"...When I'm drivin' in my car
And that man comes on the radio
He's tellin' me more and more
About some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination
I can't get no satisfaction
I can't get no satisfaction
'Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can't get no, I can't get no
I never really liked the Rolling Stones' version of this song. However, when Jeff came home from a FolkAlliance conference two years ago with John Batdorf and James Lee Stanley's new CD, All Wood and Stones, a compilation of their acoustic/folk versions of Rolling Stones standards, including a studio performance of "Satisfaction," I had a whole new perspective on this song.
It is a mournful dirge. A sorrowful anthem for a consumer society, and the insidious marketing voice that eggs us on in our search for that "just right, special something" that will satisfy our hunger for what it is actually impossible to fill from the coffers of consumerism, materialism, romanticism, or narcissisism. Our hunger for completeness. Our hunger to really, really know the answer to questions like: "Who am I? What is my purpose? What defines me? How should I live? Where is my peace? Will I ever know love...to love and be loved?"
What does this hunger really boil down to? I think, for me, it's all about the desire to know that our lives have meaning, that we can understand what that meaning is, and know that we are living on purpose. These are such great questions. But, it is the way we try to answer those questions that gives me pause.
Somewhere along the way, I think we decided that there could be human ways of determining whether we, or others, are really meeting spiritual goals, and/or achieving spiritual success. We concluded that there is a material baseline for judging spiritual progress.
Recently our family made a new car purchase. We were not looking for a luxury "brand," nor were we hoping to encourage others to think of us in a certain way, based on the make and model we were driving. We were just looking for qualities of reliability, size, and functionality. However, the car that, quite literally, found us just happened to come in a more luxurious package than I had ever expected. Although we gratefully accepted the divine gift this car (at its very reasonable, well below blue-book purchase price) represented, I knew from the get-go that it would provide important lessons in humility and grace. I was a tried and true Jeep driver.
I prided myself on my love for it's simple blue-collar lines, and truck-like "ride." It was my little slice of Colorado in Town & Country. This new car was not going to be as easy to pass off as a "Rancher goes to St. Louis" pickup truck-in-disguise, as my Grand Cherokee had been. I almost felt like I shouldn't be wearing my cowboy boots while driving it...I said almost, didn't I? As you can see I was already as intimidated by driving it, as I was appreciative of its qualities of solidity, soundness, and reliability. The lessons in grace would come sooner than I thought. Not long after picking it up from the lot, I drove to a shopping area we frequent, and someone called out "Hey, new car? [Your business] must be doing great! Good for you!"
I was kind of shocked. And to be honest, I didn't know what to say or how to respond. I'd never thought my car would suddenly give someone the impression that the growth or success of my spiritual healing practice could, in any way, be measured by the car I drove. I didn't want to be seen in those terms. I liked being the fish-out-of-water cowgirl, in the land of Lily Pulitzer and tennis togs. Before that moment, I didn't think I cared one bit what my car said about me, its simple, modest, I-don't care-what-year it-is-as long-as-I-can-drive-thorugh-a-boulder-filled-pasture statement suited me just fine. This new car was sending a message I wasn't so sure fit my sense of...well, me. I wasn't a nice car kind of girl, I was an old, but clean, classic no frills Jeep driver. I was a bit shaken by the fact that I was even thinking about this stuff.
But then I remembered an experience I'd had a year earlier. Because of the Missouri Dept. of Transportation's two-year closing of the major (and only) highway between our home in the city, and the school our girls attend in "the county", we needed to move so as to reduce the drive time by 30 minutes each way, our fuel consumption, and our carbon footprint. The only house I was even willing to look at, and which, to my surprise...and chagrin, seemed like the perfect, centralized location for us, was in a pretty upscale zip code nearer their school. Although our home is one of a small number of sweet little cottages situated right in the middle of baronial manses, you wouldn't know it by looking at our address. Soon after our move, an acquaintance called because she'd noticed my new address in a community directory. She called to say how happy she was to know that we were able to move to what she felt would be a better neighborhood for the girls to grow up in...closer to activities they were already involved in, friends, and a village where they could safely walk to the shops and stores. She continued, "What a wonderful demonstration of home you have made." What???
Our former home in the city was one of the most wonderful places I had ever lived. Finding it had been such a sweet, sacred instance of divine guidance and care for the girls and I. Moving away was heartbreaking. I'd not wanted to leave our lovely flat in the trees (we had the top two floors of an old three story home near an urban park and a major university) I didn't want to go back to taking care of a lawn, raking the millions of leaves I now face each fall outside our windows, or revisit the demands of gutters that needed cleaning or an icy driveway. I thought I'd "demonstrated" freedom. But my friend thought I'd finally been liberated from living "without"...without a single-family dwelling "all my own" and no downstairs neighbors to share a basement with. I'd felt free of a mortgage, while she thought I'd been doomed to landlords. I'd felt blessed by an incredible urban park and museums. She thought we'd been deprived of a yard for the children to play in.
I realized that our ways of looking at "success" in demonstrating good, were very different. As I continued over the next few months to "think on these things," I recognized that my criteria for what meeting spiritual goals like humility, modesty, generosity, and charity, should look like, were also rather mortal, measurable, and out-comes based. Did I really think that one kind of social program or political agenda better defined charitableness and peace, than another? Was the economic plan on one side of the aisle more spiritually evolved than the one on the opposite side? If you know me, you know that these are REALLY hard questions for me. It was clear that I needed to realign myself more directly with a deeper spiritually-based sense of living on purpose. But first I needed to understand where my friend was coming from.
