Like Socrates, Jesus was constantly on the move. The gospels recount Jesus’ constant wanderings, which were so extensive that I’ve often found it useful to have a map of ancient Israel by my side just to keep up with the guy.
Like Socrates, there is something very profound contained not only in the content of Jesus’ teachings, but also in the itinerant matter in which he delivered them.
Jesus constantly encourages his disciples to spend their lives wandering without possessions. The implication of this is that the earth is not a place where we should prioritize comfort and security. This world is not our ultimate home: it’s a temporary way station where we’ve come to learn, grow, and evolve into awareness of our deepest nature.
Everything that we hold dear in the world (even our body) will one day be taken away. Even Manhattan’s skyscrapers would collapse within a very short time frame- perhaps as little as 10,000 years- without our continual efforts to stave off the elements. Some five billion years from now, the sun will consume the earth, destroying all life and any trace of us. All the wars, all the crises, all the glory, all memories, all of everything we’ve ever known… crisped and obliterated.
Like cardboard boxes and aluminum cans, we are destined for recycling.
This is why we should be weary of laying up our treasures on earth, “where moth and rust doth corrupt.” In gaining temporary possession of some of the world’s territory or resources, you will have forfeited your chance to develop self-awareness and awe in the face of the Mystery that you are.
Being preoccupied with the material dimension of life can lead you to lose this precious opportunity to know the universe that created you- a chance that comes along only once in a long while, one that has an expiration date we cannot predict or control. If we try to “save” our lives by trying to stave off our inevitable decay, we lose them.
To convey these teachings, Jesus employed the metaphors that were available to him in his time. In this case, he often speaks of “heaven” in contrast with “earth.”
We’re missing out on a great deal if we conceive of heaven as a place where the righteous will be rewarded after death. This is just the egotistical desire for permanence expressed in a more subtle way. Instead of erecting stability in this life, we simply project that same longing onto an afterlife.
Instead, perhaps what Jesus meant when he spoke of being “taken up to heaven” would be an experience of realizing the eternal dimension of you contained within the finite. This aspect of ourselves doesn’t have anything to do with who we normally think we are- all the labels we normally attach ourselves to, like name or nationality or personality.
Beyond the ego, beyond the body, there is a part of yourself that simply is. This “is-ness” is the awareness that frames experiences. It is the space between musical notes, the void out of which form is continually arising, the ocean that gives rise to waves. It is the light that shines through all beings, that all beings are, what some people call Buddha-nature. Others call it God.
To take the path toward this realization- to gather this bountiful harvest- we must be willing to pay a very high price. We must be willing to wander, without attachment to family, to possessions, to titles and achievement. Why?
All of that stuff gets in the way! These distractions (“demons”) reinforce the temporal, finite aspect of ourselves which will ultimately wither and fade away. The peace of understanding we are already partaking in eternal life is difficult to spot when we invest our efforts into futilely trying to attain and maintain measures of material comfort and security.
Elevated out of your normal concerns and into awareness of the transcendent, the fear that you, as an individual “wave” has it realizes its inevitable dissolution, vanishes. You understand that you are an expression of the ocean, and that forms come and go. That’s just what the ocean does.
Not surprisingly, most people were unwilling to pay the cost of living the type of life that Jesus modeled. To have eyes more capable of seeing our true nature (hidden in plain sight!), we have to travel through the world in the trusting, surrendered, playful state of the child, divorced from worry of where the next meal will come from and how much is in the bank account.
There’s an interesting tension here, though. On the one hand, it seems that anything that reinforces attachment to the physical dimension of existence is a potential hindrance or obstacle. One the other, it’s only through the physical can that we can recognize the transcendent.
The revelation of sacredness happens in and through material objects and interactions (often very simple). Bread and wine. Children. Helping a stranger. Being “uplifted to heaven” allows us to see the miracles of everyday life, which previously had been hidden.
There’s nothing inherently wrong the material world provided we understand its “dew-drop” nature. After all, you can have a lot of fun playing with sandcastles, provided you understand that they will eventually crumble despite your grandest efforts.