"Crown of Thorns Cactus"
- in my meditation garden -
The other day someone asked me about what the difference was between being detached and being indifferent. It was actually a great question because the two words sound sort of similar, but on a spiritual path they couldn't possibly be further apart in their meaning.
To be "detached" means that you don't cling too tightly or selfishly try to possess anything or anyone in a very impermanent world - to be "indifferent or apathetic" means you don't "give a hoot" about anything or anyone - an apathetic person is walled off from the world outside of one's individual self.
The psychologist, Rollo May, once wrote:
Hate is not the opposite of love;
I think there is a great truth in this observation. When you hate something or someone you at least feel some sense of connection to the thing or person you hate. But when you are apathetic you are cut off, removed and hidden within the confines of your own ego - you don't care, you just "don't give a hoot." As I see it, there is no room for apathy on a spiritual path.
While I try hard not to cling to, hoard or possess anyone or anything in my life, I do want to embrace my life as fully as possible. I want to really love, to be involved with, hold closely those people who join me at various times on my path of life - even those people with whom I disagree.
I want to be able to get up every morning and bask in the rays of the desert sun, my senses filled with the sounds of wind, the flutter of hummingbirds and the gurgling fountains, the smell of the flowers, the fragrances of the herbs in the garden - I want to deeply embrace it all, filled up and overflowing.
On my spiritual journey I want to passionately embrace this world in which I am placed and so I also want to feel loss and pain and personal anguish when I see poverty and injustice, even when it doesn't seem to affect me directly. I want to look deep into my soul and say: "I am an immigrant, I am that Black teenager killed on a city street, I am the homeless woman sleeping on the street" - what happens to them happens to me because we all belong to one another.
I am reminded of a passage from the Book of Revelation in the Christian scriptures:
I know you inside and out..You're not cold, you're not hot,
far better to be either cold or hot
rather than to be stale.
I wonder if "being stale" is another definition of apathy?
Tomorrow Holy Week begins on the Christian calendar, sometimes known as "Passion Week" - a remembrance of Christ's last week on earth. Oftentimes when people talk about the "Passion of the Christ" they refer to his suffering and death. I actually think the "Passion of the Christ" goes far beyond what happened to Jesus during his last week of suffering and death.
In fact, I think that I am such an avid follower of Jesus because he was so passionate.
He loved deeply, intimately connected with the lives of any who came his way. He immersed himself in the world - he prayed under the glow of the cosmic stars at night, took delight in the wildflowers and rejoiced in the splendor of the lilies of the field. He healed the sick and suffering and laid down his life for those who suffered injustice. He gave everything he had and everything he was for the good of others. He was the icon of what it means to live a passionate life.
As I enter into this week of "The Passion of the Christ," I pray that I may live my life as passionately as he did.
You certainly don't need to be a Christian to want to live life passionately.