I will not value what is valueless.
1. Sometimes in teaching there is benefit, particularly after you have gone through what seems theoretical and far from what the student has already learned, to bring him back to practical concerns. ²This we will do today. ³We will not speak of lofty, world-encompassing ideas, but dwell instead on benefits to you.
2. You do not ask too much of life, but far too little. ²When you let your mind be drawn to bodily concerns, to things you buy, to eminence as valued by the world, you ask for sorrow, not for happiness. ³This course does not attempt to take from you the little that you have. ⁴It does not try to substitute utopian ideas for satisfactions which the world contains. ⁵There are no satisfactions in the world.
When I was new to A Course in Miracles, I was very conflicted as I read this paragraph. First, it tells me that I ask for too little and my little mind grasped that idea and ran with it. I shouldn’t ask for a new car but for a fancy new car – that kind of thinking. Then it says asking for things of the world will not bring me happiness. Sigh. Then it says that the Course will not take from me the little I have. Ok, at least I don’t have to worry about that. Then it says that it doesn’t try to substitute utopian ideas for satisfactions the world contains. OK! Really, that’s good news. And ends by telling us that there is no satisfaction in the world. Oh.
Well, you can see how my emotions were up and down as I read this. Now, however, I understand and fully accept that this is good news. I stopped looking in the world for satisfaction and I released those beliefs that kept me from finding true happiness which was in me all the time.
3. Today we list the real criteria by which to test all things you think you want. ²Unless they meet these sound requirements, they are not worth desiring at all, for they can but replace what offers more. ³The laws that govern choice you cannot make, no more than you can make alternatives from which to choose. ⁴The choosing you can do; indeed, you must. ⁵But it is wise to learn the laws you set in motion when you choose, and what alternatives you choose between.
4. We have already stressed there are but two, however many there appear to be. ²The range is set, and this we cannot change. ³It would be most ungenerous to you to let alternatives be limitless, and thus delay your final choice until you had considered all of them in time; and not been brought so clearly to the place where there is but one choice that must be made.
I am grateful that the range is set by which I choose. The world seems to offer me unlimited choices and if I keep trying everything in the world to see what works, I will be here far too long. I will find myself returning lifetime after lifetime seeking what I want where it can’t be found. In the end, I would wind up right back here, looking at the only two choices there are and deciding if I want love or fear.
5. Another kindly and related law is that there is no compromise in what your choice must bring. ²It cannot give you just a little, for there is no in between. ³Each choice you make brings everything to you or nothing. ⁴Therefore, if you learn the tests by which you can distinguish everything from nothing, you will make the better choice.
This is a good thing to know and one that is unlike what the world offers. In the world, we think that we can be a little happy and a little sad. We even make up words to describe this. We can be content, cheerful, joyous, ecstatic, delighted, or other levels of happy. We can be gloomy, unhappy, dejected, down, blue, wretched, despondent, depressed, or other levels of sad. The truth is, we made up these levels when we made up separation. We are either in our natural state of love or we are in the inevitable ego state of fear. There is no compromise.
6. First, if you choose a thing that will not last forever, what you chose is valueless. ²A temporary value is without all value. ³Time can never take away a value that is real. ⁴What fades and dies was never there, and makes no offering to him who chooses it. ⁵He is deceived by nothing in a form he thinks he likes.
The reality of this is that if something does not last eternally, it is not real and was never there. In the world, there is nothing that lasts. Everything here will disappoint us in the end. What is there that will be eternally ours? We will always be as God created us. Love will not die or fade or change in any way. Joy is ours without end. Life cannot die. We, the Christ, is eternal.
7. Next, if you choose to take a thing away from someone else, you will have nothing left. ²This is because, when you deny his right to everything, you have denied your own. ³You therefore will not recognize the things you really have, denying they are there. ⁴Who seeks to take away has been deceived by the illusion loss can offer gain. ⁵Yet loss must offer loss, and nothing more.
Here is what this might look like. What if I decide someone is guilty for something, guilty for hurting my feelings, for letting me down, for abandoning or rejecting me? In judging them guilty, I have taken away their innocence. Because I have done this, have denied their right to innocence, I have denied my own. I now believe in guilt and so I find guilt in my mind and it will be applied to me. I have taught myself to believe in loss, that something can be taken from another implies something can be taken from me. I thought I was protecting myself by seeing them as guilty and by taking their innocence away but discover that loss offers loss and nothing more.
