Even Maurice Sendak Was Holy (My Byron Katie Detox, Part Eight)

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Most of us receive our spiritual truths secondhand. We find them in books and in other people’s stories. A fortunate few, though, get to learn them firsthand. One such lucky person is Anita Moorjani.

As you may know, Moorjani wrote a best-selling book called Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing. It recounts the experience leading up to and following her near-death from cancer (so yeah, I consider her a credible source). The story is remarkable and includes a total healing of all her tumors within weeks of her returning to her physical body. But what I love most about the book is her discussion of what she learns from it all.

As someone who’s never felt the kind of Source-consciousness that she felt (in this lifetime, at least), it fascinates me to hear her takeaways. I love her realization that heaven isn’t a place but rather, a state of being. This makes sense to me and is confirmed by teachers like Byron Katie. Most of all, though, I was inspired by her understanding that her greatest purpose in life is merely to express her uniqueness in the world. She describes in detail how hard she worked in the past to please others and make decisions they felt were right. Today she knows that people’s differences are a good thing. More than good: beautiful and important.

“I began to understand that while I may have only been a thread, I was integral to the overall picture [in the tapestry of all life]. Seeing this, I understood that I owed it to myself, to everyone I met, and to life itself to always be an expression of my own unique essence.” ―  Anita Moorjani, AnitaMoorjani.com.

In his book Bluebeard, Kurt Vonnegut says something I think Moorjani (and Byron Katie) would like. The awareness of God isn’t the source of enlightenment, he says. To the contrary, it isn’t until we entirely let go of the idea that we need God and just let ourselves be human that our greatest epiphanies occur.

When I first read this, I didn’t understand what Vonnegut meant. Being more human makes us more spiritual?  After thinking it over for a few days, though, I got the point.

He was saying that people are holy.

Not God. Not the angels. Not the minister. Not the church.

People. Just people. Just as we are.

We’re not special because we’re spiritual, even if we are spiritual. We’re special because we’re human. Because we’re us.

Dictionary.com offers seven definitions for the word “holy.” The one I like best: “Having a spiritually pure quality.” My atheist friends Susan and Michaela qualify under this parameter. So does the late Maurice Sendak.

The author/illustrator whose works include In the Night Kitchen and Where the Wild Things Are, Sendak was a steadfast atheist his whole life. In Wild Things, his beloved character, Max, found that even though he didn’t always get along with his family, they were more important to him than anything–even than being the king of a faraway land.

In an interview Sendak did shortly before he died (read the whole thing here) in which he talked about how much he appreciated the beauty of the world and what a privilege it was to be alive, you can almost hear a grown-up Max speaking his words.

“. . . I am in love with the world . . .” he told Terry Gross, the interviewer. And his parting advice was, “Live your life. Live your life. Live your life.”

Living life. Ultimately, that’s our most sacred duty, don’t you think? That’s the greatest epiphany we can have.

We’re meant to be human. We’re meant to be ourselves.

If God made us for anything, He made us for that.

It’s the kind of thing a holy person would say, isn’t it? Yeah. Maurice Sendak, an atheist, was definitely holy.

And so it’s a bit strange that last month, as part of my year of Byron Katie-style inquiry, I questioned my long-time belief that people are holy. But I suppose if Byron Katie tells me to turn it around, I’ll give it a try. No harm can come from taking a second look.

Can it?

Stay tuned for Part Nine of My Byron Katie Detox: One Year of Questioning Everything I Believe.

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More to Read:

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday

Knowledge Checklists: Filling My Educational Gaps, One Subject at a Time

200 Spiritual Practice Success Stories

Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby: A Self-Help Novel

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