Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Deciding to be Totally Objective is a Subjective Decision

Soon after the disciples had participated in the feeding of the multitude by setting the seven loaves before them and feeding the four thousand, they were in a boat with Jesus, and yet they were concerned, realizing that they had forgotten the bread, and reasoning among themselves. Jesus, fully aware of their doubts, said to them:

Why do you reason because you have no bread?
Do you not perceive nor understand?
Is your heart still hardened?

Having eyes, do you not see?
And having ears, do you not hear?
And do you not remember?
Mark: 8:17,18

Jesus had taught them to see with vision, rather than with human eyes, yet He knew full well that now they were not being mindful of the things of God because they were still caught up in seeing with the eyes of man and hearing with human ears, experiencing what they wished to see and hear.

The purpose of all seeing is to show

you what you wish to see. All hearing but

brings to your mind the sounds it wants to hear.

For a moment they had forgotten that they were the holy Sons of God.

In the 2000 years since, unfortunately, not much has changed in the way we see and the way we believe. We are still reasoning and murmuring among ourselves, seeing with the eyes of man, rather than seeing with the eyes of Christ. That is why Jesus begins the Lessons of His Course in Miracles as He does.

Lesson 1: Nothing I see means anything.

Jesus knows that our mind-training must begin by learning to question what we consider an absolutely true proposition:

Seeing is believing.

What we see, and by extension, hear, touch, smell and taste, we believe to be real, and yet this seeing is illusory, false.

Yet eyes accustomed to illusions must
be shown that what they look upon is false.


These eyes are insane.

As you look with open eyes upon your world, it must occur to you that you have withdrawn into insanity. You see what is not there, and you hear what makes no sound. And the vision of Christ is not in your sight, for you look upon yourself alone. T-13.V.6:1-1,2

The purpose of the mind-training is to shift from believing in appearances to seeing with Christ vision, looking through appearances, experiencing knowledge. Jesus assures us that He went through the same experience, saying early in His Course:

I was a man who remembered spirit and its knowledge. I demonstrated both the powerlessness of the body and the power of the mind. By uniting my will with that of my Creator, I naturally remembered spirit and its real purpose. I cannot unite your will with God’s for you, but I can erase all misperceptions from your mind if you will bring it under my guidance. Only your misperceptions stand in your way. T-3.lV.7:3-8

As I undergo this mind-training moment-to-moment, I am being asked to be vigilant, keenly watchful of how I see things, exactly how I make up my illusory world, exactly how I misperceive.

I came across a poem the other day that helps me in my vigilance. Here is A Study of Two Pears by Wallace Stevens (1879-1955 ).


Opusculum paedagogum.

The pears are not viols,

Nudes or bottles.

They resemble nothing else.


They are yellow forms

Composed of curves

Bulging toward the base.
They are touched red.


They are not flat surfaces

Having curved outlines.

They are round

Tapering toward the top.


In the way they are modelled

There are bits of blue.

A hard dry leaf hangs
From the stem.


The yellow glistens.

It glistens with various yellows,
Citrons, oranges and greens
Flowering over the skin.


The shadows of the pears

Are blobs on the green cloth.

The pears are not seen

As the observer wills.

In his poem, Stevens is taking a stand, declaring that we must be absolutely objective in how we look at things, appearances. He ironically labels his call for objectivity opusculum paedogogum, a Latin phrase meaning “ minor lesson.” He is deliberately being ironic because in his mind, being objective is a major lesson in seeing.

In stanza l, he makes his point by catching us in our automatic associating, immediately bringing to mind images of comparison, viols, nudes, or bottles.

In the next four stanzas, the pears are carefully discerned, objectively, simply in terms of form and color.

And in stanza Vl, he summarizes his “objective” seeing in this manner:

The pears are not seen
As the observer wills.

Now, what Stevens does not see, but what we do, is that this last line is truly ironic. In spite of his determination to be objective, it is impossible. All seeing is subjective.

That is why deciding to be totally objective is a subjective decision.

Here is the first meaning of subjective in the dictionary: "belonging to the thinking subject, rather than to the object of thought."

The root meaning of subjective, objective, object is the Latin ject, meaning “to throw.” In each case, we are throwing out into the world what is first in our minds. This happens so rapidly that we think that what is “out there” is separate from what is “in here,” when, in fact, it is a duplication, and we are instantly, constantly being duped by this action of mind.

