Monday, April 13, 2009

Empty Glass

One of the many books I am reading is "Who Are You? The Life of Pete Townshend". Anyone who knows anything about rock and roll knows that Pete Townshend is the guitarist and primary creative force behind the famous rock band "The Who". One of their most famous works is the rock opera "Tommy". Pete Townshend exemplified and participated in many of the excesses of the rock and roll lifestyle. In spite of this tortured artist persona that he had, he was also very driven by spiritual things. He professed to being a follower of a spiritual teacher named Meher Baba. I don't know a lot about Meher Baba beyond what I have read in Townshend's biography but he seems to have taught some fundamental and basic spiritual truths. Townshend's first true solo album was called "Empty Glass". This title was inspired by a teaching of Meher Baba's. On the album cover Townshend wrote the following words.

Desire for nothing except desirelessness, hope for nothing except to rise above all hopes, want nothing and you will have everything.

Anyone who follows any kind of spiritual path or teaching is looking for something. In many cases people are searching for something/anything that will fill their emptiness. Many people, at least in my country and culture, are overwhelmed with possessions, worries, and cares. In spite of their material abundance, they also feel a great emptiness. Filled with abundance, they often crave more. Some, seemingly satisfied, wonder "Is this all there is"? There is an emptiness accompanied by a deep desire to have their emptiness filled. This emptiness often manifests itself as boredom, loneliness, or a restless anxiety. We secretly pray and hope that the feeling of emptiness will just go away. It won't on its own. In the Townshend biography he goes on to explain that he finally learned that his empty glass could not be filled with God because it was so full of himself. In order to be filled with God, he had to empty the glass of his own worries, cares, addictions and self. Of course, any student of the spiritual life understands the challenge and difficulty of this self emptying. It is very difficult to get out of your own way. I was talking with my sister on Easter Sunday. We both shared how much we enjoy our solitude. I shared that although I enjoy my own company, I also get on my own nerves and that sometimes I really needed a vacation from myself. Sometimes I lose my way on the spiritual path and become obsessed with my own feelings of emptiness. I get lost in my own void. This preoccupation prevents any real self emptying which in turn prevents any real openness to being filled by God. Part of my darkness at the moment is finding myself grappling with such basic questions as "Who or what is God"? The simple faith and answers of my youth seem empty at the moment. Of course, this "breakdown" of my faith may in fact be a "breakthrough". Perhaps I also want too much and that is the reason I often feel like I have nothing.

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