(This is a partial transcript of a dharma talk by Marc Gafni at the Wisdom School at Shalom Mountain in 2012)
Our narrative has to give a vision and a story of the patterns that connect that is coherent, that is cogent, that is compelling, that is seductive, that is erotic… and that creates a current Obligation.
We want to reclaim zivut, full erotic divine union in every moment, in every stitch. Dharma is a re-weaving of the stitches. It is a yearning for the patterns that connect. Each one of us has a deep yearning for the patterns that connect. What is the vision? What is the big picture, the narrative, the story? God loves stories and when we are ‘God-ding,’ we are story-ing.
What is the Sacred Autobiography of the Kosmos? We have lost our Universe story, the Universe has become de-storied. How do I re-story my experience so I can actually discern the outline of the narrative, so I can actually feel it? It goes up, it goes down, it all falls apart – but what is the larger pattern?
There is this yearning for the patterns that connect and the dharma, the living, breathing dharma is the interior face of the Kosmos disclosing it’s story. That is what dharma is. It is the interior face of the Kosmos disclosing its story.
In my lineage tradition, before we do dharma, we make a blessing. My blessing is from the Judaic lineage from which I was sourced. I now live in a World Spirituality lineage that many of us are creating together – we are just at the beginning of the beginning. We are going to weave through the dharma and the dharma is a new universe story that actually shifts the source code.
Faith is essential in the course of human history and we have lost our moorings to faith in the modern and postmodern world. The claim to Faith has been co-opted by the fundamentalists of all religions. In World Spirituality we seek to reclaim Faith…but Faith in Universal Eros and we as Unique emanations of Eros… Faith in the God we can believe in.
Do you realize that 70% of the world lives in an ethnocentric fundamentalist faith. If you think that is irrelevant because you live in NJ, well NJ doesn’t exist anymore – the notion of a local place is not true, it is an absurdity, the entire notion of being local today is absurd.
How do you know? I was just with a friend who lives in NYC and you can look down into Ground Zero – try to think about local from Ground Zero. A bunch of people got mad someplace in the world and all of a sudden 3,000 people died in an office building one morning because they were locally going to work.
There is no local… it does not exist. Reality is that 70% of people live in a “I and other” fundamentalism. Dar el har and dar el Islam – chosen and not chosen. Redeemed and not – some version of that story exits throughout the world.
We are not going to challenge that story with a wonderful process where we have worked out childhood wounds. We desperately need a process to work out childhood wounds for every one of us so a deep bow to that.
But… Is my whole life going to be to revisit that story a thousand times? Really? When I get bored with it I will pay someone to listen to it again because all my friends are so sick of it. Is that work important?
Of course, if you do not do it you cannot do any other work. You are engaged in spiritual bypassing otherwise. Spiritual bypassing never works. I credit my friend John Welwood with that term. But you cannot stop there! That is not the end of the story, that is when you are just getting into the game.
Then I have a yearning for the patterns that connect. I want to engage in telling a new story, I want to be part of that new story and for this new story to be real, it cannot be a story about wound-ology. It can’t be a story about my personal fulfillment or staying open and present in the moment – that is nice, but my new story a global story, one that brings together all four quadrants in economics and literature and injustice and social movements and structures of government.
It has to include everything and Spirit and love and ecstasy and sensuality and Eros and the core energetics of reality in all its levels. It has got to be a story that obligates me. Here is the big deal – it has to be a story that I am committed to on a bad day. It has to be a story that I am steady with.
Here is this wonderful paradox, I lived in the middle of fundamentalists for a number of years, three stones throw, on the West Bank of Israel, from a fundamentalist Islamic town named Kellkillia. I developed very close relationships in that place and basically what they said was, the liberal story of the world was without sacrifice, without nobility, without heroism, without commitment, without obligation.
A story without Obligation is not an interesting story to those of us in World Spirituality. Postmodern society has located “Obligation” in societal consciousness as a part of some mythic fundamentalist meme. “They are Obligated, We are Free.”
Actually at the highest level of existence, Freedom and Obligation are one. When I am fully Free, I am fully Obligated. When I am fully Obligated, I am fully Free. There is no split between them. This is why we seek to embrace our Unique Obligation in spiritual practice.
So this is the first taste of love. In Hebrew, the word for love and the word for obligation is the same word. No split between it. Holvah, hav – radical love and radical obligation. Halvah. And Hav with a word play, hav means radical erotic ecstasy and radical commitment, obligation to give.
The highest level of consciousness, the expression of the Love Intelligence, Love Beauty that lives in me is utterly and radically obligated to what? To Essence… not to Mom and Dad, not to structures of society, not to voices telling you to spend years in therapy trying to liberate yourself.
But I am Obligated – “I can figure it out or I can’t figure it out, just doing my little story here” – no we are Obligated to figure it out, we are Obligated as a sangha to weave the story which is a counter narrative to fundamentalist, ethnocentric worldviews.
Why do we need to do that? One, the world is completely lost without our felt sense of sacred Obligation – it is in desperate need of that narrative and we need to transmit that narrative in all cultural memes that we can.
The second reason we need to do this is because we can, we are the people who can do it. Do you think there is a room at some think tank someplace? Obviously this is the need in the world. There is not a think-tank room creating the meme of Sacred Obligation for a global citizenry. We are the think-tank to do this.
We created the Center for World Spirituality to try and actually step into this place and weave this story. We are weaving together a narrative that is a post metaphysical narrative of a story that compels, a story where the patterns that connect. A grand narrative that is not dogmatic or reified, it is an evolving grand narrative that brings together the best we have available in the world, that brings together every field and every discipline and we are going to weave these patterns that connect.
Within that context we want to know what love is. Of course we do. So the first taste of love – Love and Obligation are One. Love and Obligation are absolutely and radically One.