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I stood at the white board in front of my classroom, Sharpie in hand, finally assuming the teaching role to which I was rightfully born.
Jesus had crammed himself into my little desk--a jumble of cramped, Picasso-like limbs--at my request. I’d asked him to switch places with me today, literally and figuratively, in an effort to raise his awareness (to put it politely since today’s lesson had apparently not even entered his airspace) about what it was like to walk in my sandals for a change. You know, confined to one of these heavy, high-maintenance contraptions called bodies day in and day out for more years than I wished to count, baby step by step pushing through the density of time and space and incoming attacks by other high-maintenance contraptions to make my way home. Experiencing with each forward thrust, a push back that nearly took my breath away.
I mean, with all due respect, what did he know from the weight of physical never mind metaphorical bodies, really; having remembered to smile at the very beginning at the “tiny, mad, idea” of defection from our abstract source? Time for a little walk on the wild side, I reasoned, a character-building, empathy-enhancing, continuing-teacher-education exercise, really. And where better to start than right here, with the basics? I pressed the marker to the white board:
“S U S A N,”
I wrote, in large, clear, block letters, not unlike the ones I had first scratched in chalk on the sidewalk at four years old and gone on to scratch on every surface I could find thereafter, belief in myself strengthening with each stroke of my pen.
I tapped a finger under each special letter, pronouncing it slowly, out loud; over-annunciating as if teaching a non-native English speaker. “Now repeat after me:
S U S A N.”
Jesus started laughing, giggling, actually, I am sorry to report—my whole little desk rocking back and forth in mirthful tandem around him--and could not seem to get a grip on himself.
Summoning ancient French ancestors on my mother’s side, I pursed my lips together, crossed my arms around my chest, narrowed my eyes as if at a particularly annoying American diner, and waited for his little chuckle fest to abate, right foot tapping the floor of its own accord the way it does as if hoping to catch an ant in random transit.
After a while Jesus wiped his eyes, shifted his facial muscles back into neutral, and continued to doodle on his pad.
“S U S A N spells SUSAN,” I explained. “Do we know what that means?”Apparently not because Jesus just continued to doodle in confounding oblivion.
“Ugh. Why can’t you just repeat after me for once in your life?” I whined; all too aware my fragile management of this classroom was rapidly slipping away. I walked over to him and glanced down at the pad he was filling with little happy face icons. I hate those little faces. “Sit up straight,” I said.
He smiled, but continued to slouch.
“SUSAN,” I repeated, struggling to maintain my waning composure. “That’s my name. The name I’d prefer you use from now on when addressing me.”
“When addressing you,” he repeated, without looking up, mouth twitching toward hilarity, happy faces procreating like bunnies across the page beneath his pen. “We’ve talked about this.”
“We’ve also talked about what it says in Chapter 12, III, paragraph 4, of the big, blue book,” I countered:
“Recognize what does not matter, and if your brothers ask you for something ‘outrageous,’ do it because it does not matter. Refuse and your opposition establishes that it does matter to you. It is only you, therefore, who have made the request outrageous, and every request of a brother is for you. Why would you insist in denying him? For to do so is to deny yourself and impoverish both. He is asking for salvation, as you are. Poverty is of the ego, and never of God. No ‘outrageous’ request can be made of one who recognizes what is valuable and wants to accept nothing else.”
His brows shot up and down the way they do.
I sighed. I’d enjoyed almost an entire right-minded weekend, peacefully observing the trials and tribulations of my costars and the world in general without incident. Kindly responding to the simmering power issues between my husband and daughter (again living at home for the summer after her freshman year away at college) with quiet, helpful, logic. Regardless of the tension smoldering between them I remained sympathetic to (although not always compliant with) her wish to maintain her new-found independence as well as my husband’s fear of losing all influence over her, of losing her, really. A fear I recognized as my own.
Even as I popped Ibuprofen, I failed to allow the pain shooting across the middle of my back out of nowhere or the (in my opinion) untruthful claims of a presidential candidate I did not support that—fueled by an infusion of wealthy donor cash--seemed to have hijacked the airwaves to dissuade me from choosing peace. I completed the work that confined me indoors for hours on a rare, cool and sunny summer Sunday almost effortlessly. And yet, by late Sunday night my annoyance at everyone and everything seemingly “out there” seemed to have boomeranged back at me through no fault let alone decision of my own.
I lay awake most of the night, pondering the way in which my growing right-mindedness seemed to trigger an ego backlash in equal proportion, so that no matter how good I got at forgiving, my right and wrong minds appeared to remain neck and neck in their opposite marathon stampedes toward Heaven and hell. I arose determined to persuade Jesus to experience what I was experiencing right here, right now. To see through my lens the problem as I saw it here in the condition I still think I’m in. To know and spell and speak my name.
“I know what you’re thinking,” I said. “You already did something outrageous by switching roles with me. Anyway, you would never do something that would set me back on my journey—something like fortifying my belief in a separate, special self by addressing me by name—that’s just the kind of ever-helpful imaginary action figure of an awakened self you are. Besides, as you’ve pointed out time and time again--well; you know what I mean--you’ll wait in hell with me as long as I like, but delay is only hurting me. At some point, I might as well just grow up with this Course and recognize that dragging you into the dream will never work. You being forever awake and all. But looking at the dream of this imaginary body I seem to inhabit with you as my teacher always will.”
Jesus just smiled.
I put the cap on my Sharpie and placed it back on the white board ledge. “I think I’m ready to go back to my desk now,” I said.
He nodded, and held up his pad: “Well done,” it read.
“Well done, Susan, you mean.”
He laughed and laughed, shoulders heaving, desk rocking.
I waited for him to finish.
“Can you spell that for me?” he asked, at last, cracking himself right up all over again.
French heritage aside I really couldn’t take it anymore, and started to laugh, too.
NOTE: A Course in Miracles uses the figure of Jesus as a symbol of the awakened mind, the memory of our one, eternal wholeness that lingers in the one mind of the one child of God merely dreaming an impossible dream of separation from all-inclusive, boundless, formless Love. By choosing this part of our mind as our teacher instead of the ego, we remember we are dreamers of the dream, rather than dream figures. Our guilt over the mistaken belief we have defected from real Love, can never return, and must continually exonerate ourselves by projecting our guilt on others to prove our greater innocence is undone as we look through the lens of kindness on what never was. Our split mind begins to heal as we learn to smile at our misperceptions and gently awaken to our one, true nature.