When I was a little girl, I remember playing under an evergreen tree with the lower canopy that allowed for a teepee-like experience. I even imagined (or remembered?) being a squaw in a previous life. Actually, it is not relevant whether it was imagined because the essence of the experience was that of serenity, solid and complete.
STATE OF BEING
There are moments in life when you know there’s something else going on, tangible but ineffable. It is not just in the most intimate recesses of what you believe yourself to be, it is outside of you as well. This awareness is pervasive and infinite, an atmospheric river. Most importantly, it is love-saturated, a palpable, crackling calm yet energetic field of seeming potential.
I am inclined to know this state is the reality of our being. It is reliable yet all-too-often fleeting in its awareness. So much of our lives, at least my life, has been on the physical plane. But I have constantly been drawn back like a homing device to the other state, the real one, in various forms. I am both helpless yet helped in the process of the return.
Many people call it God or the Presence. It can go by a lot of different names but suffice it to say, the overarching definition is beyond one’s small self, limitless. It is the certitude that there is something greater than a small self, that one has no power over yet participates with as an individual cell contained therein.
WHAT’S IN A NAME
I remember when working with Bennet Mermel, my holocaust survivor friend—cantor, atheist, believer in a different way—and us arguing periodically, about the existence of God. I think it was the name that tripped him up, and all the baggage it implies. Why the Old Testament lets humans name things is beyond me but such is one of our traditional beliefs. With the naming of things comes an implied assigned meaning that is fixed.
Naming invites us to think we have some sort of power (not to be confused with responsibility) over the thing itself which is absurd of course on the face of it. I laugh at myself that I ever had this argument with Bennet, he being one of the best examples I’ve ever met of a human contradiction—that tension between the physical and the etheric plane.
In the end of our back and forth, Bennet did tell me that he believed there was something greater than himself. I think he called it nature if I remember correctly. Vividly, I recall watching and hearing him sing as was his nature. Not only was his voice stunning, but I was witness to what Jamie Wheal would call flow or zone. Bennet would be smack dab in the middle of that zone when he sang, hitting the center of the note like a laser drawn to a tractor beam.
Regardless of what we humans name it, it is a state where there is unadulterated awareness of the cessation of time, even physicality. The transcendence of form is in the background yet pervasive. I was aware in my imagination under the lower canopy of the fur tree of that zone, much like I witnessed Bennet when he sang. And while there have been other times I’ve inhabited the zone, they are not frequent. Rather, they come unbidden, as if by accident yet not.
In the end, I gave up trying to convince Bennet of the existence of God. While that was my instinct to finally let it go, it wasn’t until after he died that I knew for a fact, a fact mind you as reliable as gravity, that it was the semantics that were the problem not the experience itself. He knew it by another name. He couldn’t help but operate in the field, the zone by another name.
Bizarrely, there are moments in time that are outside of it. Some people discover it through ritual or traditions. Some people stumble on it by being on holy ground, in nature, around art, or even something as mundane as waiting for a train. Others by hitting the center of a note while singing. Songbirds know! Still, others experience it while looking at a daisy. Or into the eyes of a cow.
STATE OF CHANGE
How much time I wasted trying to convince Bennet of a noun confused by our conflicting definitions. Ah, the arrogance of the ego! Yet, I remain grateful beyond measure for his voice, his arguing, his insistence on expressing it and in the only way he knew. The pristine quality through his singing was his witness, not all its man-made baggage and assumptions. It was the state he understood, the energy of something greater than himself that facilitated his very act.
The world is currently on a precipice, with so much strife everywhere. So many traditions and institutions are failing us, a critical mass buildup of disintegration witnessed in the current moment. Yet it is only a moment. While all that which has seemed reliable in the past is no longer so, there is an opportunity for reinvention that transcends the moment—not just by renaming things but by creating new paths through imagination, and discovery.
All this is true on an individual level as well as a communal level, from the micro to the macro and back again. It’s kind of funny that Bennet keeps teaching me things he professed to not believe in, even beyond the grave! It is a Grace, one of those mysteries of the living and the dead, in and out of time. Nameless and waiting.
At some point as a species we will have to surrender our perceptions of supremacy and arrogance though not responsibility. So many old thought patterns and ideas have become extinct. It is time for us to put on our big boys and girls pants and grow up! Humility is the primary vehicle in that turning, just as much as a maturing, playful confidence in ourselves and our own creativity with internal and external exploration.
How all this turns out is anyone’s guess. Between Jaime Wheal’s stunning work in Recapture the Rapture, as well as others research that is pivotal, an emerging potential for devising new ways of living, reinventing rituals, institutions and relationships, there is a promise for unlimited discovery and definition. One thing is for sure: we will not be going backwards, any more than the dinosaurs could!
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