I want to jot down some notes with respect to God, bodies, love, oneness and A Course in Miracles. I want to propose an anology: body as an instrument on which the melody of love plays. To me this is a helpful frame, one that gestures away from limitation and loss and towards undifferentiated oneness.
Imagine that you live in a cave and have never heard music. You’ve hear sounds (birds and wind, say), but not formal music. You have no idea what that even is. One day, you visit a nearby city where you come upon a woman holding a box-like instrument with strings. As her hands move along the box the most wondrous sounds emerge! A melody that rips you open like a ripe melon and spills your soul across the cobblestones. This is beauty! This is life!
Then a bee stings a nearby horse who rears and smashes the box-like instrument to pieces. The woman who held it leaves. You fall to your knees in grief. That brief moment of divine piercing beauty is gone, never to return . . .
In this – I know, I know, totally ridiculous – hypothetical, we have confused the source of music with the instrument upon which the music was temporarily played. We believe that when the instrument is gone, the music is gone too.
But of course we are wrong in that belief. The haunting lovely tune we heard can easily be played on another guitar. Or on a flute. Or a piano. It can even be whistled. We can even learn to do it ourselves.
The suggestion is that with respect to love and bodies, we are very much that traveler hearing music for the first time and equating it with the instrument. We are confused about the source of our experience of love. We experience love in bodies, and through other bodies, and so we believe that absent those various bodies, then there is no love.
Even if we intellectually disagree with this, we still believe it and the belief informs our living. There’s a reason we like hugs and sitting around fires and snuggling under warm blankets in winter.
But ask yourself: where is Beethoven’s fur elise?
We can readily point to objects like sheet music and recordings. But those are just examples of the music appearing; they are not where the music is.
Nobody believes that when a grand piano is destroyed Chopin’s etudes are gone. Or that when the sheet music is lost that the etudes are lost as well. Nobody believes that absent Chopin or Beethoven, music itself would vanish.
Where is music? Where is beauty? Where is love? Where is life?
These questions point to a reality that is not conditioned upon time and space and the materiality time and distance imply.
When my father died, life did not end. Love did not end. There was a dead body in the room, but life itself was not absent. My father wasn’t absent either, though the nature of his presence had deeply shifted. I do not expect this to be any different when my own body ceases to draw breath, its memories and dreams dissipate, and the patterning of its cognition and perception slows to a trickle then stops.
Life is not created by the body any more than music is created by an instrument. Life expresses through a body, sure. It temporarily appears in and through bodies, sure. But the body is not the source of life. It is not the cause of life. It is merely an instance of life.
Similarly, beauty and meaning are not in or of a body; this is clear simply from the fact that we don’t all agree about beauty and meaning. For example, I am in an open marriage with chickadees but most people barely notice them. All bodies draw breath, but not all bodies bother with the sacred formalities I indulge when it comes to these little birds.
Ai Weiwei gave a great demonstration of this principle when he purposefully destroyed a Han Dynasty urn. It was an object one could call “priceless” in both its aesthetic beauty and cultural relevance. But he destroyed it. And why not? Beauty and meaning aren’t locked in this or that form. Shatter the vase and art goes on (in photographs and video of the destruction, in countless essays exploring the act and so forth). Shatter the form but love, beauty and meaning go on.
So what happens when we shift our attention from the form to the content (to borrow one of Ken Wapnick’s chestnuts)?
One thing that happens is that the forms don’t go anywhere. That is, the particular instance of love remain viable and intact. Chickadees are still chickadees; Bob Dylan songs are still Bob Dylan songs; Emily Dickinson poems are still Emily Dickinson poems. Bodies gotta body.
But another thing that happens – the really interesting thing that happens – is that one’s investment in and attachment to these forms diminishes; indeed, it reduces almost to zero. That’s because one begins to know that love is not the form. We still perceive the form but our perception pales beside the love we know. Forms come and go; love does not. And what we respond to is not the form but the love. Form is different, various, shifting; love is the same.
This distinction is critical to the curriculum of A Course in Miracles. Forms are illusory; as such, they can either distract us in futile and frantic pursuits or they can remind us of Love. The whole purpose of our study is to learn to use the world and everything in it to remember Love.
Illusions serve the purpose they were made to serve. And from their purpose they derive whatever meaning they seem to have. God gave to all illusions that were made another purpose that would justify a miracle whatever form they took. In every miracle all healing lies, for God gave answer to them all as one. And what is one to Him must be the same (T-26.VII.15:1-5).
It can be very liberating to see and accept this. Seeing and accepting happen in time and space; they are “our” learning process. The chickadees are sweet to me because they point to the oneness of God. Of course I am in an open marriage with them. But once one sees this, then it is a relatively small step to shift from the formal instance to the generalized content. Why bother with chickadees when you can just revel in love?
What God calls one will be forever one, not separate. His Kingdom is united; thus it was created, and thus it will ever be (T-26.VII.15:7-8).
Love transcends the form through which we first perceive it. We aren’t bodies any more than guitars are music. We aren’t bodies to which spirits are attached and we aren’t spirits having bodily experiences. Our bodies are wholly neutral aspects of a time/space illusion that dissolves in love.
There is just this living appearing to itself: spilling over and onto and into and out of itself: and this living is loving. It is not like this, it is this: this this: and ever thus.