It’s a new year, and a rare cloudy morning here in Austin. Today, instead of checking my phone and email first thing, I brewed a tiny pot of espresso and swept the sweet bungalow where Vincent and I are lucky enough to spend most of this month. I want to honor the new, and the spirit of my dear friend who has opened her home to us again–she keeps her space sparkling, and even though she won’t be home for over a week, it feels important to gently but firmly push back against the tide of entropy that seems to follow me everywhere I go.
Austin’s ever-present grackles susurrate in the yard–a sound cloud of endearing meeps and whirrs. I think tenderly of R2D2. Eva, the exceptional corgi mix we are here to love and care for, wanders in from her post out front, settling beneath my writing table. The day feels like an immense seesaw balanced in that hushed space between twin pulls of gravity. Nothing, or anything, might happen.
I slept long and heavily. Since I got here I have wanted to read, to sleep, and to be alone. The last four weeks home in North Carolina, I was seldom alone. Traveling full-time, I am regularly immersed in one extreme or the other. I consider this a blessing. Most things, for me, have been blessings.
Last night, tucked warmly under a furry white blanket and starting to drift away from my book, my mind began making passes at explaining a sense of dimensionality that has been steadily setting up camp in my conscious awareness. The death of my close friend Kimowan, this past summer, somehow instantly divided space and time in a new way. There now seems to be this dimension, in which we see and touch and experience corporeal reality, life–what is known–and that: its opposite, incomprehensible space, where Kimowan is now and where my father has been for the last 23 years (only I didn’t feel it). This is not a new idea, but I feel it as such. What seems newly real to me is the immediacy of that: I grasp the exact sense in which it is just on the other side of what we can see, touch, feel, experience, “know,” here and now. Somehow I understand that Kimowan is right there– just on the other side of what can be apprehended. That place is no less real because it cannot be measured, experienced, or fathomed with the instrument of the human body.
Because of this impossibility–the interposition of human form–anything that is asserted about that will never reach universal consensus (witness: the history of religion). What does stand to reason is this: At one time, “I” (meaning, whatever it was that became me in human form) was there–in the opposite of what is here now–and I will return there once again. For me, this is quite enough to know.
Like many, I was raised with some inherited notions of the beyond. My dad’s conversion to Unitarianism–a deeply ethical path–in my early childhood, and his death, which shattered me and all my barely-formed ideas about life at age 19, made it impossible to proceed without a great looming awareness of how profoundly unsatisfactory all explanations of life’s meaning were. For a long while I felt nothing but a searing disdain for anyone who asserted anything–anything at all–about the soul, the spirit, the hereafter, God or gods. There was nothing to know. Because any assertion or explanation that excluded my father was, obviously, wrong. And just about all of them did.
What I feel now is something different. I have nothing to call it. It came out of my movement with the hoop, a physical mantra that happens to coincide rather uncannily with the ongoing cycle of matter and energy that characterizes the known universe. In this meditation there is no need to repudiate anything recognized by science–all discovery only deepens the wonder at our having managed to exist at all within the stupefying complexity of this. The spin collects around the center that organizes time and space, and it is possible to feel oneself within that ongoingness, wholly in the present, for a moment or two at a time.
Even as a former enemy of such assertions, I will risk grandiose overstatement and say that all religion and all spirituality can be simply defined as trying to say something about that while being inexorably held in this. I might be of a vast minority, or lunatic fringe, or an odd army of one, but to me that just seems like plenty to say about it. Why do I no longer feel the need to know about that? I go on in my not-knowing, within the mystery of an entirely new Sunday.