Learning to Wait Like Children

Michael Eigen writes the following in Madness and Murder, weaving together theology, waiting, being a child, and politics.

“Even the child struggles with the pain of what it means to be a person. Even if one doesn’t quite know what one is struggling with, or what kind of person one is or can become, still one struggles. Your question I think is very important because so often spirituality forces the matter too quickly, forces one into this or that too quickly. Religion’s had a horrible history of putting people in hell, putting people in heaven. Splitting that makes these divisions even more painful. If I were a pastoral counselor my spiritual advice would be, don’t rush, don’t rush. If there is a loved one in trouble and there’s a conflict between your selfishness and putting the other first, well if the situation requires putting the other first, then you will do that. You’ll feel it. You’ll know you have to do it. And there will be other situations that don’t require that in which you say, “Well this time I’m putting myself first and it’s not a big deal.” But that’s not the point. The point that is relevant and that I’m trying to convey is the Christian teaching: forgive them father they don’t know what they are doing. They don’t know. Forgive them. They don’t know. They think they know. They act like they know. They talk like they know. But dear God we don’t know. And that is the teaching, the main teaching, the central teaching and things flow, things grow. You don’t have to force it so much.

What I’m about to say now may not be relevant to the question. I’m going off to something that bothers me. Bush, the president of my country, who may never have been fairly elected, seems to be an example of someone God spoke to. God told him “Invade Iraq.” Corporations also told him “Invade Iraq.” The idea of waiting, of waiting and seeing what unfolds wasn’t part of the public discourse, didn’t occur as a real possibility. Waiting means you’ll seem weak; you’ll look like you don’t know what you are doing. Better to kill and be a bully and act strong than say, “I don’t know, I’m waiting a while.”

There is much external pressure to know or to act like one knows. And there is a dim quiet internal invitation not to know. Let God do the work. Let Tao do the work. Let something unknown come help you out. Leave room for the deeper processes that you don’t have access to at this time. Trying too hard to go this way or that way stops or prevents a deeper contact, a deeper access from having more input. And the way Bush acted with Iraq could have been for corporate motives or for religious motives, but not religion in our sense. That same pressure we see outside in politics happens inside us. The bully, the bully self, the tyrant saying to do it this way. This is the way it’s got to be done. You’re weak or cowardly if you just wait or surrender or take your time or listen, listen, listen. I love the big ears of the Buddha that I see as I go around. And I think that’s what psychoanalysis ought to use as its logo. Like a new way of listening, a new way of hearing oneself.”

– Michael Eigen, Madness and Murder


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