I Dreamed A Dream In Time Gone By
"I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.”
I don’t know if I need to include the next paragraph. I don’t often “beg” but please don’t let it prevent you from reading the rest of this. The link to the YouTube video which is mentioned is included at the end of this letter. As usual this is not a short article. I hope that it is worth the time that it will take to read it.
Many of you know that I have taken a rather vehement stand against the abhorrent idea that God will punish anyone, let alone most of humanity, forever in some place called hell. I know that for some of you the premise that there is no “hell” would seem to shake your religious tenets to the core. It would force us to rethink our theology. I have spent hundreds of hours researching and studying this issue. I can speak to you about the 50+ places in the Bible that mention hell in the English King James Version and show you why none of those refer to this supposed place of eternal torment. I can discuss the English words eternal, everlasting and forever and the underlying Hebrew and Greek words, olam and aion. I can ask you a multitude of questions based upon the Bible that are unanswerable based upon the doctrine of eternal punishment and supply you with the answers, again based upon the Bible and biblical reasoning, that do make sense. I can give you 200+ pages of notes showing how disparaging to God and non-biblical this doctrine truly is.
Or... I can share with you two quotes, some lyrics and then simply tell you about my morning.
The Two Quotes
“When you stood there with that cheeky grin and said that you wanted to be like Elaine Page, everyone was laughing at you. No one is laughing at you now, that was stunning, an incredible performance.”
“Everybody was against you. I honestly think that we were all being very cynical and I think it’s the biggest wake-up call ever... it was a complete privilege listening to that.”
The Lyrics - I Dreamed A Dream
I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted
But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame
And still I dream he'll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather
I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.”
The lyrics are part of a song entitled “I Dreamed A Dream” from one of the great musicals, Les Miserables.
My Story - Today
It is 5:23 in the morning. Recently I have thought about starting my day earlier and hopefully going to bed earlier as well. My “intention” is to line up my day so it is more in line with the natural cycles of daylight and darkness. Though unplanned, I woke up about a half hour ago and thought that this would be a good day to initiate that “intention.” I did stay in bed for a few minutes and listen to a solitary bird outside our bedroom window serenade the coming morning.
Now that I am in my office area, the song of that solitary bird can’t be heard and the only noise I can hear is the steady hum of my computer. Those who know me well know that I enjoy very much what I refer to as white noise. This “white noise” is a steady vibration that seems to allow me to surround myself within it and block out the world. I can recall as a young boy curling up in my late grandfather’s rocking chair with a book and a blanket pulled up around me while a large window fan just 3 or 4 feet in front of me blew its cold air all around me. Cuddling under the blanket, engrossed in the story in the book, the steady humming sound of the fan somehow helped me escape in my mind to all the wonderful places I would read about. Sometimes I would pull the blanket up over my head and simply disappear into whatever adventure I was reading. To this day I can still picture the living room of 221B Baker Street, the home of Sherlock Holmes.
One of the attractions to this early rising idea was the opportunity to sit in relative stillness and quiet and spend some time in contemplation/meditation as well as writing. Before the world around me started to stir, before telephones started to ring and kitchens became a bustling centre of activity, I could put pen to paper so to speak though today of course it is fingers to keyboard.
I do have a couple of major writing projects on the go. For example, sitting next to me are a couple of hundred pages that I have written on that warm and fuzzy subject... hell, a.k.a. eternal punishment. My intention was to rewrite and edit some of that material this morning but I delayed that for a moment and checked to see what new e-mails had arrived overnight. There were about a half dozen or so. One of them caught my attention. It directed me to a video on You Tube. I didn’t realize that video of an extraordinary performance by a “frumpy angel” would become my inspiration for writing this morning.
A year or so ago, a very similar event happened. In 2007 on a show similar to American Idol called Britain’s Got Talent, a man named Paul Potts was a contestant. Paul’s relatively ordinary appearance and his job as a mobile phone salesman certainly gave no hint as to the enormous talent that lay within him. When he said that he was there to sing opera, I think the first impression of most people in the audience including the three judges was that this would be a disaster. That impression evaporated instantly as the first few notes of Nessun Dorma, a song from Puccini’s opera, Turandot, soared from his mouth. By the end of the song, the audience was on its feet giving him a standing ovation. Paul went on to win the contest, sing for the Queen and now travels the world sharing his gift with humanity.
After Potts first appeared on the show, one of the judges, Amanda Holden, said, “I think we have a little piece of coal who is about to turn into a diamond.”
This year it appears that a very similar thing has occurred on that show. A rather nondescript, 47 year old, unemployed lady named Susan Boyle walked out onto the stage and shared that she wanted to be as successful as Elaine Page. For those who don’t know, Elaine Page is referred to by some as the first lady of British musical theatre. She has appeared in Cats, Evita, Hair, Grease, Jesus Christ Superstar to name just a few. To be rather “judgmental,” one might describe Susan Boyle as “frumpy” and her desire to be as successful as Elaine Page seemed to be delusional, until of course the first few notes of “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical, Les Miserables, emerged from Susan’s mouth and by the end of her song, the audience and judges were on their feet giving Susan a standing ovation.
