On June 9, 2019, Rev. Tony Ponticello, addressed those attending the Community Miracles Center's Sunday Gathering in San Francisco, California. Below is a lightly edited transcription of his talk..
Welcome again, everybody! Thank you for joining us. Thank you to everybody on ACIM Gather. We really appreciate you tuning in. Thank you everybody here in San Francisco. I am Rev. Tony Ponticello and the title of my talk today is The "Last" Birthday.
I'll explain a little bit what I mean about that. This past Friday, June 7, was my birthday. I had a great birthday. I celebrated it, and I am going to talk a little about that. I had some different guidance about my birthday this year. What I heard was that last year in 2018, when I had my birthday, that was going to be my last traditional birthday – "traditional birthday" in that I was no longer going to announce, or even try to think about, my chronological age.
Last year, of course, it was my birthday and I told everyone how old I was becoming. I like that. We tell everyone how "old" we are becoming, but we never tell anyone how "young" we are becoming. That is the habit of people. That was my habit. I never saw anything really wrong with that, but I was aware that there were some people who didn't do that. Some people didn't do that. Then a couple days before my birthday this year, I got the guidance that I would become one of those people who would not think about the chronological age that they are any more.
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Of course I can compute it. I know what year I was born. Sometimes there are some forms where you have to write that down. I'm not going to get fanatical about this, but it's about my own conceptualization of self. I found as the number started increasing, it was work to have to stop that thought system of, "You are getting older." That has certain ideas and certain significance around it. As you get older and older, a lot of those meanings and significances are kind of negative. I had my own challenge about letting go of those, and so one of the reasons I've decided to do this is just to assist myself in my challenge of letting go of those.
I have noticed that when I told people what my chronological age was, a lot of times, I would get, "Oh wow! You look really good for your age!" While they mean that as a compliment, I am aware of what that really means. It means "You look really good for someone as old as you are." You never go up to a young person, like a twenty-six year old person, and say, "Wow! You really look good for your age!" That is only something you say to someone you know is old.
I'm letting go of that and no one has to tell me that I look good for my age anymore. I'm not going to tell anyone my chronological age. It's not just because I'm trying not to voice it out loud. I'm trying not to voice it within my own mind. I am just trying to let go of this idea that I am old. I am timeless; I am eternal. Truth is that is how I feel. I feel timeless and eternal, and I want to identify more and more with that timeless and eternalness that is me.
Why associate with this chronological thing that has all of these worldly implications about it, most of which are things I'm trying to move away from? I'm not moving towards any of those things. I'm moving away from them. I got the guidance and I made the announcement that I am not going to lead any more with the chronological age. So last year, 2018, was my last birthday. It was my last traditional birthday. Now it's just a day to celebrate my life. I have this day, June 7th, to celebrate my life on, and that is great.
I had a great celebration. A group of us, seven of us, went to the DeYoung Museum and we saw their yearly exhibit, Bouquets to Art which is the most amazingly beautiful works of floral art you can ever imagine. All these florists had done incredibly gorgeous, creative arrangements. They are artistic, creative, unique, and they set off certain works of art they are positioned near. They are spread out all over the museum. There were 140 of them. I know we saw a lot of them, but I don't know if we saw all 140. That was amazing. It was great being there with everyone from the Community Miracles Center.Then we had lunch at the restaurant that is in the museum. It was fun; it was great. We ate in the dining room and it was bright and sunny. It was terrific being with everybody.
After that, Rev. Dusa Althea and I went to see that new movie about Elton John. It's called Rocket Man and that was amazing. That was an amazing movie. One of the things I realized when I was working and preparing this talk was that in the movie the creativity for the music and the songs came out of a relationship. It's Elton John's relationship with the lyricist, Bernie Taupin. So it's him and Elton John. They combined their efforts and built this holy, artistic relationship. The movie emphasized over and over that during all the years that they worked together, they never had a fight. There were disagreements but they were never actually angry at each other. It was a very interesting and creative movie.
Then afterwards – Rev. Dusa Althea, Rev. Rudy who joined us, and Lieschen – we went to a wonderful restaurant, a real "old San Francisco" style restaurant. It's been around for many, many years. It's called the Tadich Grill. It's one of the oldest restaurants in San Francisco. [First opened in 1849.] It's an Italian restaurant, so I felt right at home there. We had great dinners. It was just a great day.