Projection is perception. The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that. But though it is no more than that, it is not less. Therefore, to you it is important. It is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition. As a man thinketh, so does he perceive. T-21.Intro.1:1-7

The root meaning of perceive comes from percipere, meaning "to take, to lay hold of, to receive." We rapidly catch what we forgot that we threw out in the first place. This rapidity makes our part in seeing unconscious, invisible. Making our illusory world is like playing catch with ourselves: we throw the ball in the air and then we catch it; we project an image and then we receive it.

I am grateful to Stevens because he is so determined to show us that we can have nothing to do with what we see, when, in fact, we can see that we have absolutely everything to do with what we see, always seeing our own projections.

The pears are not seen
As the observer wills.

In the end, with our eyes, and our human mind, we can see ONLY As the observer wills.

Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world. Perception is a result and not a cause. Everything looked upon with vision is healed and holy. Nothing perceived without it means anything. And where there is no meaning, there is chaos.

In sharp contrast to Stevens’ quest for objectivity is Walt Whitman’s deliberate attempt to express himself subjectively. The great American poet (1819-1892) begins his masterpiece, Leaves of Grass, with this line:

And what I assume you shall assume.

This makes it clear that Whitman intentionally filters his poetry through his own experience and expresses these associations. A good example is his poem, When lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed, his moving attempt to come to terms with his grief for the assassination in April of 1865 of his beloved Abraham Lincoln Here is the first stanza.

WHEN lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,

I mourn’d—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring;
Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,

And thought of him I love.

It is clear that for the rest of his life, particularly in the spring, Whitman will associate the lilacs and the western star with mournful thoughts of Lincoln. His subjective expression drives a powerful poem.

This dichotomy between objective and subjective poetry is obviously false. You have no choice but to express yourself, in effect, to CELEBRATE yourself, and there is nothing objective about this.

Lesson 2: I have given everything I see all the meaning it has for me.

Now we come to the reason for taking you through this false, objective/subjective dichotomy. It provides a sharp contrast for understanding what it means to go beyond having eyes but not seeing, and having ears but not hearing.

Here is a poem by William Carlos Williams (1883-1963 ) that helps make this transition; it helps take us beyond.

A Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends


a red wheel


glazed with rain water

beside the white


At first glance, this may appear to be an attempt at objectivity in the spirit of Stevens, just images, no commentary, no interpretation. The word depends, however, carries another connotation, as in, “My life depends on it.” Williams is saying that my life depends on seeing things exactly as they are. This echoes Lesson 268, Let all things be exactly as they are.

Let not our sight be blasphemous today,

Nor let our ears attend to lying tongues.

Only reality is free of pain.

Only reality is free of loss.
And it is only this we seek today.


I came across The Red Wheelbarrow in an anthology, and the anthologist, Douglas Hunt, intuited this larger meaning, the search for reality.

At the bottom of Stevens’ poetry there is wonder and delight, the child’s or animal’s or savage’s joy in his own existence, and thankfulness for it. He is the poet of well-being. His sigh of awe, of wondering pleasure, is underneath all these poems that show us the “celestial possible,” everything that has not yet been transformed into the infernal impossibilities of our everyday earthly seeing. He sits surrounded by all the good things of this earth, with rosy cheeks and fresh clear blue eyes, eyes not going out to you but shining in their places, like fixed stars.
(Douglas Hunt, The Riverside Anthology of Literature, (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1988), p. 938)

In this passage, Hunt reminds us that far beyond our dualistic ideas about seeing either objectively, or subjectively, i.e., the infernal impossibilities of our everyday earthly seeing, is the glorious celestial possibility of seeing with vision.

Today I see the world in the celestial gentleness with which creation shines. W-p11.265.1:4

The smallest leaf becomes as thing of wonder, and a blade of grass a sign of God's perfection.

Right now, today, we can see the shining of creation by shifting our awareness from our fearful, sightless eyes to the eyes of Christ, and then:

What is reflected there is in God’s Mind.
The images I see reflect my thoughts.
Yet is my mind at one with God’s. And so
I can perceive creation’s gentleness.

In quiet would I look upon the world,
which but reflects Your Thoughts and mine as well.
Let me remember that they are the same,
and I will see creations’ gentleness.


So much, indeed, depends on this shift from my seeing to Thy Seeing, from mine to Thine.

So much depends—peace and happiness and love—on seeing a red wheelbarrow with vision.

Jesus said to His disciples, And do you not remember?

Do not seek vision through your eyes, for you made your way of seeing that you might see in darkness, and in this you are deceived. Beyond this darkness, and yet still within you, is the vision of Christ, Who looks on all in light.


