Brian Wilcox "Red Zinnia"
In the 1988 movie Patch Adams, based on a true story, Hunter "Patch" Adams is adrift. Lonely and suicidal, he checks into a mental institution. While there, he learns the healing power of helping others and decides to become a doctor. In medical school, Patch finds strength in joy and laughter, but his innovative approach to medicine some professors do not welcome.
After building a free clinic in the mountains, all seems to be going well for Patch. The woman of his dreams, a fellow doctor, confesses past abuse led her to hate men, and wish she were a butterfly to fly away. Now, she has found new hope and love with him.
When things seem unable to get better, Patch discovers one of his girlfriend's parents murdered her. Disillusioned about the value of his work, he decides to quit. For the last time, he goes to the site upon which he one day hoped to build a free hospital to replace the clinic. There he challenges God.
Patch stands on a clifftop looking out over the landscape. He starts talking to God. He asks, "What now? What do You want from me?" Patch moves toward the edge of the cliff and considers jumping. He tells God he could jump, and he knows that God would not stop him. He says, "So, answer me, please. Tell me what You're doing?" Getting no audible answer, Patch says he will look at the logic.
The way Patch sees it, he says, is God creates a person, who lives a life of pain and dies. Patch argues God should have thought out creation a bit more. He informs God, "You rested on the seventh day, maybe you should have spent that day on compassion." Again, he looks over the edge and, then, kicks a rock down.
In a final act of defiance, Patch looks up and says, "You know what? You're not worth it." He turns and begins to walk back to his car. He stops, when amazed to find a butterfly on his suitcase. The butterfly takes wing and lights upon his chest, near his heart. Patch reaches out his hand. The butterfly crawls onto his finger. He looks at it. He laughs. As the butterfly takes to the sky, soaring higher and higher, Patch laughs again. God, he sees, has taken a small creature of beauty and spoken to his heart.
Possibly, at this moment, Patch realizes his dear departed beloved had only flown away, free. Perhaps, at this moment, he realizes that as she did not run away from her suffering but found true love with him, he, too, can find meaning in life again. Patch's smile shows a face effulgent with renewed hope and faith.
* * *
Many persons are familiar with these divine visits. One seems at a dead end, yet finds somehow Something seems to orchestrate an apparent coincidence: a chance meeting, a stranger says just what you need to hear, something read that speaks to your need, a book found that seems to call your name, a phone call from someone of the past just when you needed company to cheer you up, or a sudden and straightforward uplift of the self into a sense of subtle but palpable Presence near.
* * *
A friend, a vowed member of the community I am vowed by, had marital problems. She knelt to pray, her heart burdened with concern. While praying, she felt a touch on her back. No person was there. With the touch arose a consolation that shrouded her. The suffering was gone.
* * *
A fellow clergyperson went through a season of spiritual dryness. Nothing he did could regain for him the joy he had known for many years. One day, he walked out into his field. He prostrated and began praying. Suddenly, joy unspeakable descended on him. He spoke of the bliss as being so intense he felt his body barely able to survive it.
* * *
At times, these visitations are more subtle than those shared above. I grew up in a conservative Christian home. I became well-acquainted with the Bible, including memorizing much of it. I was licensed to preach at age fifteen. Later, when in seminary - this scene returns over these 30 years plus-, I was much disturbed in spirit. I stood in my little kitchen, still and quiet. Spontaneously, a scripture I had memorized when a teen arose within: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in your weakness." I knew all was well, and that was all needed to confirm I was not alone, and grace was present and adequate for what was happening.
* * *
Tibetan Buddhist teacher Anam Thubten, in his A Sacred Compass, writes regarding the Ineffable - what many Buddhists refer to as Dharmata (lit., suchness of everything). He writes, "The true nature of reality is emptiness. It has no form, but it is not dead." Openings from what seems outside the human realm remind us we are not mere elements, explainable at a purely biological level, or a being of mind, only bodies with functioning but declining brains; we are of Consciousness, God, the Supernal.
* * *
We do not need, and I do not advise, we intellectualize much about the divine visitations. As well, we can appreciate the Mystery from which they arise persons and traditions interpret in many ways. What is important is we receive them with gratitude, acknowledging they are a gift and confirmations we are not alone. We are a part of a Mystery of aliveness with which we interpenetrate with all lives. We all live within a single Aliveness, even as we breathe one air and under one sky.
Also, we need to be careful whom we share with these openings. Many persons would likely reply from their psychological or religious framework, desacralizing what you experience, pulling down the experience into their manageable, safe, and very-limited worldview.
Again, Anam Thubten -
So far, the scientific, materialistic explanation of who we are and of the mystery of life is very limited and incomplete. I think life is much more profound, much more filled with mystery and wonder than we can describe through our logical mind. In the end, maybe all human language is too limited to describe the depth of life, existence, or the universe. Human language can never really describe everything completely.
*A Sacred Compass.
* * *
it is best
to leave some things untouched
by the tongue
mind uses speech
one says, "See that Temple!"
one replies, "Yes, what an old barn!"
one says, "Last night, I drank the Beloved's wine"
one replies, "Yes, the water here is tasty"
let it rest
in the heart
a secret known only
to two lovers
some things are too intimate, too holy
carelessly to speak -
or even to speak at all
* * *
Last, it is wise not to seek these divine visitations. Instead, we live close to the heart and our Beloved, and these graceful openings come naturally as a gift.
* * *
*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher FirstBooks. The book is a collection of poems based on the mystical traditions, especially Christian and Sufi, with extensive notes on the teachings and imagery within these traditions appearing in the poetry.
*Patch Adams. Universal Pictures. December 1998.