The Handsome Actor, Sir Sidney Poitier, and The Lilies of the Field
November 17, 2018
“Faith is realizing that you will always get what you need.” Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” Jesus, New Testament, Matthew 6:28-30
Studying the Bible was an intimate part of my upbringing and of my adulthood. This scripture from St. Matthew often pricked my soul deeply as I thought about the song by Roger Hoffman, Mormon composer, written to convey its message musically and lyrically; it surpassed all my expectations back in the day of Black and White TV. I mean my days of Mormonism were like Black and White TV to me; I was hidden in a deep, dark, gay closet. My daughters Sarah and Kenzy have both sung the Hoffman composition, “Consider the Lilies of the Field, how they grow, how they grow . . .” as I accompanied them on the piano. It is still a favorite song of mine, but it no longer stirs my soul deeply as if it were the very essence of truth like it once did. As so much in my life now, the song fills me with contradictory emotions, ranging from anger to sadness, with love, empathy, and even melancholy in between it all. Here’s a mixed-up analogy for you on the whole thing. Hear an expert contralto voice as it sings the highest of emotions and the lowest, too. Obviously, the song is not written for a contralto voice. I mean, he who has ears to hear, let him hear, and just as Jesus of Nazareth did with sometimes confusing parables, I’m saying the song, together with the thoughts of the lyrics, the idea that God takes care of us and even the little children, well, that is as complex an idea as a full-range contralto voice is.
Perhaps the Hindu tradition of reflecting opposites, like sometimes the words of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar are, are more easily understood. However, we do not always get what we need, so maybe I’m on an endless journey into theodicy here. For example, just look into homelessness, poverty, hunger, famine. Many of our fellow human beings definitely aren’t getting their basic needs met. One thing feels definitely sure for me, I do not believe that just because someone can’t muster up some positive thoughts, or faith you might call it, that they must then be blamed for their own needful situation not being remedied. I reject that outright. My first spouse, Ranae, often said, “if you’re not getting what you want, fix your want-er.” It was her Grandma Harris, I think, who told her that when she was young, crying about not getting what she wanted. Grandma Harris also said, “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about.” Well, needs aren’t like wants, and you can’t fix your need-er. You need water; you need food. You need love. In some Hindu thought it is often expressed that eventually we all get what we need, because what happens is . . . well, it happened, therefore, it is. Or was. I think that’s a bit mentally indolent, though. If you died today of whatever cause, old age included, well, was it really “needed” to be that way? Was it really “your time to go”? I’m sure there’s some philosophical name for this fatalistic type of thought. I’ll Google it. It’s called fatalism. Hahahahaha. These pre-destination and fatalistic thoughts tend to placate us, but do they lead us really to believe more divinely? Perhaps they carry us on through times of sadness with some degree of hope that someone is in charge of it all. But I dislike this notion of someone else being in charge, of someone else being enlightened, and of some raised up in higher esteem than others. If there is justice in this world, then all must be able to be enlightened. I suppose we all are, when our needs are met. Korwin Ogden taught me this simple idea. He was my Priest’s Quorum advisor; I was a priest at age 16, so young and enlightened that the Mormons ordained me. LOL. “People won’t listen to the gospel when they’re hungry,” Korwin said. I recently dreamed of Korwin and Linda Ogden. The 1917 house I thought was theirs—D Land Title was their business inherited from Korwin’s parents—was transported and plopped right down in the middle of an empty field in the middle of Disneyland, with Korwin and Linda beginning to dress in their costumes as Disney characters of some kind. I couldn’t tell in the dream which Disney characters they were going to play. In the dream I ask them, “Why have you always been able to be yourselves, happy as you are and doing what you want?” Linda replies, excitedly, that she is offering the house and land on a long-term lease to my husband David and I for only $18,000.00 total; “be happy in the house,” they tell me, “it’s a steal of a deal.” Linda is very happy in this dream, content, but somewhat aloof as she is in real life. Aloof, but graciously so, peacefully so, just like in real life. When I awoke from that dream the other night, I realize happiness like my son Mikal has always had, came from him pursuing his own dreams, fulfilling his own needs, like going to Disneyland and playing characters there, like hooking up with his brother Nik and playing video games now as adults, just like they did in their teenage years. In my sub-conscious mind which burst forth enlightened as my right and left brain came together, formed this wonderful dream. My brain works much more coherently now that I’ve come out of the closet, I can tell you that.
“When there is total harmony and synchrony between the left and right hemisphere of the brain, and when the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system are working in harmony, then you say that this is an altered state of consciousness. And this altered state of consciousness which can be physically measured today, is what is called enlightenment.” This quote is from a question and answer format discussion by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, so apropos to my essay here, entitled “Does enlightenment come only to those who seek it? Can someone be accidentally enlightened?”