Christ's is the vision I will use today.

Each day, each hour, every instant, I
am choosing what I want to look upon,
the sounds I want to hear, the witnesses
to what I want to be the truth for me.
Today I choose to look upon what Christ
would have me see, to listen to God's Voice,
and seek the witnesses to what is true
in God's creation. In Christ's sight, the world
and God's creation meet, and as they come
together all perception disappears.
His kindly sight redeems the world from death,
for nothing that He looks on but must live,
remembering the Father and the Son;
Creator and creation unified.

Father, Christ's vision is the way to You.
What He beholds invites Your
memory to be restored to me. And this I choose,
to be what I would look upon today.


Learning to see with Christ vision is a restoration process, and now I want to be about it, looking up from this page, now, and seeing through appearances to the bright reflection of God’s creation.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Guy on a Cross

Recently, my friend, Diane Poe, asked me to read a draft of Guy on a Cross. I found reading it to be powerful and riveting, and its impact lingered in my mind for some time after wards. Now I want to share it with you.

* * *

Guy on a Cross

We hear a hammer hitting wood.
Guy is hanging on a cross, his friends just finishing up the job. They pick up their tools, getting ready to leave.

Friend 1: You OK up there, Guy? You need anything. Water?

Guy: No. I’m fine. Thanks. This is great, guys, I owe you. See you later.

Friend 2: Right, then. Well, we’re off. Hey you guys, want to get a beer, or something?

All: Yeah, great, let’s go.

Guy: So long, guys. Thanks again!

They go. One friend hangs back.

Pete: Say, Guy, can I ask you a question?

Guy: Sure, Pete. What’s up?

Pete: I’m sorry, Guy. I know you’ve explained it already; but I still don’t get it. Could you go over it one more time? For the dummies?

Guy: OK, here goes. The abridged version: I’m a sinner, right? I’m scum. I’m no good. Trash. Jesus was perfect, the Holy Son of God. He died for me. The only way I can show my love and appreciation for Him is to go through the same thing He did. I want to be perfect like He was, so I have to do what he did. Punishing myself is the only way I can get rid of my guilt. Expiate. Justify. There. Have I made myself clear?

Pete: Well, that’s the same thing you’ve been saying for the past few days. I understand the words, but I still don’t get it.

Guy: You will one day.

Pete: I guess. How long are you gonna be up there?

Guy: I don’t know. I’ll know when the time is right, though.

Pete turns to leave. Another friend enters.

Friend 3: I forgot my hammer. There it is. Hey, Pete. You coming with us?

Pete: Hey, can I ask you a question? Come over here.

They move to where Guy can’t hear them.

Pete: Do you get this? I mean, we didn’t actually nail him there, did we? We were just pretending, weren’t we?

Friend: Sure. You know Guy. He loves his drama. He’s fine. He’ll hang up there until he decided it’s time to get off. It’s up to him. I, for one, don’t want to stand here and watch him. Let’s go.

They leave.

Guy wriggles around a bit to get comfortable. Finds a position that is what he thinks is more comfortable. Looks up.
Guy: Wow. This isn’t too bad. Why didn’t I think of this before? It’s almost morning. It’s going to be a beautiful day. This is great.


Sun coming up. A cap is on the ground below him. Guy has dozed off. His body slumped down, head to one side. He wakes up.

Guy: Wow. Must have dozed off. Hmm. Sun’s coming up. This is going to be great…..

There it is! Oh man this is unbelievable. …

Wow is it bright. (squints) Right in my eyes. (Tries to avoid the sun). Guess I should have thought this out a bit more. Maybe faced south east .. Oh, man. Should have asked for a cap or something.

Looks down. Sees the cap.

Guy: Hmmm. How did that get there??

A lot of good that does me, down there on the ground. (pause)

Looks like it’s going to be a hot one. Bet I get a hell of a burn. Just my luck. Those stupid guys should have put me under a tree where at least I could get a little shade.

((looks around)

There’s a tree right over there! Why can’t I be over there? Hey! There’s another guy under that tree. Damn it! Some guys have all the luck. What’s that? Why is there a chair under his cross? Does he get to sit in that chair? Why does HE get to sit in a chair??? Damn it! (listens) And he has music!? DAMN IT!”


It’s hot, and Guy is sweating and has a sunburn.

Guy: Oh, God, is it hot! (he squirms a bit) Ouch! Man! I look like a lobster! I can’t get comfortable with this sunburn.

(looks around)

Hey, Mr. Cross under a Tree is gone! That’s not fair! He could have at least left me his chair.

