Say that we go to Boston, you and I. Everybody wants to go to Boston. Boston is fun and interesting and once you’ve been there, you’re a changed person. Boston goes with you. It becomes a way of life.
Say, too, that we have heard stories about a certain Boston experience – a way the pigeons have of flying away from City Hall Plaza all at once, as if a great veil were being drawn up into the sky. Those who have seen it say you can’t put the vision into words. They say it’s like part of you is lifted as well. They say it’s better than prayer, better than sex, better than hot apple pie in winter . . .
So we go to Boston. We see a Red Sox game. We visit the Gardner Museum. We walk along the harbor, buy fried clams in Quincy Market. We get iced coffee and sit in the plaza to see if the pigeons will do that pigeon-veil thing.
The suggestion here is that being spiritual – a terribly confusing phrase in its own right – is like going to Boston. That is, it is a lawful exploration of a law-governed environment. It’s not supernatural; it’s natural.
And the further suggestion is that “natural” in this context is altogether sufficient unto our desire to be whole, know God, see the light, get religion, go to Heaven, et cetera.
I’m saying you’re a Buddhist because somebody told you Buddhism was the way to go, and you liked their description, and there was this chance of enlightenment, so . . .
I’m saying you’re a Christian for the same reasons, a student of A Course in Miracles for the same reasons, and a devourer of Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra books for the same reasons.
And I’m saying that the effect of all those apparently divergent paths and traditions is precisely the same: A human observer giving attention to being a human observer in hopes of experiencing the transcendent experience that sometimes attends human observing.
It’s okay. Strike that. It’s more than okay.
Here is something I learned last year, that has been very helpful to me: Boston doesn’t matter. Buddhism doesn’t matter. A Course in Miracles doesn’t matter. Phenomenology doesn’t matter.
Being a human observer matters. And you and I are already fully wholly human observers, with full access to the panoply of experiences that go with being that particular observer. We can ascend all the peaks, endure all the deserts, and plumb all the depths.
For me, that insight ended a lot of querying and questing, without ending the happy investigation of living and loving. It turns out that the ordinary undoes our pesky longing for the extraordinary. When one sees a patch of wild chives a certain way, one sees through their secret desire for angelic interventions, ascended masters and coded languages by which to keep the saved apart from the damned.
What does a “certain way” mean? And how exactly do we bring it into application?
What can I say but “give attention?” Attend with care and curiosity – with love, if you will – the sundry phenomena that appear to your bodily senses and also become a scholar unto whatever you want to understand. Take your living with a serious joy.
Give attention and see what happens! See if the pigeons fly away from the square. See if renegade chives blossom outside the garden. See what it feels like to be happily Godless yet deeply religious. See Jesus in a hemlock tree, and then see just a hemlock tree, and then see only love spilling forth in the form of saviors and hemlock trees.
And whatever you learn, however apparently trivial, pass it on. It’s the loving thing to do.
wild chive blossoms –
the narrow gate widens