"I am upset because I see a meaningless world."
PRACTICE SUMMARYPurpose: To see that the world is meaningless, to erase what you have written on it and to see what God has written on it.
Exercise: 3 or 4 times, for 1 minute or less; stop when you feel strain.
- Look about slowly, shifting your glance at regular time intervals. As you look about, say: "I think I see a fearful world, a dangerous world, a hostile world," and so on, using literally whatever descriptive terms occur to you, even positive ones.
- At the end add: "But I am upset because I see a meaningless world."
What upsets us is an empty slate, a canvas without paint; we can't resist, we have to paint our meaning on it, and when we do, what we see is frightening, sad, violent or insane. We can't simply accept the world as meaningless and "let the truth be written upon it for you" (5:3); instead, "you are impelled to write upon it what you would have it be" (5:4). We can't allow God to give the world, and ourselves, our meaning; we want to make our own. The result is an upsetting view of everything.
This idea, that what I think is upsetting me is not really the cause of my upset (see Lesson 5 again), is an incredibly useful one. It can work miracles in our experience. I recall the first time this really sank in. I had just gone through a disappointing exchange with my girlfriend, one in which I realized that she didn't want to spend time with me as much as I did with her, and she had an interest in someone else. I was feeling spit upon, put down, a second-class citizen; I was angry at her for not realizing what a prize I was and for making me spend my Saturday evening alone. I was miserable.
All of a sudden the thought came to me, "I'm doing this to myself; it isn't her." I thought of the song from "My Fair Lady" where Rex Harrison sings, "I was supremely independent and content before we met. Surely I could always be that way again...and yet." I realized that I was choosing to see her as the cause of my upset, but it was the way I was thinking about the situation that was making me miserable. If I wanted to, I could still be happy. It was a major revelation to me! I wasn't sure I liked it, to be honest, but my inner sense kept telling me, "This way lies real liberty." That was a big beginning for me.
Let the world be meaningless to you today. Don't be so quick to impose your meaning on it. Just let what is so be what it is, without any meaning, and let the Holy Spirit have a chance to write His meaning on it.
When your words have been erased, you will see His. That is the ultimate purpose of these exercises (5:8-9).
There is a Workbook-like saying given in the Text that runs along the same line:
When your peace is threatened or disturbed in any way, say to yourself:
I do not know what anything, including this, means. And so I do not know how to respond to it. And I will not use my own past learning as the light to guide me now.
By this refusal to attempt to teach yourself what you do not know [or to write your meaning on the blank slate], the Guide Whom God has given you will speak to you. He will take His rightful place in your awareness the instant you abandon it, and offer it to Him (T-14.XI.6:6-11).
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