Thursday, May 22, 2014

where explanations fall away

I was once talking with a woman who had recently discovered her right hand. She explained that suddenly, out of no where, her right hand no longer belonged to her. Stare at it as she might and confirm as she might that the hand was, as always before, attached to her body, still, her right hand had taken on a bright new specificity and individuality and (somehow) separateness.

It was all, if I recall her delivery correctly, a bit weird, but not entirely unpleasant. What had been true in a perfectly mundane, pay-it-no-mind way became true in some new way. The new way did not exactly negate the old attached-hand way, it simply made that truth more compellingly wide and more truly true. The ordinary becomes extraordinary which is perfectly ordinary but not exactly as expected.

Our conversation took place in an easy-going, hither-and-thither discussion of Buddhism or spiritual life or something. Nothing especially heavy ... just chatting along. She was interested in spiritual life, but wasn't some everything-is-spiritual wack job.

The woman's encounter with her right hand did not last for long, but it was compelling enough so that she remembered it and found its contrast to her ordinary understanding a bit unsettling. She had been so utterly convinced. And yet if she had been so utterly convinced then, why was she not so utterly convinced now? The tendrils of a brief encounter lingered in her mind, not exactly nagging, but posing whispered questions.

Anyone who has entered spiritual life with some determination will recognize the small experience the woman described to me. Serious spiritual life is a bit wacky from the get-go and a lot of participants allow for experiences that might seem truly off-the-wall in ordinary discourse. There's a latitude granted to, well, you know, the weird stuff that sometimes is madly sought and sometimes just comes calling all by itself.

Maybe it's a kiss that becomes a kiss, maybe it's a single hair in the hair brush, maybe it's a couple of drops of spilled coffee, maybe it's ... anything at all. The experience may last a moment or two or a day or two, but eventually it recedes into memory, not nagging exactly, but posing, as for the woman,  whispered questions.

The fact that such experiences are talked about in spiritual venues may lead some to believe that it is spiritual life -- its hard work, its determination, its effort, its seriousness, its other-worldliness -- that is responsible for such bright openings. But just because people in a wacky venue are more open to speaking about such events does not mean the those events are somehow absent in less wacky venues.

My own feeling -- based on some experience -- is that pretty much everyone runs into such bright moments, the ones that knock everyday understanding for a temporary loop. The fact that they don't talk about it with the same abandon that attends on the latest baseball game or pay raise is based in the fear that "no one will understand" or "they'll think I'm a wacko."

No matter. Talking about it doesn't explain it any more than not talking about it explains it. Where the known universe is somehow fractured ... well, if you can't explain it to yourself, how could you ever explain it to anyone else as a means of understanding? Or -- assuming you found some serene and profound teacher to guide your footsteps -- you may say that "s/he straightened me out," but a little examination will upend that convenient explanation.

The thought that crosses my mind when it comes to these small bright openings is not how rare and unusual they are but rather how plentiful and usual they are. I suspect that if a hundred people got together and were somehow willing or able to remember, there would be thousands of twinkling lights.

And when enough people are all doing the same thing, no one calls them a wacko any more. The fractured universe or the wider and more assured understanding is probably as common as picking your nose -- be as secretive as you like, but don't tell me you haven't done it ... or that you haven't entered a brand new and utterly ordinary universe... an edgy and unexplainable place that has already been explained and is about as edgy as a booger.

Finally ... a place of honesty where explanations don't compute.

What a relief!

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