Friday, April 10, 2015

Standing in a Fresh Lake, Thirsty

"I disappoint many people, and sometimes myself, by not being more obviously spiritual. I don't go to church and rarely meditate in a formal way. I wear ordinary clothes and eat an ordinary diet. I have an aversion to much of the language I hear and read from today's spiritual sources." Thus begins the poetically-titled piece This Fractured, Heavenly World in a back issue of the Spirituality and Health magazine. 

It is by the wonderful and wise Thomas Moore, one of my most recent writing loves. In this short piece, he first tells us where he gets these wonderfully light attitudes from. Partly, he says, they come from his father. Moore paints an evocative picture of the man. He tells us that his father, who died two months after turning 100 years old, was a deeply religious and spiritual man. 

In fact, he was one of the most spiritual people he has ever known. A devout Catholic, he went to Mass at every opportunity, and yet, he was also someone who "wouldn't suffer piousness." Moore tells us of a time that his father went to a church meeting just to stir up some discussion and to represent contrarian views. 

"He loved people, enjoyed the simple things, had a constant curiosity about how the world works, and loved being around children and playing with them. He was also a born teacher who took every opportunity to help others learn. He was a plumber and lived a plumber's spirituality." 

With such a stellar example, how could Moore's spirituality not grow in a similar form? "Years ago, an image from the Sufis struck me and has guided me. Looking for God, they say, is like someone standing in a lake of fresh water and being thirsty. It is foolish to seek the sacred and the divine when we live in a world that is holy and saturated with divinity, if only we had the eyes to see it." 

Moore tells us, "I don't want to be "spiritual," and I don't want to be "worldly." I want whatever results when you thoroughly mix the two." 

We have to recognize that the mundane and the sacred share the same space, he says. That's the profound paradox that we need to touch. The routines of our lives have a sacred thread running right through them. As we look up from watering our plants and see a crane flying above, that is a sacred moment, a communion. When we create a meal for someone we love, that is an offering. When we touch upon the joy of practicing our talents, that is the bursting forth of our joy. 

What we can't quite touch is the reason dancers dance, singers sing, and musicians make music. It's the same reason that architects design buildings, what Goethe called frozen music. It's the spirit we touch on when we do what we love, in work or in play. We are expressing the echoes of some music deep inside us. 

Maybe articulating the notes will help us find where it comes from. And at the very least, going over the notes gives some comfort. They waft up from a place we can't see, and yet, can dimly sense. 

Now, there's this opening to a larger self, to feelings of connection. It feels like such a relief from the frozen, archaic space that often holds us in sway. 

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