Episode 19, Lesson 11: “My Meaningless Thoughts Are Showing Me A Meaningless World”

Our thinking processes misguided by the world and our culture have us on a tragically wrong track about life’s purpose.

Welcome to Episode 19 of “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Activists.” I’m your host, Mike Rivage-Seul.” And today we turn our attention to Lesson 11 in ACIM’s Workbook for Students.

It invites us to think clearly about the purpose of life – about its meaning. It tells us “My meaningless thoughts are showing us a meaningless world.”

Of course, today’s lesson follows up on yesterday’s where we ended up praying: “Lord release me from all that I now believe.” Yes, The Course still has us in the process of trying to clear our minds of false ideas about God and life itself, but also (as social justice activists) about our country, its history, and what it’s doing in the world. (This process of thought-purgation, cleansing, and removal of intellectual debris will continue in The Course for some time. So be patient.)

Today’s lesson asserts that our thinking processes misguided by the world and our culture have us on a tragically wrong track about life’s purpose. Let’s think about that.

Apropos of doing so, Neale Donald Walsch suggests that every morning as we look in the mirror, we should ask ourselves four questions – all of them connected with today’s lesson. Walsch’s questions are:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Where am I?
  3. Why am I here?
  4. What am I going to do about that?

Our culture gives superficial answers to all those questions. It tells us that:

  1. We are an Americans.
  2. We live in the greatest country in the world.
  3. We are here to enjoy ourselves and accumulate as much money and as many goods as possible.
  4. So, all of us should go out and shop till we drop.

Clearly, none of those answers is true. To begin at a superficial level, we’re not the only “Americans.” That name belongs to people living in this entire hemisphere. Canadians are also North Americans, and so are Mexicans. Brazilians and Venezuelans are South Americans. Nicaraguans and Hondurans are Central Americans. As citizens of the United States, we might more accurately call ourselves “Usians.”

At a deeper level, of course, all of us are human beings. But what does that mean? Are we simply individual animal bodies colliding against one another as we scramble around in fierce competition for scarce goods? A lot of people believe that. Our culture seems to say so.

Yet all of us know deep down that our scrambles, collisions, and competitions soon end exactly like a dream. At the end of their lives (and often before) “Americans” holding this view end up inhabiting what Lesson 11 calls “a meaningless world.” (That’s the significance of the term “meaningless” in A Course in Miracles. It refers to what doesn’t last. What is unreal or meaningless simply doesn’t last.)

For A Course in Miracles, the only reality that lasts is the single Divine Energy that manifests itself in bodies like our own and in the entire universe. That Energy includes consciousness. In traditional language, the only thing that lasts, the only thing that’s Real and Meaningful is (please excuse the misused and debased expression) “God.”

And here’s the Good News of The Course: we are all part of God. At our essence, we are expressions of divine energy. We are spirits having the very temporary bodily experience we call “my life.”  

Relative to Source, the Ground of Being, Ultimate Reality, and “God,” we are all really one Energy. Everything is. We’re like waves on the ocean. We arise like waves, exist as such for a short time, and then return to being part of the ocean.

According to this view, there is really only one of us here. The distinctions between any of us are all quite superficial – like the distinction between those waves. I’m talking here about nationality, skin color, cultural differences, personalities. . . We’re all in this together. We’re in competition with no one. We are one with each other and with animals, plants, minerals, earth, fire, wind, and water.

The purpose of life then is to live from that place. It is the only reality. All the rest is unreal; it is meaningless; it will soon pass; and we’ll be left only with vague memories of events that we won’t be even sure really happened as we recall them. It’s like they never occurred.

Doesn’t that ring true for you? (Well, maybe not yet. But stick with The Course, and it soon might.)

In the meantime, living from the place I’ve just been describing (i.e., from a conscious awareness of the unity of all creation) has political consequences. Those are what concern me especially in this podcast specifically about the connections between A Course in Miracles and social activism.  

If we adopt ACIM’s approach (which, by the way, reflects basic Christian mysticism) we might draw the following highly political conclusions:

  1. We are not principally “Americans” at all. We are human beings. Even more deeply, we are expressions of Divine Energy manifesting itself in very temporary and rapidly changing bodies. While each of us is “special,” we are no more special than the poor women and children seeking asylum at our borders. They are us.
  2. And as for where we are, we are not really in a place called “America” or even in the United States. Those designations are human inventions intended to obscure humankind’s basic unity. I know this is difficult to accept. However, the Great Conscious Divine Energy recognizes no borders, no national identities. No one owns the earth or any of its parts. It belongs to everyone. Immigrants and asylum seekers belong here as much as any of us.
  3. Thirdly, our purpose in life is to live from a consciousness of the unity of all creation and of all human beings. This means that competition is out; cooperation is in. It means that capitalism’s destruction of the congealed energy we call “Planet Earth” is out; treating the earth as a living being deserving our love and respect is in.
  4. Fourthly (answering the question of what to do about this consciousness) it seems to me that for starters, we’ve got to:
  • Stop all our wars – every one of them – drastically cutting military budgets meant to defend us from the world’s poor. In the words of Pope Francis, “War never again.”
  • Work on creating a world with room for everyone
  • Where labor can claim as much mobility as capital in ignoring and crossing borders
  • Open our borders to those seeking asylum from our wars against them, our destruction of their homes, schools and hospitals, and the devastation of their ecosystems at the hands of our colonialism and neo-liberal capitalism.

Yes, all our thoughts about American exceptionalism, about consumption and competition, about war and borders are all meaningless. They have created a meaningless world that has no future.

It’s up to us Course in Miracles students to reverse all of that. It’s the only way to the “inner peace” that A Course in Miracles aims at. In the words of Lesson 11, today’s idea (“My meaningless thoughts are showing me a meaningless world”) “contains the foundation for the peace, relaxation, and freedom from worry that we are trying to achieve.” Accepting the truth of the thought that “My meaningless thoughts are showing me a meaningless world” is also the only way towards achieving world peace.

So today, for our practice periods, simply follow the directions the lesson gives. It says, “Begin with your eyes closed, and repeat the idea slowly to yourself,” ‘My meaningless thoughts are showing me a meaningless world.’ “Then open your eyes and look about near and far, up and down, — anywhere. During the minute or so to be spent in using the idea, merely repeat it to yourself, being sure to do so without haste, and with no sense of urgency or effort. . .. Three practice periods today will probably be sufficient.” I intend to join you in doing that throughout my day.

Then, in a day or so, let’s get back together to focus on Lesson Twelve.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

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