mewithoutYou: Let It Go

I've been exposed to the three major religions of the world pretty extensively. I think it always gave me a belief that there was a God, and that's been pretty strong, but not necessarily a specific religion or way to worship... I really had a sense that there was something more than just what we perceive on a daily basis. Growing up in my house there was a strong sense of there being an ultimate moral truth, it wasn't just something we decided as individuals.

-Michael Weiss

Epilogue: Travelling Light

Given to contemplative stream of consciousness answers, Aaron admitted that he had reservations about doing more interviews, out of a concern for not having, "the right answers. Without fail, when we do interviews I always say something that I regret, or it ends up when I read it back, if I read it, I think, did I really say that? Boy, why do I ever open my mouth?" Despite any hesitations, he was generous with his time. There's a refreshingly open quality to him and the gracious way he shares his reflections. He also seemed genuinely curious about this disembodied voice on the other end of the line, and when it came to my prepared questions, I threw most of them out.

"It can sound like a bad thing, like I'm struggling or I have doubts or I'm not sure, but really it could also be a good thing," he muses, when we're talking about spiritual struggles. "While I've experienced many things, I want to go deeper. I want to go further and put the past behind me. To see what more mercy there is."

I wondered if Aaron ever gets frustrated at the superficiality of our culture, where it sometimes seems few are willing to go deeper.

"No, not anymore. I used to," Aaron admits. "It would be really easy to find someone to point the finger at, 'This guy, look at how superficial he is. Look how many hours of TV this person watches,' or, 'Look how much they spend on their wardrobe.' But my parents told me, whenever you see a fault outside or you see somebody else, it's really a way God is showing us something about ourselves. So, if we see superficiality on the outside, and say, 'Oh the world is so superficial,' well I must be superficial because something within me is resonating with that. So it becomes a real blessing whenever you see something like that on the outside, it means I have to go deeper in my own heart and find a place that is true and real within me. I've done so much judging in my life, finding fault with the culture or the church, or even my own friends or the guys in my band or people in my own family; I'm just kind of burned out on it. So, I'm just really happy with the world outside as it is, even with all the craziness that you see."

The subject turned at one point to activism, specifically a war protest where he was arrested alongside his friend, a feisty, trouble-making nun named Sister Margaret. The incident is referenced in the song "Timothy Hay."

"I went over to join her because I thought it might be a good story, a good way to impress my friends if I told them I got arrested with Sister Margaret. So, it was really just that sort of thing, I was trying to be an activist, but looking back you realized, man, I cared more about being an activist than I did about anyone in Iraq. They arrested five of us, including Sister Margaret. Imagine putting an elderly nun in handcuffs. It must have been a hard job for those police officers, but they were actually very nice and they treated us respectfully and it was a very sweet experience."

Describing himself as caring more about being an activist than the activism itself, I was curious if he meant that activism could sometimes be used as a tool to feed our own egos.

mewithoutYou by Ashley Nicole
"That's a good way of putting it, and describes my experience. That's not to say that there aren't many people who may have pure motivations, I certainly don't know. But, I have sensed that with people protesting the war, they are doing it with a spirit of anger and inner violence, protesting a physical war but they're waging a spiritual war, like you're dehumanizing people that work for the government or people in power or soldiers," says Aaron. "[They're] passing judgment, saying these people are wrong and I'm right. And all that is a kind of war. It's not really offering an alternative; it's just feeding the fire and polarizing people. It's not bringing people together. It's not that I regret my time with those crowds. I learned a lot, but I don't believe in that way anymore."

I found Aaron's initial answer about the "Timothy Hay" incident intriguing. Most of us have a strong opinion on politics, and there are, of course, many devoted activists out there fighting for their causes. But there are also those who use political standpoints to draw attention to themselves, or to create further divisions rather than dialogue. I am curious then, if Aaron thinks it then becomes about cultivating compassion on the most basic level, even with those you disagree with.

"I've felt a very clear and simple call to simply put my trust in God and submit my heart to God, who is love," he says. "God who loves everybody. God who loves not only the people in Iraq but also the soldiers in America, and who even loves George W. Bush, who everybody loves to rail on. I have a very clear sense of my call being to have faith in God and to give my life to God and to open my heart to God and then whatever happens is fine at that point. If God wants to use me to go to a protest that's fine, I'm happy to go to a protest, but I won't be angry at anybody and I won't feel superior to anybody because I would see everyone as my own life, I would literally love my neighbor as myself. Because that's how God sees us; God doesn't see us as separate. At least that's what I was raised to believe and that's what feels correct to me. So, if we could just do that one thing, just humble ourselves and submit our hearts, then everything else is taken care of, and then we have compassion because God is compassion. And then we love others because God is love. And then we'll forgive everybody because God is the forgiving one. It's just so perfect and it's so sweet and it's literally no effort. It doesn't require anything on our part except for that humility and that trust. But just like children, that's what we have to be."

It's simple, but it's a difficult place to get to.

"Sure, we've all built quite a life for ourselves and all of our ideas and all of our accomplishments and all of our identities. All of our possessions, whether they be physical or material or inwardly, whether we possess some philosophy or we possess some religion or we possess our Atheism or Agnosticism, whatever it is we think we are. Once we decide upon that we're separate from everyone else who isn't that, and it's hard when we're so wrapped up in these things that we perceive. They define us, so we think, 'If I let go of that, what will be left? I can't let go of that, it's who I am.' It's just that we don't know that that's not really who we are, that we're not necessarily any of the things we say we are. And maybe that's a good place to start, just to wonder, 'Who am I, really?'"

Continue reading for more on mewithoutYou...

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