Richard Rohr, among others, says we live our lives three steps forward and two steps back. One of my big do-si-dos is forward to allowing and back to control. As you may have guessed, the last week or two have not been forward steps.
Among other really clever and subtle methods of control—such as interrupting people to show them I’ve already figured out what they’re going to say—I returned to confusing my to-do list with my life, or perhaps more accurately my self. Because everyone knows that if you can figure out, keep track of, and do everything that needs to be done—and do it well of course—then you are a good, worthy, and fulfilled person. You might even be qualified to run the universe.
Thich Nhat Hanh, in his book The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, recommends aimlessness instead of striving. “There is nothing to do, nothing to realize, no program, no agenda….Your purpose is to be yourself.” It reminds me of the Tao Te Ching’s “When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.”
I don’t think either of them is encouraging my reluctance to wash the dishes. Rather, they’re suggesting letting life unfold according to its plan rather than ours. My to-do list is my plan, and while it’s certainly useful, when I forget that it’s a tool and assign it self-worth-measuring-meaning-of-life status, things go downhill fast.
The more life-giving not-plan is to allow ourselves to be brought into existence, to allow the divine to express what it has in its heart as it continually loves us into being. When I focus all my energy on getting stuff done, it’s as if I’m hoping these things I do will create me, but there’s no room to become anything wider or deeper than I already am, no room for mystery.
Mystery is both what we are and what we are living, what we come from and what we are becoming. We need a good deal of aimlessness to stay in touch with that.