The experience has been not just a bad dream, but a sordid nightmare. Now it comes to an end. We count the days, we look forward to picking up the pieces of our shredded traditions and institutions; we wonder what will remain of the world we knew, and we tentatively begin to dare to dream once more of what life may be like on January 21st.
Our soul drifts between the two poles of our human extremes: our faithful heart and our devious mind. We know very well the soul's noble character in which we love and receive love, we practice hospitality and graciously receive it, we feel deeply moved not only from the suffering of people we know but also those we do not know except through stories passed on to us by the media or our friends and neighbors. We open our hearts to the stranger in need, to the suffering of our pets and animals in the wild. We mourn the loss of life and the threat to our environment. We hold these losses within the compassion of our faithful heart that moves us to create a better world.
But then there is the other side of our personal and national character, the extreme that lies in the shadow-land of our consciousness. This is what I am referring to as "the devious mind." Here in the little neighborhood where I live, each holiday season we decorate a Christmas tree at the open-street entrance to our comfortable but modest homes. The Christmas tree is one you might expect in thousands of neighborhoods across the land, although our tree would probably win the prize for the most unoriginal, plain, uncreative Christmas tree. However, we enjoyed the tree even though there was not much to it, just a natural, green tree with no ornaments except the strands of colored lights. But someone continued to steal the bulbs. Finally, now only a few days after Christmas, our desolate, lonely and rather drab Christmas tree has only a few bulbs left! Our chairperson of the Christmas tree committee sent to all of our neighborhood the rather discomforting news that he saw no other choice but to cut off the electrical power to the tree. Actually, not a lot of us had noticed that the lights had continued to get dimmer as the days of Christmas came and went.
But it is the principle of the thing! It is not just that someone(s) were stealing our bulbs. For heaven's sake, we would gladly have donated lights to anyone who did not have enough bulbs for their tree. Really, it is not simply just "the principle of the thing." No. It is the devious act of stealing the bulbs that intrudes upon the Christmas spirit and anything else that might be regarded as holy in our secular, pluralistic world.
Because of its secretiveness, its sneaky act of petty theft that seems to be not a vagrant act of desperation but more likely an act of spite, of deceitfulness, dishonesty -- this is what makes the act appear to be devious. It is too close to the surface of our human character not to remind us of something deeper in the archetypal layers of personality where dwells the shadow that is nourished by lies, dishonesty, deceit, and underhanded acts.
This is the extreme of human personality that dwells in opposition to the faithful heart. We have to admit there is something in us that is fascinated by the macabre, the bizarre, the conspiracy, the catastrophe, and the pompous liar who commands attention to fuel his dark insecurity.
The threat of the devious mind is real and a threat to us personally and socially. But our faithful heart leads us to compensate in order to ward off the danger because the faithful heart seeks the good, the true, and the beautiful. Think of our schools, universities, military forces, police, governments that create and support democracies, hospitals, churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, museums, symphonies, and on and on! Against the forces that would lie and destroy the good in the world, the Good prevails.
Are we assured the faithful heart will prevail? Not at all. And that is what brings us to this moment just before the New Year dawns. This is the moment when -- are you prepared for this -- the moment when we sit down quietly to formulate our NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS.
In this simple unassuming act, each of us knows on some level that this is a moment of truth when we choose between the faithful heart and the devious mind.