“Just Keep Livin,” was a notion from David Wooderson, Matthew McConaughey’s character from the movie “Dazed and Confused.” The motto struck McConaughey so much that he named his foundation after it. I have dug it as a way of going about life–you struggle, you fall down, if you are lucky enough to get back up, just keep livin. You have great moments, you celebrate, you drink it in, just keep livin. What else can you do?
But what if you get to a point in life, you come to a crossroads, you have an awakening of some sort, and you look at life differently? What if you wake up to a revelation you can’t go back from? You are compelled to do something. You have to act.
Our destiny is to live out what we think, because unless we live what we know, we do not even know it. It is only by making our knowledge part of ourselves, through action, that we enter into the reality that is signified by our concepts. – Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”
You can know something all you want, right down into your very being, but unless you act on it, act in accordance with it, unless it means enough to live it, what do you really have?
Thought and life, thought and action, need to be aligned. They need to have each other’s back, to prove one another. It can be a feedback loop:
Living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to thought in such a way that we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. – Merton
I would venture to say, if you live in an area where you grew up, and you love life, you are tapping into something like experiencing new things in the old and old in the new. Coming at something familiar with fresh eyes is huge for me.
Let’s get back to action. We are a society whose actions don’t line up with our words. We see it in churches, politics, sports, schools, you name it. We are all guilty of it to some extent. But we can do something about it in our own lives.
I’ve been pretty good at thinking elevated thoughts, finding and mining great experiences outside, or as a father; having moments, minor epiphanies that leave me reeling; riding that stoke, maybe writing it down, on to the next. Surely they are moments to be savored, to carry with us, to seek out.
Then I come to a place in life, where things look different. Things feel different. Life the way it was falls apart, shakes to pieces. And a new life is opened up–opened up and connected, or uncovered to be part of something bigger. Like I’ve been given the gift of a new way of seeing and being. If I do nothing with that, if I put it on a shelf to come back to later, or I just keep living the same way, and sit on it, then what do I know differently? What have I done with the gift?
The spiritual life if first of all a life. It is not merely something to be known and studied, it is to be lived. – Merton
When you know things to be different than they were, it is no longer okay to just keep living. It’s more a matter to just get living.
There’s a funny thing about an awakening where God is concerned. That kind of awakening is not a matter of: go to church, be good, color inside the lines and everything will be okay. Anybody can do that and churches are full of people who like that safe approach to spirituality: follow the rules, keep your arms and legs inside the car at all times. It’s comfortable, reassuring.
Look back at the lives that the early prophets lived, the life that Jesus lived, the lives the disciples lived. Did they play it safe? Not so much.
The prophets, too, were a wild bunch. They had to be because they were the spokespeople of a wild God, a God who didn’t care much about temples and offerings but who cared a lot about the way people were treated and the opening of the human heart. – Richard Rohr, “From Wild Man to Wise Man”
In my mind, any kind of spiritual life is not about playing it safe, but following, being led by the spirit, or more specifically, the Holy Spirit working through us. The opening of the human heart. And that can be some scary stuff. But it’s when and where the adventure begins. It’s where it gets good. It’s open eyes, new eyes, wide eyes, looking down a path, taking it all in, and walking it to see where it goes.
Hold on, what’s different? I’ve walked paths, walked and run trails for years? What’s new? The difference is a new understanding: it’s not about me, or my walk specifically. I’m not just randomly picking paths. I’m trying to go where I am led, called, and trust it, trust God. I’m not setting out down a path I would have chosen or thought about prior to now. I’m trying to act on thoughts that I don’t exactly know how they came to me.
Wisdom is God Himself, living in us, revealing Himself to us only in so far as we live it. – Merton
I’m trying to wise up. And just get living.