That’s right. I applied for my online ordination a few days ago, so from now on it’s Reverend Kenton. I’m even officiating at an upcoming wedding, along with an ordained Christian reverend.
The problem is this – the female half of this particular wedding doesn’t think I’m a real reverend, despite the fact that I can show her my papers! Can you imagine?
I know I should probably be upset about this, but my new reverendship status demands that I hold to a new and higher moral code. I’ve even given up chocolate. Except for the really good stuff, or chocolate that is offered by a friend, or chocolate that gives me those awful chocolate cravings . . .
I also have some other titles. Director of Entertainment. Horse trainer. Personal trainer. Sensei. Great All-Knowing Guru Whom Everyone Should Worship.
The thing about these titles is that some of them are ‘official’, in that I’ve been granted them by a governing agency. And some of them I’ve just given myself. (The last one, of course, is Real, because God said so.)
But something is wrong here. Do you see it? The thing about all these titles is that if we look carefully enough, the only thing that’s different about an official title and one I make up is the number of people who believe the title is ‘official’! In other words, ‘official’ just means that a number of people got together and decided to call themselves that.
For example, let’s pretend you start a new sport – let’s call it ‘water noodling’. Let’s also say that it’s quite dangerous and requires the use of some pretty technical equipment (just take a look at the name!). Now, theoretically, anyone could get involved with this sport. But since it’s pretty dangerous, you decide to start an official organization that certifies people for water noodling (PADI and other organizations did just this with scuba diving). If you get enough people thinking you’re official, pretty soon noodling shops won’t rent out equipment to anyone who isn’t certified, and you’ll be the real deal.
If you look at a doctor, or a university graduate, or the President of the
If you crash land on an abandoned tropical island with ten other people, and all the rest of them decide to form the ‘Culling Federation’, and you’re the first person to be culled from the herd (and perhaps baked with a nice mango sauce), then you’re fresh out of luck. The bigger group can usually tell the smaller group what the social reality is. Of course, if a rescue ship comes along, the bigger group on the rescue ship might tell the Culling Federation that they’re wacko, and save you from your culinary misadventure. And here on Earth (which is really just a bigger island in outer space), the biggest group of humans will make up the ‘official’ rules for everyone else. That’s why some of us are rich, some are poor, and some of us work for years to earn titles which the Big Group says are official.
Of course, when the aliens come down, they’re going to tell the smaller group (us earthlings) that we’re wacko, and then they’ll impose their officialdom upon us.
The important point here is simply to realize that everything ‘official’ in this world is just a bunch of people playing a big role-playing game. The secret to this game of life is that if you don’t take the rules too seriously, you can see ‘behind the scenes’, and see how much people structure their entire lives around the rules of the game. When you see that it’s all role-playing, you discover a special freedom to Play in a way you’ve never experienced before. And you also discover a special compassion, because you can see when people’s actions don’t come from their hearts, but just from a desperate attempt to uphold rules that they think are Real.
This game is so real to most of us that we will devote every living year of our lifetimes to nothing but supporting the upkeep of the game. And it’s so real that people will die, kill, and hurt others, simply out of a deep fear that if they don’t uphold the Rules, the game will fall apart.
The fact is that the game’s going along just fine. There are plenty of people upholding the Rules. Why don’t you be the one to Play a little? That way, if a foreign soldier is shooting you, you’ll understand why. If a bank teller is unfriendly, you’ll understand why. If someone tells you you’re not good enough, or yells at you, or gets angry because you didn’t do what they wanted, you’ll understand why.
And if you look carefully enough, you’ll even understand why you do everything you do. And therein lies the ability to be self-compassionate, as well as the ability to really embrace life in its essence.