8. Your next consideration is the one on which the others rest. ²Why is the choice you make of value to you? ³What attracts your mind to it? ⁴What purpose does it serve? ⁵Here it is easiest of all to be deceived. ⁶For what the ego wants it fails to recognize. ⁷It does not even tell the truth as it perceives it, for it needs to keep the halo which it uses to protect its goals from tarnish and from rust, that you may see how “innocent” it is.
I have experienced this confusion many times in my life even after years of study of the Course. I would attack in my own defense and judge without mercy and yet, convince myself that it was all necessary, and deserved. Even as I tried to extricate myself from this sticky darkness, I would feel like my mind was in a fog. It was. It was in an ego fog of deceit. But I did always eventually find my way out as I kept going to the Holy Spirit with my confused thoughts until it was sorted. Then, on looking back at the situation, the answer seemed so clear that I wondered how I ever let myself be fooled again.
9. Yet is its camouflage a thin veneer, which could deceive but those who are content to be deceived. ²Its goals are obvious to anyone who cares to look for them. ³Here is deception doubled, for the one who is deceived will not perceive that he has merely failed to gain. ⁴He will believe that he has served the ego’s hidden goals.
10. Yet though he tries to keep its halo clear within his vision, still must he perceive its tarnished edges and its rusted core. ²His ineffectual mistakes appear as sins to him, because he looks upon the tarnish as his own; the rust a sign of deep unworthiness within himself. ³He who would still preserve the ego’s goals and serve them as his own makes no mistakes, according to the dictates of his guide. ⁴This guidance teaches it is error to believe that sins are but mistakes, for who would suffer for his sins if this were so?
When I was in those confused states where I thought I could only gain through loss, I was just in error. I made a mistake that the Holy Spirit corrected, but from the ego perspective, I had sinned and often would feel intense guilt for my sins. This would put me in another tailspin until I was able to release those thoughts as well. The ego doesn’t believe in mistakes, only sin.
11. And so we come to the criterion for choice that is the hardest to believe, because its obviousness is overlaid with many levels of obscurity. ²If you feel any guilt about your choice, you have allowed the ego’s goals to come between the real alternatives. ³And thus you do not realize there are but two, and the alternative you think you chose seems fearful, and too dangerous to be the nothingness it actually is.
No matter what choice we make and for what reason we make it, if there is guilt in it anywhere, it is a choice dictated by ego goals. When we choose with ego, on some level we know what we have done and we feel afraid. We may hide this from ourselves by continuing to justify our actions, but we know better and so there is fear. But in reality, guilt is not real so we have made a choice for nothing.
12. All things are valuable or valueless, worthy or not of being sought at all, entirely desirable or not worth the slightest effort to obtain. ²Choosing is easy just because of this. ³Complexity is nothing but a screen of smoke, which hides the very simple fact that no decision can be difficult. ⁴What is the gain to you in learning this? ⁵It is far more than merely letting you make choices easily and without pain.
13. Heaven itself is reached with empty hands and open minds, which come with nothing to find everything and claim it as their own. ²We will attempt to reach this state today, with self-deception laid aside, and with an honest willingness to value but the truly valuable and the real. ³Our two extended practice periods of fifteen minutes each begin with this:
⁴I will not value what is valueless, and only what has value do I seek, for only that do I desire to find.
14. And then receive what waits for everyone who reaches, unencumbered, to the gate of Heaven, which swings open as he comes. ²Should you begin to let yourself collect some needless burdens, or believe you see some difficult decisions facing you, be quick to answer with this simple thought:
³I will not value what is valueless, for what is valuable belongs to me.
These ideas make it very simple to decide what I want. Do I want to be admired and liked? Will this last forever or will my first misstep bring this admiration crashing down around me?
Do I want more money? Will the money last forever and will it bring me what lasts forever?
Do I want everyone to know what a fraud a certain teacher is? Will this bring me eternal happiness? Or will it only cause me to fear I will someday be caught out as a fraud? Or that loss will come in some other way?
How about losing weight or looking more attractive in some other way? What will this gain me? This body will die and decay. The imagined acceptance and love this change would bring will not last even if it were the outcome. And all along, I would be teaching myself that I am a body and that my worth is in this body.
Why would I want any of these things? What would be my purpose? I look at all of them and I see guilt in them. Guilt that I project onto others, guilt I feel if I don’t measure up, guilt for judging and trying to take from others what I don’t believe is mine.
There is only one thing I want and that is to know my Self in God. This will bring me what I truly want and will cause no harm to anyone, in fact, it will bring only gain to all. This is what is valuable and this is mine.