Doing the Loving Thing
On using symbols in the world of form . . .
When I say something is an illusion, I am saying that we are perceiving it incorrectly, and therefore responding to it in ways that create conflict.
I am also saying, Bill Thetford-style: there is another way.
Say that you order a sandwich on gluten-free bread. You have Celiac's Disease; gluten really hurts you. And the waiter brings you regular bread.
Some ACIM folks would say, it doesn't matter. The sandwich and your body are just illusions. Send it back or eat it; either way it's the same.
I say you should calmly send the sandwich back. Eating it will hurt you. It might hurt others by compromising your ability to help them. Sending the sandwich back is the right thing to do because it is the loving thing to do. It is loving towards your self.
It is okay - it is more than okay - to love yourself. If you take nothing else from this little note, please take that.
Always look for the loving thing to do, and always be patient with yourself as you look. Finding the loving thing to do - let alone doing it - is not always easy in these bodies in this world.
Note that by suggesting you should send the sandwich back, I am not saying that the sandwich is "real." Or that your body and its diagnosis of Celiac's Disease are "real."
I am saying that we are always being offered a choice between fear and love and that until we get good at seeing fear and love in the abstract, then we will see things like sandwiches and bodies, which are symbols of the underlying conflict.
Sandwiches, sunflowers, lovers and restaurants are all symbols of the choice between fear and love. They are the form in which the choice appears because we are still incapable of clearly seeing fear and love, because fear and love are abstract. You don't see them with your eyes; you see them with your mind. Seeing them in their abstract fullness is unfamiliar at best and scary at worst; it's easier to just deal with a sandwich.
It's okay to respond to the form, especially when we realize it's just a symbol. It is not an error to respond to a symbol, so long as you're clear that it's a symbol. It's like watching television. It's okay to cry at a sad scene and laugh at a funny one; we just want to remember that it's fiction. People aren't actually getting married or dying; it’s just a story.
All that really matters is that we see the choice between fear and love clearly, and then make the choice for love. It doesn't matter if we're doing it in a spiritually abstract meditative state or mustering the courage to ask the waiter to take a sandwich back.
One of the secrets to dealing with the question "what is an illusion" is to realize it doesn't actually matter whether something is an illusion. Your response is always the same. Always do the loving thing. And be patient with yourself because "always do the loving thing" is hard.
Also, patience is a form of love :)
“Illusion" is not about the form your body perceives but rather the importance you attach to the form. It is a question of value and happens at the level of mind. Or, as A Course in Miracles puts it, what is it for? If you think a sandwich is for eating and not for remembering love, then you aren't valuing it properly. Undoing illusions happens at the level of valuation - not the object itself.
Therefore, study the symbols of fear and love and get skilled at responding to them. Study your mind for fear and love as abstractions and get skilled at responding to them.
And remember: "responding" always means "always do the loving thing."