Don't run away
People in earlier times lived lives not much removed from ours. They had to eat, sleep, breed, travel, work, deal with the authorities, find space for contemplation, and do their best to stay this side of death.
So, the ancient tales, fables, parables, myths and legends they told each other still carry messages for us all today.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are good examples of ancient people dealing with the same problems we do. They were Hebrew men living in Babylon during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar. The story goes that Nebuchadnezzar ordered a giant golden statue to be built, as tall as the length of one and a half cricket pitches. Then he commanded everyone to bow down to it whenever the royal band played.
When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego heard the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut (a type of trombone) and a psaltery (a type of zither) burst into merry music, they refused to comply. This displeased the king so much that they were thrown into a fiery furnace.
Now, this sort of thing doesn’t happen today. Most prime ministers and presidents don’t build statues and command us to bow down to them when we hear the band strike up. Nor do they have the power to throw us into a public fiery furnace to teach us a lesson in obedience.
But the story still speaks to us.
Because societal conditioning sets up things we’re expected to worship, like money, career, sport, media, nationalism, religion. These giant gods can be hard to ignore, especially with all the fanfare surrounding them. We can feel a bit guilty when we don’t comply.
So, sometimes we unconsciously throw ourselves into a fiery furnace.
Modern fiery furnaces aren’t stoked with wood by men obeying the king’s orders. We stoke our own fiery furnace with other people’s expectations of us, the demands of society, and the stresses we put on ourselves.
And, of course, outside forces can affect us, like riots and pandemics.
If we’re not careful, we can burn up.
In the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, their God saved their lives. But that sort of thing doesn’t happen now. These days we have to save ourselves.
In paintings, frescoes and statues depicting this ancient story, the three men in the fiery furnace look peaceful amidst the leaping flames. I think that’s the secret. That’s how we can save ourselves: remain peaceful amidst the leaping flames of everyday life.
Living with mindfulness
If your current life situation reminds you of a fiery furnace, don’t try to run away.
Become aware of the source of the flames you’re possibly generating or fanning.
Pay attention to the heat.
Attention brings awareness.
Awareness brings acceptance.
Acceptance brings peace.
Peace brings infinite wisdom.
Infinite wisdom shows a way through the fire.
With love, Marlane
Original version first published on Medium.com/Illumination