Friday, September 07, 2007

Perceiving the Godhead

If one man calls you an ass, pay him no mind. If two men call you an ass, pay them no mind. If three men call you an ass, get yourself a saddle. (anonymous)

It's saddle time.

For 20 months, the theme of my team at work has been, "Hang on, it will get better." Over and over again, the message has been, "If you just hold on, things will get stable, and life will be good." And oh, I held on, because I had already been through hell, and I was looking forward to a taste of heaven - or at least, a lukewarm Purgatory...

However, in the last 3 months, the message has changed, and become loud and clear: "If you'll just hold on until things get stable, we'll finally be ready to outsource your job to India. Let us just flog you until this work becomes predictable and repetitive, and then we'll push you out of the airlock in your underwear."

The Mumbai folks have landed. (Bombay, for those of you who have been asleep for a couple years.) Hail, Elbonia...

The Greek chorus that lives in my head has been particularly active in the last two days. The principal themes have been

- How could you be so dumb - again - to buy into the "it'll get better" lie?
- This isn't the first time you've been shown this - or the 15th, for that matter. What personal perversion of yours keeps you in denial until you can hear pebbles tumbling into the abyss?
- Despite all the good things you've done here, why the hell do you still feel like you've failed here?

and the classic, loud solo voice, which has been taking a cadenza above the rest of the background chorus:

What the hell are you going to have to do to not end up here, again?

I'm struggling with all kinds of emotions, too.

Embarrassment - I've known better. Others have gotten out before this, and sounded happy. How come you haven't?

Fear - of rejection, of failure, of ending up in a place like this again. (After all, my best judgment got me here...) But most of all, of not being able to support myself and my family.

Resentment - at the Evil Empire, for leading us on, for using us like a cheap blow-up doll and throwing us away. And at myself, for allowing myself to be led on, and for finding denial such a comfortable place to live. At wasted chances, and the seeming waste of two years.

Regret - this opportunity looked so good, going in. Why couldn't it have turned out less bad than this?

The tragic part is, I heard this story twenty years ago at the National Storytelling Festival. It took Googling the title to remember that it was told by Gayle Ross, and this may not be the best rendition of it. But even back then, in my impaired state, I understood that there was a fundamental message for me in this story.

Sadly, there still is.

A young monk, studying in a mountain temple, was called by the Great and Wise Master, and told that his time of study has come to an end. "Now is the time," said the Master, "when you must carry your learnings into the world, that it might become a better place."

"I will give you a gift," the Master continued, "contained in these few words:
If you will perceive the Godhead in everyone, and everything, with which you come in contact, the path you walk will be a safe one." Then smiling and bowing, the Great and Wise Master led the student to the door of the mountain temple, gently pushed him out, and closed the door behind him.

As the young man walked down the mountain, he reveled in the freshness of the air, the sunlight upon his skin, and the gift the Great and Wise Master had given him. In the beauty of the trees, in the warm glow of the sun, in the twittering of the birds, he could perceive the Godhead in everyone and everything - and he felt safe, secure, and cared-for.

As he approached a village, he saw people running in terror. "Run away! Run away! An elephant has gone mad, and is rampaging in the village! He has demolished shops and homes, and he will destroy us all!"

Remembering his Master's words, he stopped the runners, gathered them together, and spoke to them, kindly and lovingly, about the power of perceiving the Godhead in all of creation - even the mad elephant. "If you can but perceive the Godhead in everyone and everything," the student assured them, "the path you walk will be a safe one."

But terror was within them, and they rushed off, calling frantically for the student to do the same. Calmly, serenely, sure of himself and his protection, he proceeded down the road into the village.

As he came onto the main street of the village, he saw the elephant as it was completing the demolition of a villager's home. Bodies were strewn everywhere. Yet as the elephant turned to face him, the student drew on all his training and his inner resources, and
perceived the Godhead in the mighty beast as bands of rainbow colors emanating from his body.

The elephant started to walk slowly toward him.

Focusing every bit of spiritual energy within him, the student
perceived the Godhead in this immense animal as clouds of beautiful, rainbow butterflies swirling in joy and beauty about the mighty head of the elephant.

The elephant continued on toward him.

And then, on a more personal level, the student
perceived the Godhead in this mighty it trampled him into the ground.

...later, as he awoke in the hospital...

As the student opened his swollen, bruised eyes, he vaguely perceived the image of the Great and Wise Master, sitting in the chair beside his hospital bed, with an air of concern and yet bemusement on his face. The student was instantly furious, and cried out, "You LIED to me, O supposedly Great and Wise Master!! You told me,
If you will perceive the Godhead in everyone, and everything, with which you come in contact, the path you walk will be a safe one." Now look at me!! Look at how your great gift has destroyed me!"

"My boy," the Master said, with a sad smile, "it is not the gift that is flawed, but your hearing of it. It is an eternal truth that
If you will perceive the Godhead in everyone, and everything, with which you come in contact, the path you walk will be a safe one."

"But my son," the Master asked sadly, "How is it that you failed to
perceive the Godhead in those who told you to stay the hell away from the elephant?"


Hope said...

I was going to type that I've never hugged an ass before but then I had to double check the truth of that and well....that was supposed to get you a laugh. Laughter, which is just as important as a hug. Hope you're experiencing both as you read this. Much love to you this day. You do continue to inspire me.

BentonQuest said...

Whatever happend to the Evil Empier's slogan of "Made in the USA"? With how many jobs are going to Mumbai, we should just make it a state.

I feel for you my friend! BIG BEAR HUG!

Erin said...

Crap for crap.
I feel quite sick... can't imagine how you feel.

The only thing I can think to say is that none of this diminshes who you are, nor the skills and talents you bear.

please keep us posted...

Peter said...

If we got everything right the first time, God would die of boredom...

Tom Scharbach said...

Well, Steve, good luck with the job move you'll be making. I hope that this will be the time when a door shutting opens a window for you.