I certainly believe in the accidental, in randomness, chaos theory I’ve heard it called. Coupled with my recently found energy to make God into what I want Her to be, I say luck, random, chance, whatever you call it, and most of the synonyms for that idea are deity-related, fortune, etc., well, they are just part of life. For we who have been trampled, persecuted, we can make god in whatever way we wish. Anyone can. That was the most stirring sermon I’ve ever heard. Thanks to the very Reverend Dr. Fatimah Salleh, this is my new energy. To me, random chaos, whatever you call it, indicates that the only thing Divine about this life is you and I; we are the Divine and we make this world Divine by what we do, right here, right now, sometimes in preparation for the future, but more importantly through our being present and seeing and loving in the present. Postponing for eternity is a fall-out of Mormonism and Christianity, I think. Many millennialists–not millennials—give up this life and its improvements for a hope in the afterlife. They postpone cleaning up the environment, for example, for the Second Coming will surely burn it all up and cleanse it, so why do it now. It’s just around the corner, you know, this Second Coming. That is a sad way of living.
In Mormonism, like Hinduism—I can’t believe I’m comparing the two on the same side of an argument—we attribute our not knowing what caused random things to happen to the mysteries of God, that He knows why and how it surely affects the future, grand scheme of things. It is just because life is so complex and the world so big and wonderful, and we are so small and child-like and not perfected yet, not enlightened, that we can’t comprehend such vast greatness in the overall plan. Both religions acknowledge the opposites that must occur, that to feel joy we must experience sadness, and the like, or the unlike. God moves in a mysterious way, ya know, His wonders to perform. It’s not exactly the same in Hindu thought, but very close. We come to know our own connection to the Divine in Hindu thought, and by doing so, being centered, peaceful, calm, meditative, that we can fulfill our destiny in helping the world become better. We see a need and are able to help because we are filled with peaceful love. More synchronicities happen; more tender mercies, a Mormon adage, or more inspiration might be the old Mormon Doctrine word.
There are also other kinds of poverty, needs that should be met if there really were a benevolent God ruling the Universe. “If I ruled the world,” I used to say when confronted with the ironies of life. When I give empathy it is of this kind where I would change things completely; the caste system: gone; slavery: gone. And, they are going away; the world is getting better because of us, learning, growing, scientifically and in many other ways. We are evolving into better human beings. I didn’t realize when I said “If I ruled the world,” that I was foretelling my own future of dis-religiosity. Dissing religions is called “dis-religiosity,” and God knows I have dissed Mormonism and other religions, too. I have seen and felt my own emotional poverty, and my needs were not always met. Oh, but you say, in the end, your needs were met in your coming out process. Oh, but I say, I made my needs known to myself and finally to others, and I take credit for that. And so, I am Divinity itself, and if I am Divinity, then what need have I of God or of worshipping Him? In religion, the blame would lie with me if my needs are not met, because I became one of little or no faith for a time. “O ye of little faith” as Jesus condemns those who doubt Him; another religion of guilt. No. This I cannot believe in. I am religiously and spiritually reluctant to rely on some Being for my needs any more. We might become co-dependent, God and me, if I relied on Him, like we used to be. I do not blame someone for a lack of faith if they do not have what they need, either, and in that way I consider myself much better than most Gods of most religions. Arrogant, I realize. Acting to relieve poverty, hunger, or even feeling compassion without some big action, these are true religion, and undefiled. Some will say, “Aha, Kevin, that is the Christian religion at its very essence!” Why, then, add all the other guilt, shame, and blame to it, which often becomes so self-loathing? I have seen social sciences progress to find many more motivations than guilt to get us to help the needy we see all around us, to get us to learn more, to share more. Ironically, I must admit, the simple hymn “Have I Done Any Good” still rings so true to me. “Have I cheered up the sad, or made someone feel glad?” Does Elder D. H. Oaks know these words? That’s an inside joke for those of you who don’t know him.
I still enjoy studying religions and spirituality, but it is a journey, and I smell the roses along the way now. I feel Divinity in many more ways than I once did, and I mean more than just hearing the song of a bird and being in the moment, present, with that song and bird. I feel Divinity because I am at peace with me being me. And if I am me, and you are you, and everyone can be themselves—OMG, I’m a Libertarian at heart—then let’s all fill some needs we see around us and then see the world Divinely transformed; I wish, I wish. And, if wishes were fishes, we’d all have some fried. “What the hell does that mean,” you may ask? “You sound like an old man rambling.” I am an old man rambling, and I wish. Don’t we all have wishes? But what does frying them mean? Oh, that’s right, I don’t have ears to hear or eyes to see so I’m not understanding the parable. Can I have Sidney Poitier? I need him.