Why have these two people, Paul Potts and Susan Boyle, so profoundly impacted me? And despite my being a guy, why is it that I find my throat tightens up and tears well up in my eyes as I watch these two people sing and the audience respond?
After Susan Boyle sang, Piers Morgan, one of the judges said “When you stood there with that cheeky grin and said that you wanted to be like Elaine Page, everyone was laughing at you. No one is laughing at you now, that was stunning, an incredible performance.”
Amanda Holden, another judge, followed that up with the following words, “Everybody was against you. I honestly think that we were all being very cynical and I think it’s the biggest wakeup call ever... it was a complete privilege listening to that.”
Mitch Battros is the person who sent me the e-mail with the link to Susan’s performance. He wrote:
“Let me say right off - there is nothing scientific with what I am about to write - or is it. Every once in a while, a single person can make such an impression, that it can travel around the world. Susan Boyle is one of those unique individuals. I’m going to say it - my simple viewing of a YouTube performance of Susan singing “I Dream a Dream” presented the presence of God in a timeless moment”... What is it that is touching so many people at such a deep level? Perhaps it gives us the feeling of a divine spiritual presence which transcends looks, culture, gender, and everything else. No doubt some will think I have tippy-toed into woo-woo land, or it has just hit a sensitive unresolved childhood nerve. Well, maybe so, but evidently it has hit millions upon millions of others in a similar way. I can’t help but wonder if this is a tell-tale sign of what Mayan prophecy speaks of as we (many of us) transform into something else. It would be hard not to argue something is happening on a world-wide basis in two ways. The ‘physical’ - such as the current financial collapse, escalation of earthquakes, tornadoes, snowstorms, volcanoes, and soon to be hurricanes. And secondly, the more esoteric emotional, sensual, non-tangible, spiritual part of our humanness. Now here is where science may very well be playing its role. It is my belief in scientific research, that it is the “magnetic flux” which is shifting and having a direct causal affect on all living things. But I will stop here because I don’t want to lose this moment presented to us by Susan Boyle and something very very special which is unfolding now.”
Mitch got it right. There is something spiritual about Susan Boyle’s performance and I think it goes beyond her marvellous singing ability. And something is unfolding all over the world.
For years, religion taught me that humanity is lost, depraved and sinful at its very core. The term often used is “original sin.” I was told that though God loved the world, i.e. you and I, His wrath over our sinfulness was such that He created a place called hell where most of humanity was destined to end up and where God would punish all of those people forever and ever. Certain verses were rolled out to support that view. As I said I could give you 200+ pages of notes that refute that view based upon hundreds of hours of study and research but I am not sure any of that is any better than the lessons that come from the performances of Potts and Boyle and the reactions of the audience.
Instead of “original sin” it is time to emphasize “ORIGINAL BLESSING.” In his book, Original Blessing, Matthew Fox quotes a Native American elder as follows:
Goodness is the natural state of this world. The world is good! Even when it seems evil, it’s good. There’s only goodness in God. And that same goodness is in us all. You can feel it in yourself. You know when you feel good inside. Yes, you’re God’s child too. You are good. You are sacred. Respect yourself. Love the goodness in yourself. Then put that goodness out into the world! That’s everybody’s instructions.”
Christian mystic Meister Eckhart described the spark of the soul in each and every one of us as “Something like the original outbreak of all goodness, something like a brilliant light that glows incessantly and something like a burning fire which burns incessantly. This fire is nothing other than the Holy Spirit.”
At our deepest core is a place of love and hope and joy. It is a place where we rejoice when others experience their dreams, where selfishness doesn’t exist and where we applaud, encourage and support those who seek to find that place in their own lives and live out their dreams. It is a place where we all yearn to dwell and when someone is able to experience that place, it stirs within us the hope, faith and belief that maybe we can get there as well, even if only for a moment in time. It is a place that affirms our belief that no one is ordinary; everyone is unique and special, including you and I! It is a place where we experience what it is to truly be a human being. It is a place where the little lump of coal becomes a diamond.
Despite what I have been taught by religion, and despite the horrific violence and injustice that we human beings seem to perpetrate continually against ourselves, at our deepest core level, I believe that you will find the love, the kindness and yes, the goodness of God. When we are able to strip away the false ego and all that it entails we will discover the goodness deep within each and every one of us.
Why can’t God, the “Father” be a “black woman?”
We are not conceived in original sin and born wretched sinners fated to spend eternity in hell. Our source is God, we are made in His image or “Her” image if you prefer since we are long overdue to get beyond the image of God as a male, patriarchal judge in the sky. It is time that when a wonderful book like The Shack presents God, the Father, as a black woman, we rise above the literal physicality of such a description and our theological jargon and appreciate the infinite masculinity and femininity of God. We could debate whether God, as spirit, should even be described as masculine or feminine but I would suggest that to present God as being one and not the other is not only inaccurate but unjust, to God and the world.
