About twenty years ago, after leaving a 12-year career in emergency medicine, jokingly I began stating, “Anything I learned, I learned in the back of an ambulance. ” What once was almost a flippant comment has actually become a touchstone for my life. When it’s time to look at the real things I have learned, I start there.
I entered emergency medicine at a time when there was no such specialty. To “attend” to an ill or injured patient in the back of an ambulance you were only required to have taken an eight-hour Red Cross course in basic first aid. Within about three years, due to technological advances in telemetry from the space program and wireless communication from the war in Vietnam, there was a flood of paramedics in ambulance services across the country. Most of us were ill equipped to deal with the spiritual challenges we were asked to deal with.
Spiritual challenges? Galore!
The culture of the paramedic, even today, does not allow or support much introspection, let alone public expression of the exploration. Based on the Military/Cop model, the guiding principle still seems to be, “If you get personally involved, you cannot do your job. ”
For some, like myself, that was not an option. How could I possibly remove myself from the spiritual challenge of entering someone’s life close to their moment of death, witnessing their passing (sometimes, sadly enough, contributing to it!), and then, after a couple of well-timed, purely mechanical interventions, orchestrate their re-animation?
Perhaps this little story might provide some insight.
A fireman died. He found himself standing on a long, long line outside the Pearly Gates. Way up ahead was St. Peter, letting some from the line in, and casting others aside. The line was moving slowly.
The fireman noticed that this guy, in uniform and with a stethoscope around his neck and carrying a drug box and defibrillator in his hands, broke ranks and, briskly striding alongside of the still line, walked right up to the gates and passed through them as St. Peter nodded his okay.
The firemen thought to himself, “Hell, I’m an Emergency Medical Technician!” He broke out of the line and walked up to St. Peter, who stopped him at the gate. “Wait a minute, ” said the fireman, “I’m an EMT. I saw you let that paramedic in, why are you stopping me?”
St. Peter, barely looking up from his Book of Life said, “Oh, him? That’s God, he just thinks he’s a paramedic!”
This illustrates a bit of the wonder, and what I feel is perhaps the heart of spirituality: We are God/not God at one and the same time. The Art element is learning how to experience that territory without getting hung up on either of its parts. The challenge is to live within that paradox.
The above joke is not necessarily a joke. If you look at the faces of God in literature, or sacred works, you can clearly see that even “the Boss” is grappling with the same dilemma. Sometimes s/he acts like a Divine Being, very much above it all. At other times? Well, the Bible identifies one of the plagues rained down on Egypt, during the time that Moses was begging Pharaoh to “let my people go!” as being “emerods. ” That’s another word for hemorrhoids. Only something with very human characteristics would be devious enough to use that as an object lesson!
I know that before I was here to perceive it, there was nothing. At least from the point of view of the me that is right now. Until the concept was shared with me (actually instilled in me), for all intents and purposes, there was no God. The whole God thing came from “out there” but could not be real unless it lived inside me.
My impression of God is, largely, a by-product of my culture. The God that I’ve found living in me, however, trumps anything I’ve been taught about it. As I learn more about me, I’m learning more about God. I suspect the same is true of God.
My life has been a lesson in limitations. As I’ve grown older I’ve learned the degree to which I accept my limitations determines the degree to which I find I’m unlimited. My intent truly manifests; I do create!
I know that to be the truth from the miserable things I’ve brought in to my life. I’ve appeared to be much more adept at the negative than the positive, yet, seeing how clearly that works in retrospect, I’m just learning that, indeed, in every moment I am creating myself and the world around me.
In the back of an ambulance, I learned just how human I am. Metaphorically, I’ve played Tug-of-War with God, many times, and even with many different Gods! Sometimes, I’ve won. Does that make me God by conquest? To be frank, sometimes it sure felt like it. Of course, that’s a translation based on very human terms.
But, ultimately, it’s not about “being” God, or “being” human. The heart of Spirituality is also the art of spirituality; navigating the territory where we, the created, are the creators.
Russ Reina shares over 35 years of experience in the healing arts through his web site http:// mauihealingartist.com . It is a potent resource for those wishing to deepen their abilities in connection and develop their powers as healers. For a powerful free tool to explore your inner world, please check out his adjunct site http:// thestoryofthis.net
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