For many, the days and nights here are experienced as moving from the mundane, and the commonplace, to states of want. The usual starting place is one of ordinary life, with only brief moments of being uplifted by some heroic feat in sports, or beauty in music, or in nature, and then back to what are seen as being plain lives…
This is actually a state of great deprivation, and it is holding ourselves and others and this world in such low regard that is at the root of how we all treat each other, and other species here, and this, our beautiful natural world, our home.
Our breath, digestion, eyesight and voice, each movement of our hands, and our memory and dream are actually all divine, just as they are, with nothing commonplace at all about them, if we only knew.
A man sleeps heavily,
though something blazes in him like the sun,
like a magnificent fringe sewn up under the hem…
Far from being ordinary, and something to be taken for granted, each one of our lives here is actually something magnificent, and to be celebrated. Not seeing this we demean ourselves, discriminate, neglect and exploit one another, and animals; we see this earth as merely an object to be used for our gain, instead of it being something extraordinary and precious.
To say we are at all ordinary is like saying that Everest is just a hill, that the Grand Canyon is a but hole the ground, it’s like saying that Baryshnikov could dance a little, or that Mozart and Bach could write a few tunes… Oh how we underestimate ourselves and others!
This is where wisdom and compassion meet
Being Westerners, we associate wisdom for the most part with book learning, with being educated and articulate on the level of intellect, but there is more to true wisdom than this. There is an aspect of it that has to do with heart knowledge, cherishing our own lives and the lives of others, and responding to the needs and wishes of all our fellow human beings and the precious animal species here with great care. This is what Martin Buber was referring to when he wrote about going from an I – it to an I – Thou relationship, to one of not only respect, but of reverence for life.
What is called sacred outlook or pure perception is just this kind of awakened understanding that is then expressed in our every thought, word, and action. It is the single most important realization we can have, and not only is it essential for our very survival here, it’s something vital to our personal and collective flourishing.
How we arrive there – Love is the eye that sees beauty…
When we take hold of our experience just where we are today, we may have to move first from suffering or despair to regaining some kind of normalcy, but we shouldn’t stop there. When the time is right, and we have some more space in our lives to consider how our views about ourselves and others and our world come to be, then we’re at the threshold of a new world and a new life.
I’m sure we can explain something like a sunset, or the colors of a flower in scientific terms, and see them dispassionately, but then nothing moves in us. We don’t really receive them as we could. What we need is to feel beauty, to begin to treasure our every breath, sight, and gesture, our family, ancestry, and home, and our dreams and visions.
The awareness of the divine begins with wonder, said Abraham Joshua Heschel, and this is where we can each begin, from wherever we are just now, high or low, busy or not. If we make the effort, we can almost always take hold of at least one of the gifts that are all around us. This then becomes a habit, and the light dawns in us, as we begin to see how bless-ed we are, how we are fed, and sustained, as well as the beauty of our neighbors, family and friends. Compared to the mundane view we once had, it is without question the truer perception.
The challenge is that we’ve grown far too accustomed to thinking of ourselves and others in small ways. The language we use follows how we have learned to see ourselves, and our world. The saving grace here, without a doubt, is that such conditioning is not fixed. There’s an awakening to be had today, this hour, if we but look for it, and the poets and sages teach us how to see. They are the guides who gently help us awaken our hearts to beauty:
This grand show is eternal… It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising… Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls… – John Muir
This ecstatic vision then reaches far, and it is what we need most in this life, in this world. Let us dance then, my friends, and each day serve each other with the best of gifts.