God, is it hot! A breeze would be nice. (a breeze kicks up. He lifts his head to catch it, then flinches) Damn! That wind is blowing sand in my eyes. It’s stinging my sunburn! DAMN! (turns head to avoid the breeze. It stops)

Now I’ve got sand in my eyes. Thanks a lot!! And in my mouth! I NEED A DRINK OF WATER!!!!!

The sky darkens, and it begins to rain. It’s gentle, almost caressing him, washing away the sand. He enjoys it. He opens his mouth, gets a mouthful and spits it out to rid it of the sand. Then he takes a long drink. He makes happy sounds

Hey, that was great. This isn’t so bad after all.


Mid afternoon. A chair and small table are at the foot of the cross. There is food and drink on the table. The cap hangs on the chair.
Guy wakes up from his nap.

Huh?? Oh. Must have been dreaming. (yawns) Afternoon nap (a little laugh) I guess it wasn’t too bad considering I’m hanging on a cross in the middle of the desert with no food or water in sight. Hey, what’s that down there? Did someone….? (looks around) Is that for me? (looks at it suspiciously) Looks OK. I AM hungry. Haven’t had a drink all day. Well, except for the rain, if you can count that. It was more of a storm, if you ask me, and it left me cold and wet, and now my muscles are cramping!

JESUS!! I hate this!!! I never get anything I want! All I ask for is a little food, a drink of water…..hmmm.(looks down at the table, considers getting down, but a stubborn look comes over his face. Looks away)

I wonder what time it is.



Guy: It’s almost dark. At least with the sun down it won’t be so hot. And it might rain again. I could use another drink.

I thought the guys might come by. Get some pictures at least. Guess they’re too busy having a good time. All they seem to think about is doing what makes them happy. What a bunch of losers. At least I’m doing something with my life. (straightens himself on the cross, sighs)

I wonder where that other Guy went. He just upped and left. How’d he do that? What do you do? Just get tired of hanging on this stupid cross and get off? I mean, he’s nailed there just like I am, isn’t he?

(looks at his hands. He‘s holding on to the cross) Where’d the nails go? I told those guys to NAIL ME TO THIS CROSS, DAMN IT!! CAN’T ANYBODY DO ANYTHING RIGHT AROUND HERE??? I could have fallen off!!

(He sneezes, and moves his hand to rub his nose. He looks at his hand now in front of his face, surprised. He looks at his other hand, still holding onto the cross, and slowly moves it. He looks at both hands. Then, wondering, he looks down at his feet. He’s standing on a platform. He picks up one foot, looks at it, and puts it down. Repeats with the other. He looks around to see if anyone is watching. He looks at the table to see if the food is still there. It is. Cautiously he climbs down. He picks up the water and takes a long drink. He notices a blanket on the chair and wraps it around himself. Then he sits down at the table. He pulls the food toward him and picks up a piece of bread. He tears it apart. He stops. Looks back at the cross. He’s not sure what to do. He looks at the bread. Looks around him.)

Guy: (quietly) Thank you. .

Begins to eat.

Guy is on the cross, humming a little tune. Is wearing his hat. The blanket is draped over the cross piece. The table and chair is set up below him, food and drink on a clean white tablecloth. A shade tree is nearby
Guy’s friends walk by, laughing and talking. They call and wave to him as they pass. One stops to talk.

Friend 4: Hey, Guy. We’re going to a movie. Want to come along? It’s a good one. Got two thumbs way up.

Guy: No thanks, guys. I’m going to be up here for another couple of hours.

Friend 5: You sure? You’ve been on that cross a lot lately. What’s going on, anyway?

Guy: Oh, nothing, really. It’s just something I have to do. Guilt, you know. Shame.

Friend 6: Oh, sure. I get it. (doesn’t) Well, hang in there. I mean, good luck!

Guy: Thanks.


Same guys come by from the other direction, laughing and talking about the movie. They stop to talk to Guy.

Friend 7: Hey, Guy, you missed a really great movie. It was right up your alley.

They all have comments about the movie.

Friend 8: We’re going to get a drink, Guy. Want to come along? You don’t have to stay there, do you?

Guy: Thanks, guys. I appreciate it. I need to stay here for a bit longer. You all go ahead. Have a good time.

Friend 9: Hey, Guy. I feel bad that you’re up there on that cross while we’re down here going to movies, laughing and having a good time. You sure you’re ok?
Guy: I’m fine. Don’t worry. This is something I have to do.

