engage in a time of feeding the soul, this is a Sabbath and it's a white hyacinths experience and we pray that this is a kind of white hyacinth experience for you as you join us here in Sunday morning. So, the point is we need to make a commitment to have frequent periods of white hyacinths in our life and that'll come about automatically. There's a conscious choice involved. If ever you pass a house and you find in the midst of a drab tenement district you find a colorful window box with some geraniums you know that someone has chosen to pick some white hyacinths, to find some way to release something of his inner beauty rather than being totally immersed in the outer experience.
You'll find this in a person and his job. You'll find it no matter where you go. Whenever you see that one who has a little more interest in life, it's because of a conscious commitment to get into an interesting experience and the difference is not in the job, not in the money you make, not in the friends you have, but in the way you deal with it and the way you consciously commit yourself to times of change of pace, times of diversion, times of dealing in an equal sense with the inner man or planting some roses in the soul.
So, buy some white hyacinths. Maybe it's a little impractical thing that you do, the practical impracticality. Maybe it's something in terms of an experience of good music. Maybe it's a moment of quiet reflection. Maybe it's meditation and prayer, but whatever it is, something that will help you to look up and away from the ruts and routines of your life and thus to lift your spirit and to feed your soul. So again, as the poet says, "When you have, literally or figuratively, that one loaf of bread, sell that loaf of bread and buy some white hyacinths for your soul."
Copyright 1981 Unity®
Unity Village, MO 64065