Holding your feet to the fire

A story popped up in my head today.  I don’t know the original source, but it’s told in the book Jung and Tarot by Sallie Nichols (fascinating read).  I forget how she phrased it, but I’d tell it like this:

One day, sitting on his ancient throne deep in his underworld halls, Satan called together all the demons, devils, and spirits of Hell.  He convened them to figure out a plan to vex God and stem the growth and grace of humanity above, since he was short on ideas and wanted to hear what his infernal denizens would do.

One demon stepped up, who was widely respected and who had overseen and won many a battle, and shouted out “Tell the humans that there is no God!”  Many spirits cheered at this, thinking it was a fine idea.  Satan, however, grew displeased and silenced them all, sending off the demon away from the gathering.  Many humans had a very solid faith in God, so this wouldn’t advance him very far, Satan thought.

Another demon stepped up, hoary and old and well-versed in ancient lore long forgotten, and told them all “Tell them that there is no soul!”  The demons and spirits looked around and nodded, murmuring their assent and amazement at such a subtle idea.  Satan, on the other hand, snarled and commanded the old demon out of the hall; Satan liked this idea even less, since a belief in the soul was even more widespread than a belief in God.  How could he get anywhere with these sorts of ideas?

Finally, a small demon, young and unheard of, came out from the throng of spirits and calmly walked to the middle of them all.  He grinned and shouted out, “Tell them that there is no hurry.”  The hall went silent, the demons looked at each other in surprise and confusion, and then looked to their leader.  Satan was smiling, each fanged tooth shining in the firelight, and instantly promoted the small demon to a major position of power in Hell for his excellent plan.  Belief in God and souls may be absolute, but humans could always be tricked into complacency and procrastination.

Those demons?  Those are us.  Those are the parts of us that try to get us to stumble and fall off our proper path, and some are trickier than others.  That last demon, telling us that there is no hurry, is the worst.  It has us think we’ve got all the time in the world, that we can spend today to enjoy ourselves and tomorrow to get down to work.  It wants us to think these things day after day, and in effect getting nothing done.  It’s downright insidious and harmful to our progress as individuals, as groups, and as a species.

Truth is, we’re not assured another day after today.  We’re never assured that the next step we take on our path could be our last.  We have work to do that can’t be put off until tomorrow, because we have work tomorrow as well, and the day after that, and the day after that.  Putting off today’s work only makes things difficult for us later on at best, and at worst leaves some things behind and never gets it accomplished at all, which will only come back to bite us in the ass later.  There’s no such thing as a break from our life’s work, our own Great Work, what our will demands of us.  There are places to go, people to meet, feats to accomplish; how could we put these things off for one moment when now is the best and only time we have?

Yes, I’ve been lazy recently.  Yes, I’ve been cutting my meditation session short and putting off my comtemplations.  Yes, I got complacent and overly satisfied with the work I’ve done so far, but what I’ve done doesn’t suffice for what I need to do.  Time to get off my ass, off the dating sites, and back into the fun.

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