Set aside for the moment whether we choose birth. Say simply that we are born, and immediately thereafter begin judging. This face is good, that one is bad. Warm is good, cold is bad. Familiar voice good, unfamiliar voice bad. Who can argue with it? Babies are vulnerable. Judge correctly or die.
And it never stops. We love this toy, we hate that toy. This class is fun, that one isn’t. By the time we become adults we have a vast storehouse of information – the whole of our identity wrapped up in a mess of judgments, nearly all of it acquired by habit, out of the perception of vulnerability. And most of it is wrong, worse than useless. We’re like computers sputtering along on a code that produces nothing but static.
This is the separation. Misinformation is its condition, confusion its herald, despair its only end. But Daito said that when clouds vanish, the moon can be seen. What is behind – or beyond – the detritus out of which our poor identities are composed?
Or so I wondered while walking, going further than usual up the old air strip, slipping on patches of snowy ice while the dogs loped in widening circles, noses to the ground. Thought I heard a Killdeer, but probably not. Stars on the eastern horizon faded first as the sun rose, black becoming a deep liquid blue. My body ached from climbing hills yesterday, and whatever passes these days for a soul was troubled by the utter lack of peace I felt. Write five or six days in a row about God and you see pretty quickly how vain and shallow you can be.
Ostensibly the Holy Spirit will lift the veil, shatter the obstructions. Bring all your vanities and worries and terrors and weaknesses to its altar, and its light will shine them away, leaving only what is good, only what is helpful. But this requires some faith first, however tiny – that there is such an altar and that it is attended. When – as now – we cannot respond to that metaphysical posture with an emphatic yes, the result is an emptiness in which one doesn’t feel like singing at all.
My feet are cold – very cold. Holes in my boots let in snow which then melts, freezing my socks. I should keep a spare set by the door. Two hours and one cup of tea later I’m still shivering, still trying to reason my way to the original face. “Miracles are seen in light, and light and strength are one.” Just words, I mutter, while getting on with my own.