Last week I wrote about the danger that's lurking in notion that we should not be striving for "perfection." Rather, it's often said these days, we should recognize that we are works in progress and that our attempts -- our "trying" -- is enough. The Twelve Step movement talks about focusing on "progress not perfection," and that's well and good as long as there is, indeed, progress. If we're honest with ourselves, though, it's all too easy to let ourselves loose sight of the goal when we don't make attaining the goal our goal. That's the danger, that we'll settle for trying and that that will make it too easy for us to slip into not trying.
There is an analogous danger that I've seen often among those of us with a "liberal religious" bent. I've known it myself firsthand. We note that, as it's often said, there are many paths up the mountain to God and no one path is necessarily "better" than another. We recognize, and I believe rightly, that the spiritual journey takes many forms and that no one can say "this one way is THE way for all people for all time."
At the same time, we emphasize that the goal of the journey is not as important as the journey itself. As I once put it, it doesn't really matter if you get to the top of the mountain or not. God is the mountain, as much at the base as at the summit. As long as you are on the journey, you have already arrived. (This is why the great Zen masters have said that to sit on your cushion is to attain enlightement.)
And yet . . .
Once again we come to that, and yet . . .
I have noticed that this kind of thinking can lead to a spiritual laziness in which we either stand around in the crossroads admiring all the various paths there are and congratulating ourselves on our enlightened understanding that any of them could get us where we want to go, or else we take a rest at some scenic overlook, knowing that we needn't hurry to arrive at our destination, yet somehow never quite get up and get moving again.
Note this point -- no one ever said that the journey isn't important. The journeying. Standing still isn't enough.
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