Later that summer, I asked her out for tea and we talked about some of those perceptions, because by then what had become really important was for me to understand her perspective...and, hopely, I could help her understand mine. Together over the course of a series of lovely (and love-filled) conversations, we arrived at what was, I think, a revelation to both of us. Somehow, to her, my "demonstration" of more simplicity and less personal ownership by living in our flat in the city, had seemed to her like something that could be prayed about in hopes of a higher "more spiritually evolved sense of home." Whereas, for me, it was my prayer carved out in brick and stone. It represented a freedom to live more communally, to expose my children to different cultures, museums, be a part of a university neighborhood filled with thinkers from many disciplines and perspectives.
Neither of us was "wrong" in following our own hearts' desires - hers towards a warm, expansive home in the suburbs nearer her husband's work and her children's activities so that they could spend more time together in the evenings and less time in the car on weekends, and mine in the direction of an urban flat in a socio-economically diverse University neighborhood filled with culturally -rich opportunities, but requiring lots of driving every day. The real hiccup, for both of us, came when we realized that we had started to use matter-based outcomes for measuring anyone's inner journey.
As a western culture, when had we begun to equate a luxury vehicle with the demonstration of professional growth as a spiritual thinker, to measure the spiritual laws of abundance, wellness, or the demonstration of an understanding of divine goodness with zip codes, bank account balances, domicile square footage, acreage, the kind of kitchen countertops you have, or the labels in the clothes you wear. To determine the expression of beauty by the size of someone's clothes, the color of your hair, and the smoothness of your skin, or health by the speed at which you can run the mile, the range of motion in a joint, or how deeply one draws a breath of new mown air seems to put spirit in the grasp of matter. Intelligence cannot be defined, nor is it "demonstrated" by a higher SAT score, a terminal degree, or a teacher's praise. Charity is not measured by more or less, and humility can never be scrutinized or charted on a behavioral bar graph. The integrity of an honest man is not in a measured accounting of the deeds we witness, nor can the understanding of eternal life be ratified by more years.
True satisfaction, intelligence, peace, wealth, beauty, abundance, wellness, immortality can only be found in the heart...the province of Spirit, where divine Love reigns and governs man. It comes from a deep and abiding conviction that God...Love, Truth, Principle, Soul, Mind, Spirit, Life...actually is what He promises to be, ever-present, all-powerful, immutable, unconditional (even beyond the conditions of our thought, our prayers, our good deeds, or our mistakes), eternal good.
So if this is the case, what is ours to do? What do we "demonstrate?"
Mary Baker Eddy so lovingly tells us in no uncertain terms,
"You have simply to preserve a scientific,
positive sense of unity with your divine source,
and daily demonstrate this."
Anything else is, as Stephen Gottschalk counsels in his article, written for the American Encyclopedia of Religions, "Christian Science vs Harmonialism" the desire to use Spirit to get, or "demonstrate" better matter, and is the opposite of Christian Science. And of this Science, its Discoverer and Founder, Eddy states:
"The emphatic purpose of Christian Science is the healing of sin..."
In thinking about this purpose of Christian Science, the definition of "sin" that most resonates with what I understand to be Eddy's sense of the word, is found in its shared etymologic root with the word "sunder" or "to separate". To me, "sin" means, simply, the belief that anyone or anything is, or ever could be, separated from God, the only Cause and Creator.
Any way of thinking that starts from the false assertion that there is a Cause or Creator other than God, a lapse of His government, or a falling away from His presence...is the only sin there is...the belief of sin, or separation. This belief, or fear that we are separated from God is at the root of all the ways we might behave "sinfully"...behaviors that are only a fear-based reactions to that one and only false starting point - separation, behaviors which we ignorantly call sin. Greed, theft, infidelity, envy, etc. are reactions to sin, not sin itself. As long as we are trying to heal sin by going after behaviors, rather than the addressing the root belief, we are missing the mark. Stealing is just a reaction to the base belief that God is not impartially and universally present as abundant good. Anger, hatred, violence are just reactions to the false premise that God is in fact, not an unconditionally loving Father-Mother, but a partial God who meets out love, justice, and mercy to some, and not to others.
True satisfaction comes from, an abiding conviction that we are spiritual...that we are one with God....one with goodness, intelligence, love. This spiritual unity is invulnerable and without abrogation. There is nothing we can do to weaken or breach this inviolate, indissoluable spiritual link. Because it is whole and holy...never humanly circumscribed or portioned...it can't be measured by human out-comes, nor can it be achieved or accumulated...it can only be accepted.
Mary Baker Eddy reclaims the keynote to real satisfaction, when wrote what I believe is redeeming anthem for the deeply contented, "satisfied" spiritual thinker. One for whom there is always pure peace..."whate'er be tide". She begins this poem, "It matters not what be thy lot, so love doth guide..." I wonder if it even matters one little bit to the spiritual thinker whether he has a lot to build his house on, or alot to put in it. Perhaps he (or she) is just satisfied if he can love alot. And just think about it, what could possibly ever stop any of us from the joy of abundant loving. As Paul says in Romans:
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Or, as Eddy writes in this remarkable poem, "Satisfied":
"It matters not what be thy lot,
So Love doth guide;
For storm or shine, pure peace is thine,
And of these stones, or tyrants' thrones,
God able is
To raise up seed - in thought and deed -
To faithful His.
Aye, darkling sense, arise, go hence!
Our God is good.
False fears are foes - truth tatters those,
Love looseth thee, and lifteth me,
Ayont hate's thrall:
There Life is light, and wisdom might,
And God is All.
The centuries break, the earth-bound wake,
Who doth His will - His likeness still -
Living in the space of this deeply satisfying spiritual certainty, our peace is unshakably fixed, immovable and beyond anything that can be bought, borrowed, wished for, marketed or measured. In this space we really "can't get no satisfaction" because it is already, and always, ours.
with "pure peace"...
Kate Robertson, CS
[photo credit: Caitlin Moss 2009]