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It came unexpectedly: the blackened sky, the gale-strength winds, the spattering downpour, the truncated tree limbs and shrubs, the flickering of my electrical power—light-dark-light-dark light-dark—an interval of light, then more episodes of flickering, then light. It was seven P.M., supper completed in my kitchen. I prayed. Mercifully, the power did hold fast, supporting the oxygen concentrator for the night.

Later, this metaphor surfaced. The uncertainty between the dark-light flickers mirrored the “Yes-Buts” that occur when not fully conscious and turned away from God’s direction for the next breath. Like sitting on the fulcrum of a seesaw, going nowhere, I’m adrift within instinctual quicksand, rife with the seven deadly sins: pride, anger, greed, lust, gluttony, envy, and sloth—integral to my humanness. 

Another’s suggestion can easily trigger my “Yes-But” reaction, for that’s what it is—not a response. Imbalance sets in. Anger, pride, and sloth take center stage banked by monstrous fears. My “Yes,” spoken behind a mask of subterfuge, serves to placate the friend’s feelings for the offered suggestion, while the “But,” oozing with pride, reveals my self-centered ego. Sloth clouds my judgment with resistance to change, especially if it involves sacrifice.

Living in the indecisiveness of “Yes-Buts” deepens quagmire existence. I know. I’ve been there. No effort, no spiritual growth.

There is a way out, as I’ve often blogged: the Twelve Steps of any recovery program. Discovery of a Higher Power reverses such “Yes-But” reactions as we clean up our inner world with transforming grace and become honest. It works if you work it. light-color returns.

I seldom know when a critical message will pounce upon me like a rambunctious toddler gripping my knees with gummy hands. One such message, “Be fiercely authentic,” was printed on the underside of an aluminum foil wrapper of a Dove milk chocolate. The sweetness quickly dissolved upon my tongue, but not the message, delivered in the imperative voice.

Such rigorous self-discipline is not new to us. Only girded with honesty and humility is it possible to unearth shadow material—instincts gone amuck—lodged in our unconscious and distorting our thoughts and choices, leaving mayhem in our wake. Instead, it’s about learning who we really are, and with this self-knowledge serving our God, others, and ourselves. But few bother to go there, especially today—too arduous. Yet past cultures deemed otherwise.

The ancient Greek aphorism, “Know thyself” was one of three maxims inscribed on the forecourt of the third site of the Apollo Temple in Delphi Greece (mid fifth century BCE), the god of music, light, healing, harmony, and oracles. Such was also incorporated in Aeschylus’s play Prometheus Bound (424 BCE), in Socrates’s history Memorabilia (371 BCE), in the Dialogues of Plato (347 BCE). Numerous poets, authors and playwrights, including William Shakespeare referenced this self-knowledge, essential to our humanness. Theologians Heidegger and Thomas Merton also spoke eloquently of authenticity.

I still marvel at my 1998 Grecian tour to Apollo’s Temple with its discovery of the maxim, “Know Thyself,” shadowed in the afternoon sun—a maxim that under-girds the practice of the Twelve Steps. I’m still practicing …

“Let’s have a look,” said the serviceman from Arenz Pest Management as he knelt down, flipped on his flashlight, and poked through the dark stubble massed in the corner of my back porch. I looked over his shoulder, eager to have expert eyes analyze this disorder that had reappeared since last week’s vacuuming.Text Box: “I don’t see this very often,” he said squinting, adjusting his uniform cap. “You’ve got lots of spiders in your attic—having a bash. What you see on the floor are the remains of dead insects they spit out. See that opening in the joint, above the windows? That’s where they’re having the bash. In time, the spiders will die off, and so will your problem. Keep vacuuming in the meantime.” 

As I reflected upon this experience, a metaphor surfaced. The spiders are likened to covert spin-doctors, propagandist experts, and masters of media distortion; they take a truth, chew through it, and spit out what is foreign to their ideologies. What remains is deadly and creates havoc within the populace, asleep with their eyes wide open. In no way can societies live in harmony. The sickness even permeates those in leadership roles.

On the other hand, “the clean of heart,” simple, humble folks, often poor, are like trained servicemen and women who adhere to the whole truth in their psyches, name the half-truths in our maniacal culture spinning around us, and find solidarity with the like-minded.

There is a way out, but it requires consciousness and work. In the meantime, as counseled by the Arenz tech, “Keep vacuuming!”

isolated red vacuum cleaner.3d render.See also:

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