Friend 10: You mean, like, you think God told you to do this?

Guy: (as the others stop their conversation and listen) Yeah. Yeah. That’s it. God told me to do this.

Friend 10: OK, Guy. Well, we’ll see you later.

Guy: Later.


Guy is sitting at the foot of his cross, having a snack, maybe listening to an iPod. Suddenly he looks off as though he hears someone coming. He quickly hides his food and drink, puts away the iPod and gets back on the cross


Guy is on the cross. He is watching his friends playing cards below. They are comfortable with him and no longer think him out of the ordinary. They occasionally ask him if he wants to sit in on the next hand. Or they ask him if he wants a drink. He almost agrees, but then refuses

Guy: No, I’d better not.


Guy is on the cross. A group comes in from off right, excitedly talking.

Guy: Hey, what’s going on?

Voice: It’s Jesus! He’s coming!. Guy straightens up, getting ready for an audience with Jesus. He looks off left, expectantly.
Jesus comes in, talking to the crowd. Guy tries to catch his eye. He writhes and moans. Jesus is busy with the others. Finally Guy gets off his cross, picks it up and joins the crowd behind Jesus, still trying to get his attention. Unsuccessful, he tries to make his way in front of Jesus. Finally he throws himself and his cross on the ground in front of Jesus.

Jesus: (looking at Guy) Hey, Guy, you ought to let go of that thing.

Guy: What?

Jesus: You ought to let go of that thing!

Guy: What?


Guy: What? (It’s not that he doesn’t hear. The entire idea is incomprehensible to him. He really has no idea what Jesus is saying.)

Jesus: “LET GO OF IT!!”
Guy, still not understanding, picks up his cross and takes it back to its place. He gets back on it. Jesus and the crowd leave.


Guy is on the cross, feeling lonely. A group comes in, arguing about something. They decide to ask Guy for advice. He gives them an answer and they leave happily. Guy straightens up a bit and is proud of what he has done. More guys come in to ask questions. Soon they are sitting at his feet, listening, asking questions. They think he is very wise. They praise him. Some bring gifts to put at his feet.


Guy is talking to the crowd from his cross. A small group comes in and criticizes him, asking what he thinks he’s doing. Why is he on that cross? What is his teaching? Why aren’t these people working? Guy has no answer. “His” group defend him at first, then become confused and begin listening to the newcomers. As the newcomers leave, Guy’s crowd follows, listening intently. One comes back to pick up his offering and takes it with him. Guy is dumbfounded.



Guy is on his cross. Jesus comes in and looks at him. Guy looks at Jesus.

Guy: What?

Jesus laughs softly.

Guy: WHAT?

Jesus: That’s really not what I had in mind, you know.

Guy: What?


Guy is on the cross. Jesus stands far to the right, looking at him. Guy looks at Jesus. Jesus holds out his hand, inviting Guy to join him. Guy hesitates, shrinking back, clutching at the cross. Jesus smiles at him. Guy gets off the cross slowly and takes a few steps as Jesus watches. Guy slowly gets closer, reluctantly; he stops, looking back at the cross. He’s undecided. He looks longingly at his cross, then at Jesus. This goes on for a few moments, with Guy becoming increasingly upset. Slowly he first leans toward the cross, then takes a small step toward it. Still looking at Jesus, then, he backs up to the cross, feeling for it as he gets closer. He touches it, wraps his arms around it, clings to it, increasingly more and more upset. Weeping openly now, he totally embraces the cross, looking at Jesus, who is still smiling at him.

The Last Scene
A bunch of guys are sitting or lying around a low fire. It’s just coals, really, and it’s cold. They are quietly talking and laughing. Maybe they’re camping.

One bends over the fire to blow on it, hoping to stir up a flame. He puts in a few sticks.

Friend 1: Hey, the fire’s almost gone out. We need more wood. It’s going to get cold tonight.

Friend 2: We’ve already used all we brought with us, and we’ve already searched for more on the ground.

Friend 3: Any ideas, anybody?

Guy: (He‘s been sitting among the others and we don‘t realize who he is until he stands up)
Anybody got an axe?
Guy walks over to his cross, which is leaning against their equipment, and drags it out.

Guy: Somebody help me with this.

One hands Guy the axe while others help him take it apart and throw it into the fire.

We hear the sound of an axe hitting the wood, and see the fire grow larger as the others crowd around it appreciatively.

One starts to laugh, quietly. Others join in; the laughter grows. Finally everyone is laughing with joy. It grows quiet, then one cackles, and it starts again.