'Demariscotta River 2'
October 2015 -
Sunday about noon. Been to worship, first time at a nearby congregation, Brunswick, Georgia - enjoyed being there. Still, so much did not speak to my heart. I have come to expect that and open to the Love present. Love always speaks when we listen from the right place, regardless of what is said or not. Anyway, worship is not about what I think or about getting just what I want, like putting in an order at a restaurant. No blame, simply where I am or am not. So, no problem.
The people and the minister were kind. Human warmth and Eucharist were what I needed (or wanted, possibly both) most. The minister seemed, unlike many, real, not an unthinking puppet of the institution. I guess the word genuine would fit her; it seems so to me after meeting her and hearing her give a thoughtful message with humble gentleness.
The creed, well, lacked poetic inspiration and claimed verities we really cannot know with the certainty we claim or feign (I let you decide). Still, we keep saying the words, like that is what we are supposed to do (I may just stop saying them in silent reverence of truth). I prefer poetry to narrative for conveying a sense of what is true; anyway, poetry is more beautiful, evocative, and honest than creeds and theology. It hints at the truth - to me, that is more true. Eucharist, well, lovely. Now... that is poetry in motion!
Bicycle ride afterward- windy, chilly. Sun amazing. I am sitting beside the pond. The Sun is beautiful, piercing coolness with light and warmth. Trees sway, leaves dance, signing a lovely, wordless song. Now, that is a choir! Here is poetry!
The question arises about all the Christian theology (God-ology). I look over the rippling, dark waters - "Where does one go (not meant geographically) when transcending (not rejecting) all that?" A quiet reply surfaces from somewhere. The reply is one word: "Nowhere." That feels peaceful.
Sitting beside the pond, I ponder on "Nowhere." Possibly only mystics (I hesitate to use the word) know what "Nowhere" means. I think they know how painful it can be to be unable to return to where one once lived (again, nothing to do with geography). One enjoyed close fellowship with like-minded others. Answers in black-and-white were consoling. You believed, and that solved everything. I sense, based on their writings, many of the Christian mystics would know what "Nowhere" means. They would know it is an absolute enigma. They lived a riddle no one can unriddle. When they saw the one Truth unclothe itself, they could not go back to where they had lived (again, not geography).
November 2020 -
I prefer the can't-unriddle, though my life might have been much easier if I had stayed with the apparent answers. The answer I long sought, persons through time and space have sought, is no answer. I was once full of answers, ready to speak of the inscrutables with certitude. We called it conviction in my little Bible Belt church. John of the Cross would have said, and did, "Nada. Nada." - "Nothing. Nothing." Still, he penned, also, "Everything and Nothing."
John of the Cross loved Jesus. I have since childhood. Jesus was my first love - yes, even when I tried to hide from him for years. But who is he? Is he a she and a he? It? Is he no more he, anyone, except in the Heart of Life? I have no answer to these questions; Love does not ask me for one. The less I have known about him, the more I have been blessed to be known in him and know him - to know myself in him, not in myself. The old answers no longer satisfy me. I cannot return. I do not wish to.
I am not sure I can love the church again, either, as I did - now, the world is my church. But my love for Jesus remains. And as to who or what he is now, best to go find out for yourself. I cannot tell you. No one can. Starting with some answers may help - I did. Ending with answers will not help, however. Remember that "Nothing and Everything." You can spend the rest of your life living that koan, and you will never solve it but in Love.
* * *
Recently, I spoke with an acquaintance. He said, in the language of my earlier years, about his being saved. He is a Baptist. I was raised one. I could sense his sincerity and truthfulness. I told him about my experience with Jesus, too, when a little boy. I said it was all love, the most amazing love. I said, "I remember, after that, I didn't want to do anything to disappoint my best friend." I lowered my head. I began to cry quietly. Fifty-one years had done nothing to lessen the love felt on that Sunday night in the little, red-brick, country church in Handtown community.
* * *
Finally, I left the church, about ten years after that day beside the pond in Georgia. Yet, the love I felt on that night fifty-one years ago stays in me. That was, to me, my awakening, a satori of the heart. My heart flew open to the Sky of Love. Even though I have been deeply wounded many times, my heart has never closed to that pure love.
No, I cannot tell you what happened that night. I mean, when something like that happens, you can talk all you want about it, but you cannot tell it. Whatever you say is talking around it. I think that is one thing that I could no longer relate to within the church. I would attend worship and hear words but rarely sensed they were come out living from the heart. I witnessed devotional sentimentality and rational logic, but the heart longs for more - much more.
When Grace deeply touches us - call it what you will - that lives in us, it pours out from us. And one day, you can say with John of the Cross, "Nothing and Everything." What does that mean? Good question. You live the Mystery, and then you see - not until.
* * *
We cannot get the truth from outside ourselves. No guru, no church, no priest, no creed, no confession, no holy book - nothing and no one gives you the truth. Truth comes to us in living the truth we have already been graced with. It keeps showing up, showing more and more of itself.
* * *
A poem by the Buddhist Tozan aptly illustrates what I have been saying. He speaks of knowing the Tathagata - an honorific title of the Buddha.
You shouldn’t search for it outwardly.
If you do, the truth will become more remote from you.
But when alone I proceed through myself,
Wherever I go I meet him.
Now he is not other than myself, yet I am not he.
Only if you understand this will you unite with the Tathagata.
So, who is the Jesus I met when a child? What is the truth? As with Tozan, we have to proceed through ourselves, not accepting as final the ready-made answers of others. We cannot borrow truth, we cannot inherit it. It lives itself into and through us. It takes us into and through itself. Then, we know, even if we do not know what we know - we know.
* * *
Someday, we arrive at that place spoken to my heart - "Nowhere." Then, we can let out a big smile. We see! It is simple; we had been looking at it all the time. The looking ends, the seeing begins. It always was here. We just needed to forget enough to see.
February 2018 -
I closed my eyes
better, You closed my eyes
(when, where, I do not know) ~
fingers stilled by the Stillness, no searching the Dark
for the first time, seeing nothing and everything,
You, in what could be called somewhere beyond even
the thought of love, My Love
My Love, I have always sought you
before and beyond every name
You are named
Now, in not finding You
I am found
I am seen
I am found
Grace, sweet Grace
'With Closed Eyes'
* * *
*(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 AuthorHouse. The book is a collection of poems based on mystical traditions, especially Christian and Sufi, with extensive notes on the teachings and imagery in the poetry.