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Dave Brisbin

Hiding in Plain Sight

Jesus is a very good poet. Like all good poets, he never tries to tell us what can’t be rationally told, but helps us sneak up on the feel of the experience. In short word-bursts full of image and metaphor, he shows us the effect of life lived as one with everyone and everything, while evoking the radical difference of the experience of getting there. He says, “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field,” and we’re lost in a sea of literalism. The man already had the treasure. Why hide it again? Why sell everything to buy the field?

Sometimes another tradition can come to our rescue, say the same thing in words unfamiliar enough to cut through centuries of assumptions and show us the truth in our own. Ancient Chinese tradition tells the story of a young disciple despairing that he’ll ever understand his teachers’ meaning. Old master tells him: “If you persist in trying to attain what is never attained (it is life’s gift); if you persist in making effort to obtain what effort cannot get; if you persist in reasoning about what cannot be understood, you will be destroyed by the very thing you seek. To know when to stop, to know when you can get no further by your own action. This is the right beginning.”

The journey to spiritual awakening is unlike any other journey we take. It won’t feel familiar. If it does, we’re on a different path. If we approach spiritual awakening as a task, something to find and acquire, we have forgotten that we already know where the treasure is. Not out there somewhere, but in this field, within ourselves, hiding in plain sight. The journey is not about acquiring. It’s about selling.

Poet Jesus knows that through mental effort and study we can find the treasure’s location. But it won’t matter. Concepts are easy. Until we stop acquiring and begin the painful process of selling everything that is inconsistent with the treasure, we’ll never own the field.

The treasure is nothing without the field. The field is where we live.


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