My father has always been willing to learn new things. When something new is learned, he is willing to place his trust in that something new. In the early 1970’s, he learned to fly an airplane. Shortly after that, he learned to perform maintenance on an airplane. I grew up, passing the time, outside a hanger at a small airport. We flew from city to city in the southern United States, but only after Dad felt like the plane was safe for flight.
I was too young to have an interest in how often a propeller needed to be changed. The scheduled maintenance lists were less than intriguing to me. I was happy to be with my father, but soon lost interest in what he was doing around the plane. While he was working on the plane, I was beetle fishing.
The plane was stored in a hanger, but it was little more than a covered bay made out of tin. There were no doors, and the ground outside the bays were made of dry dirt, where only patches of grass were able to grow. During the summer, the ground would become dry and the dirt would harden and crack. I remember thinking that the desert must be this way.
In the dry dirt, if enough attention was paid to detail, a small child could notice little holes in the ground. These holes were the refuge for beetles, that were chased by boys and girls. Of course, if you were a child, and discovered a beetle in a hole, naturally you would want the beetle out of the hole. My father, knowing several things, advised I find a small twig, and place it just inside the hole. My days as a beetle fisherman began.
If a beetle escapes into a hole, and sees a twig, it is agitated. It attacks the twig and grabs it with its front “pinchers”. If the timing is just right, a small tug on the twig will drag the beetle out of the hole, where it once found refuge from the energetic whims of children. Many summer hours were spent in this way. Chasing beetles, dragging them out of holes, and waiting for my father to be satisfied that his airplane was safe enough to transport himself and his family.
As I stepped outside this morning, I thought about God in relation to humanity. I wondered if God is just beetle fishing when a twig is poked into our lives. Then I thought about how we are told about the Creator by religions, preachers, gurus, and the like. A very large majority of teachings on the divine are taught in this way. We are encouraged to petition God for intervention (twig) in our lives, and to wait (in a hole) for his guidance. “Be good in the hole that you are in, and maybe God will thrust a twig of divine guidance for you to latch onto. But it is up to you to grasp it.”
This story, coupled with that teaching, would go viral if some preacher spoke it. We, in the West especially, love to hear that God chooses us. That we have to be responsible, and that our success is determined by our will, and that we have somehow been chosen. It creates a sense of importance and pride, and creates the illusion that we are masters of our own destiny. That story about beetle fishing, in the words of my grandmother, “will preach.”
There is only one problem with that preaching. It is completely wrong. We are not beetles in holes. Divine interaction in our lives is not by virtue of our being chosen. We can only learn to accept, not deserve, the goodness of life. And, if there is a destiny, we are certainly not its master. Just because it preaches, or can be bottled and sold, does not mean it is wise, healthy, or true.
Here is how I relate the story of beetle fishing to the way the Creator interacts with our lives. In the early 1970’s, as I was beetle fishing, the universe was unfolding in a way it had always unfolded, and also in a way it had never unfolded. Which is what it is doing now. The Divine is not the twig, or the fisherman, or the beetle.
This is the lesson for me. My father was working on an airplane. I was chasing beetles. We were doing what we liked to do, and that was enough for each of us. There is little difference in the two activities and there is little difference in the importance of each. If you are leading a huge corporation or if you are collecting aluminum cans, you are doing what my father and I were doing on those summer days. There is magic in it all.
I believe in making the mind quiet. Also, I believe in the hustle and bustle of the modern world. I believe that everything we do is both important and trivial at the same time. If we do anything, it should first be worth our time. Second, it should be helpful to others and ourselves. Third, it should be done with wonder, and with the understanding that we are all beginners with the dawn of each new day. How we do what we do is a decision we make and is left up to us.
Legacies, reputations, impacts, fortunes, and all of the things that come with our striving in the world, come about when we know who we are. What our character is and who we really are. Not in relation to others, or even to the Divine, but in our ability to be thankful, for one thing, or for anything, each night. And when we decide to be thankful, it behooves us to be something or someone for one person to be thankful for, the next night.
Perhaps I do not know much. Perhaps my fantasies about peace, love, and joy are illusions. I suspect they are inside everyone to some extent. We are all just six year-old kids going beetle fishing. We can complicate it, try to sell it in a lengthy program that requires three levels of paid access, and teach it for contributions or wealth, but it is simple. The answer you are looking for is not in a program. Your gratitude determines your abundance. Abundance is not only monetary wealth. You co-create the world with the Divine.
You got this. Happy Sunday.