Existential Sunday

I mentioned yesterday that I was moody.  I come around periodically to a place of existential crisis, and I’ve come to believe it’s good for me.  When I was raising children and nursing a sick husband, I rarely got this privilege.  I always had someone to pour my heart and soul into and frequently felt that my existence was thoroughly used up on a daily basis.  Trouble is, this way of living was often an unexamined habit that I could go through sleep-walking.  I kept my head down and convinced myself that everything I was doing was noble and important.  It may have been, or it may not have been.  I wasn’t really paying attention that closely.

Living with Steve is different.  It’s challenging.  He doesn’t want me to pour my heart and soul into caring for him.  He wants me to fly on my own.  I blink, open-mouthed.  Fly?  On my own?  What the heck does that look like?  He redirects my attention from outside of me to inside…all the time…and I keep imagining an empty room.  What if I don’t have any inner life?

So I sit with that.  Emptiness isn’t a judgment.  It can be the beginning of openness.

I went poking around on the internet, looking for an answer (from outside, again…old habits die hard) to “what is important in life”.  I actually found something kinda cool:  this community project.  An abandoned building in New Orleans is covered with chalkboard paint and stenciled with the prompt “Before I die, I want to ___”.  Chalk is provided.  People approach.  Existential assessment goes on, and the sentence is answered.  I imagine myself standing there…clouds gather, rain falls, people pass, children grow up…and I’m still scratching my head.

I thought of re-phrasing the question, changing “What is important in life?”  to “What are two things you cannot live without?”  They’re not exactly interchangeable, I discovered.  I also discovered a great irony: I lost the two things I thought I couldn’t live without, and I’m still living.  So, either they weren’t that important, or I’m not really living.  Or I didn’t answer that truthfully.  I thought I could not live without my husband.  I thought I could not live without my Christian faith.  I was wrong.

Okay, dammit, what IS important in life?  What about the obvious answer…’life’?  As in, “Before I die, I want to Live.”  I want to live, be alive, be awake, be aware, spend myself, give my love, explore my autonomy, visit that inner room and see what’s there.  But not in an ego-driven way.  In an open way. The Western way prompts me, “Yes, but what will that look like when it’s all finished?” as if there’s a finish.  It wants a goal, a check list with little boxes to tick, just to keep track so that it can say, “Good…I’ve done it!”  That’s ego talk.  The Eastern way says, “Forget the goal, the check list.  You don’t need to keep track; keep open.  Engage with life and have a relationship.”

That’s where I’ve gotten to so far today.  How about you?  What is important in your life?

Have Some Divinity

The premise is this: for each day in December, instead of counting down on an Advent calendar, I’m counting the free gifts we all get every day.  Today’s gift is divinity, but I don’t mean the candy.  I mean The Divine, The Sacred, The Holy and experiences of them.  Don’t we all have the opportunity to receive that every day?  If you look for it, will you find it?  I think so.

So, what is sacred?  How do you recognize the divine and holy?  In art, there’s always a halo or a sunbeam to give you a clue.  What about here on earth?

‘Namaste’ is the Sanskrit greeting recognizing the existence of another person and the divine spark in that person, with the hands pressed together in front of the heart chakra.  I think the divine spark exists in every living thing as the breath of life.  Every encounter with a living thing is an experience of the divine.  We hardly ever act like that is true, however.  But we could.  Native Americans and many African tribes have hunting rituals that celebrate the sacred exchange of life.  The hunted animal is divine, sacrificing itself for the life of the hunter, and the hunter shows a holy appreciation.  Often, when I look at macro photography of living things, flower stamens, insects, mosses, I am compelled to worship the divine in the detail.  Life is sacred and beautiful.  Looking closely and deeply is a way to practice recognizing that.

Seeing macro, but lacking the lens

In a dualistic world view, the mundane and the divine are polar opposites.  One is worldly, one is sacred.  If this world were imbued with holiness, if God became incarnate and entered flesh in this world, those opposites would run together like watercolors.  Many cultures believe this is the truth about life.  The waters under the firmament and the waters above the firmament are separated in one telling of the creation story, but the Spirit of God was moving over all of the waters from the very beginning, even in that story.  The understanding that divinity is everywhere has inspired people all over the globe for centuries.  This place we inhabit is special; it’s valuable.  It’s all holy.  This is the beginning of respect for the Universe and everything in it.  Somewhere in Western history, that idea lost its power.  Earth and everything in it became base and fallen.  Good turned to bad and life turned to death.  I’m not sure if that new idea has been very helpful.  I rather think it hasn’t.  And I don’t think it has to be that way.  It’s an idea, after all.  So if it’s not a helpful idea, why support it?  How would you rather live?  In a fallen world or in a world where the sacred and divine can be found everywhere?  Just wondering out loud.  I’m not saying that one idea is right and the other wrong.  The glass is neither half full nor half empty.  It’s a glass, and there’s water in it.  The rest is conceptual.  Why argue?  Choose how to live with the glass and the water.   As for me and my house, “I choose happy.”  (One of Jim’s conclusive statements.)

I hope this gives you something to ponder for today.  If you like, you can add a scene of Edmund Pevensie in Narnia being asked by the White Witch what he craves.  “It is dull, Son of Adam, to drink without eating.  What would you like best to eat?”  “Turkish Delight, please your Majesty!” he responds.  What if he had said, “Divinity”?  Same story, nuanced.  I would like to taste the sacred in this world, and I believe it’s here.