The Tragicomedy of I AM
What do I mean when I say, I AM? Why two words and not one? Is the 'I' distinct from AM?
'I' am the crucified martyred hero of this melodrama. But AM is the chorus of life itself. In classical drama, the chorus observes the action, reflecting wisdom from the experience of the separate 'I.' For 'I,' the story is usually a tragedy. But for AM, the same story is a divine comedy.
Classic tragedies end in destruction and death. So for the separate 'I,' each moment seems shadowed with foreboding. Comedy, on the other hand, turns out well, despite occasional moments of darkness and despair. The tragic little 'I's' usually end up at a wedding, dancing, a circle of communion.
When 'I' experience the story as 'mine,' there is an undercurrent of feeling that 'this may not end well: something bad could happen.' But the comic AM continually senses the abiding Presence of love. Love knows without rationalizing, 'All will be well.' Some of Shakespeare's greatest comedies are filled with tragic plot elements, yet all's well that ends well. Dante called his dark awful journey to God through hell and purgatory, 'The Divine Comedy.' Agatha Christy expressed the comic spirit when she wrote: 'I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.'
Is your life comic or tragic? Are your days pervaded by a brooding sense that something is wrong? Or do you sense through it all the hidden message that Christ whispered to the 14th Century English mystic, Dame Julian of Norwich: 'Sin is necessary. But all will be well, and all will be well, and every manner of thing will be well'?
Einstein said there is one fundamental question for humanity: 'Is the universe a friendly place?'
And Martin Luther King believed, despite all the tragedy of being black in America, 'The arc of the moral universe tends toward justice.'
Of course there are moments when, 'something is wrong' and we need to act. Those moments arise, not as curses, not as obstacles, but as situations that evoke our creativity and care. But if our life is pervaded with the sense that something is wrong, then even when we have much for which to be thankful, the 'I' will abscond with the blessing of life, turning into a melodrama.
The ego accomplishes this dark magic through one simple device: thinking. The very thought that the wholeness of Existence happens to an 'I,' and that this totality is 'my' existence, creates separation from being itself. And this separateness generates a sense of alienation - which we once called 'sin' - a sense of something terribly wrong that 'I' have done. But the only actual 'sin' is that 'I' have separated myself from existence through a thought.
At any moment, no matter how dire the occasion, 'I' have the freedom to rest as AM, to become the wholeness of Being again, whose nature is pure love. And this in the end is my only freedom. I choose whether to regard the arc of my story as tragedy or comedy.
The great testimonies of spiritual liberation often come from prisons rather than mansions and meadows. In prison, the prisoner loses every freedom, every choice, except awareness of the Am. The prophet Jeremiah, St. Paul, George Fox (the first Quaker), Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn, Gandhi, Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King: all realized freedom in the prison cell, communicating their expanded vision from a physical confinement that drove them beyond the little 'I.' This is the meaning of the Cross: the 'I' crossed by the horizon of Christ-Consciousness.
Radical as it may sound, there is no other freedom. All relative freedoms - political, economic, psychological - are conditioned and temporal. Conditional freedom can disappear in the twinkling of an eye. The earthquake, the terrorist bomb, the cancer, may befall me any time. But despite the terror of 'I,' even at the hour of my death, AM is possible....
The reader may protest. The reader may be quite angry: 'Don't intellectualize human suffering with such metaphysics!'
But the choice to rest as Awareness, is not an act of the intellect or a metaphysical luxury, because it is an act of Being, not thought. To rest as Awareness, even in the moment of terror, is our final defense against terrorism. It is the soul's ultimate survival skill: liberating us from fear, into the ever-expanding power of AM.