I want to write to you today about the three battlegrounds of deconstruction that you cannot surrender.
(This reminds me of a totally unrelated story. Many years ago after we went through a horrendous church split, my wife went to see Francis Frangipane who authored the book, The Three Battlegrounds. This was back in the day when we were totally immersed in that culture. At the time I liked the book. But I wasn’t ready to expose myself to more religious crap so fresh after a church split that killed my spirit. Lisa has a softer heart and wanted to hear him. That evening when she came home she said I just had to go hear him the next day. He’d approached her and told her he wanted to meet her husband because he had a word from the Lord for me. So I reluctantly went. After I heard him speak I went up to meet him. He said something like this: “I just wanted to say that you went through this church split because God wanted to show you the pain of division. From now on will be planted forever in your heart a deep disdain for division, but also an undying passion for the unity of all God’s people.” Even though I do not embrace all the packaging that word came in, I still cherish the essence of it to this day.)
But the battlegrounds I want to talk about today are specific to deconstruction. They may or may not match your battlegrounds. These are ones that are mine that I’ve had to fight for and win, but also keep! Perhaps you can add your own and share it with us or just respond to me by clicking “reply” to this letter.
1. THE MIND: The most heated battle for me was the mind, the intellect. This to me was the most important ground to win. If I won this one I was convinced that all other battles would eventually fall to my rule. It wasn’t enough for me, when I left the ministry and the church, to say, “What the heck was that?” and reject it all as foolishness. I had invested too much serious thought and time and energy in trying to understand myself and my universe and all mysteries to toss out all my investigations, studies and contemplations I had hereto engaged in. I agree with mystics who discover that their miraculous discovery, their revelation, their samadhi, ends up being completely different than what they were searching for. This doesn’t mean it negates the search. Rather, it simply distinguishes them from each other. The revelation I received that night was the dream of the waterfall that started my development of the “z-theory”. That was the key which opened everything to me. It was my revelation, my samadhi, my nirvana. And it has never left. I believe we need a way to try to understand ourselves, our universe, and all mystery, in order for our minds to enjoy a peaceful poise. Even if it is chaos theory, we must trust that our true mind, not the ego mind but our true mind, can come to a place where it is at peace with itself and rests in the wisdom that all things are one, including our past journeys, thoughts and endeavors. You haven’t wasted your time or your thoughts! I claim that if you keep pressing in you will win the ground and suddenly all the strange-shaped pieces will click into place and create a complete picture for you that will bring peace to your mind.
2. THE HEART: This was the second battle for me. This has to do with my emotions… specifically my relationships. I knew when I left the ministry and the church that the nature of my relationships would change. Granted, I had no idea the extent to which this was true. But I knew when I left the church the relationships with my friends, people in the church, and my family would change. I experienced a drastic drop in friends, I bewildered my parents and others in my family, and the loneliness I’d only heard about for those outside church fellowship became a stark reality for me. Like I said before, it’s one thing to gain ground, it’s another thing to keep it! This is a battle I still wage. Keeping this ground and not surrendering it takes due diligence! As soon as I left the church the shallow superficiality that I suspected in many of my existing relationships became grossly evident. Many people I thought were friends were suddenly fair-weather ones. I understand that relationships change and don’t need to stay at the same level of intensity. I also understand that I left them, not them me, and I brought much of this upon myself. But I also know that I am looking for significant relationship that is meaningful and substantial. The temptation to go back into superficiality is sometimes strong because loneliness is a terribly toxic feeling. Filling it with disappointing relationships though might only feel good for a moment but doesn’t last and just makes things worse! There is also the temptation to enter into inappropriate relationships that almost everyone experiences at some time or another. Deconstruction can create the unhealthy opportunity to betray the relationships we already have that are worthy. But I’ve learned that “stay the course” is the best strategy when fighting for this battleground. I’m certain that healthy relationships will come into my life. In fact, Lisa and I have some friends now that are satisfying. There’s more work to be done, but I think we’re on our way to victory here.
3. THE BODY: By the body, I mean my whole self, including my spirit. It’s like when we go to a good doctor with an ailment, he or she will ask not only questions to do with our actual bodies but with things like stress. It’s all connected. I will confess to you that during the most intense period of deconstruction I was probably also at the most unhealthiest. I adopted a “Oh heck with it!” kind of attitude and let restraint fly out the window. I smoked, ate, and drank too much. I lost all discipline because, I suspect, at the root of it was a kind of suicidal impulse. Life was so overwhelming, disappointing, and incredibly sad that I think there was an “I just don’t care anymore” mentality at work. My relationship with Lisa suffered the most and poisoned every aspect of our life together, including our sex life. After months of enduring this board by board deconstruction of all I’d held dear a severe hopelessness set in and I truly wondered if I would ever make it or if it was even worth the effort. I wanted to run away from everything I knew. I felt like Frodo trying to get the ring to Mordor and the further he got the more hopeless and lethargic he became until Sam had to practically drag him. The truth is, Frodo was getting closer, and the fight is always the most intense nearest its completion. I know because I completed it. You can make it! I want to encourage you to keep moving on. I do not for a second promise that the battle will soon be over. But it will change. It will change from exterminating the enemy to simply keeping it at bay. I found that it is important to dig down and gather every bit of energy you have to invest in what you have already… your body, any family or friends or partners you have, your spiritual life. For, as attacked and beleaguered though these may be, there is reward in investing in these and breathing life into them again if they are healthy for you. Do like the flight attendant advises: put the oxygen mask on yourself first! As soon as you are breathing again, life will return to you.
So, take care of your body. I try to watch my diet, practice moderation with alcohol, not smoke if I can help it, run. Develop new spiritual disciplines. I meditate, read philosophy, practice awareness and being here now, write in my journal, paint. Work on being a good friend to someone. Lisa and I are restoring old friendships that are worth saving, we are making new friends, we are learning how to be alone without being lonely… that’s a hard one.
I want to recognize how repugnant what I’m saying could be to some of you. I know when I was going through it the best advice was the most annoying. Looking back now, I wish I’d listened to it. At the time though it sounded like platitudinous bullshit. If you want to call this that, you are welcome to. I just want to say this: I’ve gotten to the point now where I think I can safely say that my borders are fairly secure and its mostly a matter of keeping my ground. I know many of you are here. But if you aren’t here yet, fight the good fight and you will be here eventually.
With love and care,