Letters From God Dropped In The Street
Do you see O my brothers and sisters?
It is not chaos or death. . . . it is form and union and plan. . . . it is eternal life. . . . it is happiness. – Walt Whitman, Leaves Of Grass
Some folks think “mysticism” is a bad thing. The idea that there is some connection between what is seen and what is not seen; between all things that are seems, to such people, a bunch of nonsense.
Except, alas, even science has its mystics. They’re called quantum physicists. There’s this notion of “quantum entanglement”, what Einstein dismissed as “spooky action at a distance”, even though Newton had already offered “spooky action at a distance” with gravity, a force we still aren’t sure is a wave or particle, but connects every elementary particle in the Universe. Quantum entanglement just takes it a step further: a change in state in an elementary particle, say, in my finger can directly effect change in the quantum state of an elementary particle in the Andromeda galaxy. I know that probably sounds like nonsense, but the math says it’s so (at least those who know the math say that’s what the math says). Recent experiments affirm it. That affirmation is the basis for experiments in quantum computing and practical teleportation.
Everything, indeed, is connected.
There are cells in my body made up of atoms that were forged in the heart of a star millions of light-years away. All that organic food you’re eating is nourished by death, by feces, by bacteria that relish decay as a delicacy. We are, whether we know it or not, creatures born from death; we are constructed of stuff made a very long time ago very far away. Identity is . . . well, identity is at best a fluid concept.
It shouldn’t be surprising there are a whole lot of hard-headed religious types who distrust mysticism. Even when mystics have had established roles in the Church – St Francis founded a missional order; St. Teresa was an adviser to kings and Popes (and carried on a chaste love affair with fellow Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross) – no one is quite sure what to do with them. The things they say all too often are contradictory. They also might well cut against the grain of whatever passes for the orthodoxy of the moment. Mystics prefer to couch their truths in riddles, to offer their visions in words, and refuse to be an authority even as others wish to read and hear more. Being powers without authority, few things are more threatening to the powers and principalities than the honest humility of the great.
Theological debates interest me very little anymore. Contending for “truth” does little more than create confusion and anger, and there is more than enough of that in the world. Rooted in the Bible, I often find poetry far more expressive of the deep reality we experience than anything. And no poet speaks to my experience of the ineffable in the everyday the way Whitman speaks. Living is beautiful. All that is, is beautiful because it exists. Nothing needs any justification; all that is needs celebration. There is no such thing as “ugly” because all that is, is beautiful. There is no such thing as abomination, because all that is, is blessed and holy. The dirt and grime of everyday living and working, shitting and screwing, of the sweat of the woman cleaning house and the child at play are blessed and holy. To fear death is to fear something as much a part of life and our world as to fear clouds or flowers.
When I’m not seeing the world as a thin veil, not so much obscuring as offering hints of something terrible just beyond our ability to perceive (except on occasion; that’s when the nightmares come), I tend toward this kind of mystical pantheism. I see old familiar faces and I smile, because they remind me I’ve tried to live well. I see newborn babies and I think of how soft they feel, how sweet they smell, and how much they will see and hear and do. I feel my wife in my arms and know that love and lust are not different things, just different aspects of the same desire for another that is part of existence itself. I pray and I know my words are nonsense, but beloved gibberish that God enjoys because it is born as much from thankfulness and joy as fear and sorrow. That all that is, is wound together in an entanglement made up of love seems so clear and obvious, I wonder how it is possible others cannot see it, cannot see how beautiful they are, cannot know that deep within their bodies lies an atom that just changed ever so slightly and in response, an atom in a galaxy millions of light-years away just changed ever so slightly, and that connection isn’t about energy.
It’s about love. A love so clear you can see it running between and among the bee and the flower, the spider and its prey, the smiles of a new mother and her baby. It’s the intangible yet unbreakable bond that will not allow anything ever to be lost or forgotten. There are moments all this is so clear, so plain and obvious to me, I’m surprised the whole Universe doesn’t burst out in song.
Experiencing moments like this, I remember that veil of which I wrote the other day, and I call it a lie. The falling leaf outside my window shouts its defiance at such a lie. After all, it has served its tree well and good, and now returns to feed it some more. Nothing can steal the beauty and power of that simple reality.