It is time to see our beginnings as original blessings and not original sin. Tell a child over and over that he is useless and can’t do it and don’t be surprised when that child acts according to what he has been told.
It is time we stop and think about the universal principle that “like begets like.” Everything in this universe has its source in God, however you define God. For God to produce anything but something like Him or Herself is impossible. Goodness can only produce goodness. Light does not produce darkness and love does not produce fear.
Religion has the nerve to dump boat loads of condemnation, guilt and shame on us when we “live up” to religion’s expectations of us!
Perfection does not produce failure and yet, religion tells us over and over what failures we are, how dark we truly are, what wretches we are and then religion has the nerve to dump boat loads of condemnation, guilt and shame on us when we “live up” to religion’s expectations of us.
I do not deny that it is possible to cover up and hide who we are beneath layers and layers of all that we aren’t, to the point that one may wonder if there really is something good and beautiful lying within each of us but somewhere deep down, we know better. Though we may each appear to be nothing more than dirty, little lumps of coal, deep down we all hope, and in fact, know, that we are diamonds. I believe with all my heart that we have that hope, not because of what we want to be, but because of what we already are. It is simply our higher self seeking to express itself. It is God calling to us from within our own being.
Something inside of us resonates wonderfully and powerfully when someone like Susan Boyle goes from a lump of coal to a diamond almost instantaneously. Happenings like Paul Potts and Susan Boyle create such profound feelings in us because they are portraying perhaps the ultimate universal truth. Outwardly from a physical perspective, there was nothing that hinted at the amazing talent that lay within each of them. It went undiscovered for years and years yet it was there all the time. Jesus spoke about a treasure hidden in a field. Our bodies are made from earth. We are the field. Though our “field” may be in sad shape today, covered in weeds with the soil dried out and deficient in minerals and vitamins, there is still a treasure hidden in the field. That treasure is your spirit and my spirit which are in union with the spirit of God. It is God within us, it is that part of us that is with God and is God. You true higher self is that pearl, that diamond, that treasure and within us lives the eternal desire to express our higher selves.
Jesus said the kingdom of God was within humanity. If God is king of his kingdom, God must be where His/Her kingdom exists. God is within every human being at his or her deepest core level.
Have you received your standing ovation yet?
When that truth is discovered, when it is experienced, I believe that the audience that surrounds each and every one of us (be it angels or those who have gone on ahead of us) rises and gives each of us a standing ovation and perhaps even God does as well, much like we do when one of our children walks across a stage to receive a graduation diploma or some other reward for some accomplishment, much like the audiences that were so blessed by Paul Potts and Susan Boyle rose to their feet. If you think my suggestion that God may stand up and cheer us on, just remember that when the disciples returned to Jesus in Luke 10, it says literally that Jesus jumped for joy in the spirit because of their achievements.
We stand to our feet, not just because we admire and appreciate the performances, but because somewhere in us, the magic of the moment reaffirms in us that there is within each of us that goodness and love and purity that we all hunger for and our spirits jump for joy as well. We rise up, even if only for a moment, because we feel human and we express our true humanity rejoicing in a God-breathed moment. We rise up when we realize that the line in the song “I Dream a Dream” that says there are “dreams that cannot be” isn’t always true for with God nothing is impossible. Susan Boyle has wanted to sing before a large audience for 47 years and for most of those years, it seemed to be a dream that couldn’t and wouldn’t come true. Today something like 15 million people have watched Susan Boyle on YouTube over the last few days.
The greatest thing we can do isn’t something we actually “do.” It is simply recognizing who we truly are and what it means to be truly human, to be made in the image of God. It is the recognition that we and every human being are truly children of God.
God is not mad at you, and dare I say, has never been mad at you. God has not forsaken you or turned away from you because you are “sinful.” God has loved you, does love you and will love you and every human being for ever. God is all about original blessing. In fact, Judaism, from which Christianity claims its roots, has the view that God has but one purpose when it comes to his/her creation. It is God’s one and only desire to pour out blessings upon all of creation. That is truly “original blessing.”
How did we ever come with the idea that God was an eternal prison warden?
How did we ever go from that view of God to a view where God becomes an eternal prison warden overseeing an eternal prison inflicting more suffering upon his creation than his creation could ever inflict upon themselves?
It is time for an awakening among all people and if I may be so bold, among Christians in particular. It is time to come to the awareness that God will do whatever it takes to create in every human being an awakening to who they truly are, no matter how long it takes because God knows that the key to transformation, the key to the lump of coal becoming a diamond is the awakening to the awareness of who you and I and all of humanity truly are.
Here again is the portion of the lyrics Susan Boyle sang from “I Dream a Dream.”