I love celebrating my life every year. I think the birthday day is significant. I have gotten that message. Our birthday Workbook lesson is significant. I've talked about that on and off. I love celebrating my birthday, but I'm not going to lead with the age thing any more. I'm really trying to not think about it myself. To not think about this number, this wholly arbitrary number, that we associate all these ideas with. I'm just going to let it go.
I love my life. I love celebrating my life. I love celebrating it here in San Francisco. I usually take the whole day off, so I took the whole day off. We just got done with our Conference in Boston. One of the greatest gifts I could have given myself was my talk that I gave at the finale, miraculously we did get a video recorded. Rev. Lucas was there and it looked like we weren't going to get a video. The darn camera wasn't working, and there was all this stuff going on. I just remember manifesting a miracle there at that moment. I wasn't accepting that we weren't going to get a video of that talk.
I just did what I needed to do. I went and talked to the audio-visual person. We got an emergency power cord there, and we got the camera working. It was great. I gave my talk, and I am sure it's the best received talk I've ever given. I think I've given some great talks. I'm not saying one talk is better than another, but I think this was very well received.
People really loved it. It's on YouTube now**1. People are watching it even now for the first time. I've been getting really great comments about the talk when people have spoken to me. People are reposting it on their own Facebook pages. That is the greatest birthday gift I could have given to myself. That's wonderful, and I'm really grateful that I had the guidance to give that talk. I'm grateful and I'm sitting in the glory of that, the gratitude of that. I'm just letting it be whatever it will be. It's a truly blessed thing.
In that reading that I read it says, "The body is the central figure in the dreaming of the world ... which tells the story of how it was made by other bodies, born into the world outside the body, lives a little while and dies, to be united in the dust with other bodies dying like itself." (OrEd.Tx.27.77)
When we are doing this whole chronological age thing, I think we are just participating in this dream that is the world. We are telling a story of how our body was made by other bodies (our parents), our birth, how all that happened, that we were born into this world, and lived a little while. There was youth and getting mature, then being in that prime part of life. That prime slowly starts to fade though. It's what seems to happen, and then in the end we are united in the dust. We turn into dust.
"God still is Love, and this is not His Will." (OrEd.WkBk.99.5) A Course in Miracles says that if that was really the world that God created, you couldn't think of God as loving. You couldn't think of God as loving if that is truly the world He created. That is the dream that we have manifested. Since we are the ones manifesting it, the only way to stop from manifesting it must come from us. I am challenging myself to stop manifesting that dream of serial body adventures, progressing steadily to this inevitable thing called bodily death. I'm not taking that as a given anymore. I believe that God is still Love and that's not God's will. That's not God's will! That's an illusion! I don't have to buy into it.
Another reality can manifest itself. I don't know what that reality will be, but A Course in Miracles calls that the "real world" – the world that will reflect reality. I am going to let the real world be itself. I'm not here to manufacture the real world. I'm here to undo this illusory world that has the dream of death in it. We can just let the real world be itself.
There is a wonderful passage from A Course in Miracles. I'm going to give some credit to Robert Perry. This passage is "Swear not to die, you holy Son of God!" (OrEd.Tx.29.39) For many years of studying the Course, what I always thought that meant was, "Promise that you won't die." Again, "Promise that you won't die." When I came to it, I would say, "I'm not going to die!" But the problem with interpreting that quotation like that is the next line then does not make sense. "Swear not to die, you holy Son of God! You make a bargain that you cannot keep. " (OrEd.Tx.29.39)
Well wait a minute. I'm making a promise I cannot keep? But that's a promise I want to keep, but it's a promise that I can't keep? So it didn't make sense. Then Robert Perry clarified this in the Circle of Atonement's edition of A Course in Miracles. He said that means, "Stop promising to die." Again, "Stop promising to die." That's the promise that you cannot keep. We cannot keep that promise to die, and we have to confront our old promise and stop doing it.
Then it says, "The Son of Life cannot be killed. He is immortal as his Father." (OrEd.Tx.29.39). "Yes," stop promising to die. I am taking that in and asking for guidance on that, and my guidance on it this week is to stop counting those years up. Stop making people think, "Wow! You look really good for your age." I am eternal and timeless, and we all are. We look great all the time and that's all we have to focus on. If you want to tell me I look great, tell me I look great! Just tell me I look great. That's terrific. I will always take that in and say "Thank you!"
What I see, because I've been confronting these ideas for awhile, I just see there is an epidemic of this limited thinking. This thinking is so pervasive. It's in everything. I got a card for my birthday. I'm really grateful this person sent me a card. I know it was sent in love, and I am so happy they sent me a card. There is a little baby on the front of the card, and it says, "We came into this world wrinkled and squishy. If we are lucky, we leave wrinkled and squishy." Then it says, "and in between, we party." The sentiment is sweet and fun, but it's all about being born in this weak kind of soft and squishy state, partying for awhile, and then dying in a wrinkled and squishy state.
I'm not affirming that! I'm not affirming that any more. The real world will not have that type of reflection in it. I can't say what the real world will actually have, but it will have life and people in vital situations and manifesting their life energy and their vitality. They'll be interacting with people in energetic and loving ways. It won't be all about this being born weak, gaining strength with maturity, and then have it all dissipate slowly so that you pass, if you are "lucky," old and weak again. "God still is Love, and this is not His Will." (OrEd.WkBk.99.5)
A Course in Miracles says "The real world is not like this. It has no buildings, and there are no streets where people walk alone and separate." (OrEd.Tx.12.59) The real world that A Course in Miracles says that we will be manifesting, the last illusion, the last dream, it's going to be fundamentally different than the world that we see now.
I think we here at the Community Miracles Center are really challenging ourselves to engage in this real world thinking. This real world thinking is in the theme we've accepted for our next Conference which is 20/20 Vision for the Real World. Listen again, 20/20 Vision for the Real World. We are going to have clear – "20/20 vision" means really clear, precise vision – for the real world. I like vision. Vision is a great thing. It is an important thing for me because in my birthday lesson, which I had on Friday, it talks about vision.
I've always connected to this birthday lesson idea because it also talks about being a teacher: "The teacher does not give experience because he did not learn it. It revealed itself to him at its appointed time. But vision is his gift. This he can give directly." (OrEd.WkBk.158.5) That's in my birthday lesson #158. I can give vision. I can do that. I can't give anyone a spiritual experience. They must manifest that for themselves, but I can share my vision.
My vision is that the real world we are going to manifest does not have aging bodies that are growing weaker, and weaker, and weaker – if they are "lucky." If they don't pass or die in some tragic way earlier, and then get to end their life as wrinkled and squishy. I just know that it's not going to look like that. That's not my vision. That's not what is going to happen. That's the way it may have appeared to us, but that appearance is just a dream that we are having.
The Course says, "The cyclical, the changing and unsure, the undependable and the unsteady, waxing and waning in a certain way upon a certain path – all this is taken as the Will of God. And no one asks if a benign Creator could will this." (OrEd.Mn.27.1) We take this nature thing like this is the Will of God. We need to question that. This is not the Will of God because a benign, loving, good, creator could never have created reality like that. That's our dream; that's our nightmare. That's the dream that we are here to wake up from. We are here to wake up into a real world that doesn't have that element to it.
In another place it says, "Death is the central dream from which all illusions stem. Is it not madness to think of life as being born, aging, losing vitality, and dying in the end?" (OrEd.Mn.27.1) It's madness that we think this is the way things are supposed to be. That's not how things are supposed to be! That may be the way we manifested them before. It may be how I've manifested them. However, I am about undoing that manifestation and allowing some glorious experience of life to manifest through me with the Holy Spirit's help. That's my vision.
In the real world, we aren't going to be people aging, losing vitality, and dying in the end. We are going to be vital and beautiful all throughout our experience here in the real world.
So last year that was my last birthday. It was my last traditional birthday. I love my life. I love having a day to celebrate my life. I like June 7th; I like my birthday lesson. I'm great about celebrating my life. However I am eternal, and ageless, and timeless, and vital, and beautiful – and all of you are too. Thank you! Amen! (applause)♥
Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20th minister. He currently (05.03.22) serves as the CMC's Executive Minister and is President of CMC's Board of Directors. He was ordained by the CMC on Oct. 17, 1997.
**1 Click to view: 05.26.19 *The Power to Heal* Conference Finale - Rev. Tony Ponticello
o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the September 2019 (Vol. 33 No. 7) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.