I use the word Divine for this note that I am writing here. Some would call what I am talking about “God,” the “Great Unknown,” the “Whole of it all,” the “Great Mystery,” (my favorite), or some derivative thereof. To some the name REALLY matters; to others, not so much. What I am meaning by the word Divine here and now, is that sense of energy beyond and bigger than me. Feel free to insert your word if “the Divine” doesn’t work for you.
Three of us long-time friends were sitting down for breakfast recently. We are a small group of men who have been meeting for breakfast once a month for a dozen years or so. We normally meet at a restaurant, but we were meeting today as sort of a ceremonial Bon Voyage to Ed, who was moving.
He lovingly had prepared breakfast for us and as we sat down asked if we would join him in a prayer of thanksgiving before we dug in. He closed his eyes, reached for my right hand and found it. On my left I found my friend John’s. I couldn’t tell you what his words were, I am hard of hearing and depend a lot on lip reading, and with my eyes closed….well you get the drift. But I had this eerie/strange (not totally unfamiliar) sensation; awareness; recognition; realization wash over me. I felt a warmth. As if I was snuggled under a comforter in front of a cozy fireplace.
The words that came rolling into my head were, “Holy Cow!!! I am, right here, right now, in this moment, touching a representation of the Divine.” I wasn’t simply ‘holding hands’, I had this awareness that I was literally touching a slice of/a representation of the Divine, or more accurately the Divine was touching me. Actually, both. Whoa!!!!
Of course, being a quiet conservative man, well trained by my culture, I said nothing to anyone, but as I sat listening to them conversing about life, my mind was racing. I was marveling at the revelation. Even more so, the implications. If the Divine was to be found in the hands of my two friends, it is to be found everywhere!!!! I had the sense that I had just experienced one of those moments in my life that would change everything (I have had a fair number of those moments). And it has.
I already believed that somehow WE are all connected. And not just us humans. The Lakota have a term for such a belief, Mitakuye Oyasin, or “All are related.” Makes sense to me. Always has. Intellectually. And this was also not the first time I had experienced that “we are all connected” emotional sensation.
The chemical make-up of human beings is not all that dissimilar to the elements present in star dust. So, intellectually, I have no problem with that. I have spoken before of a transformational moment when a Lakota man came up to me, saying that he could tell I had a problem with ‘spirituality,’ reached out his hand, touched mine, and said “We are now each in a spiritual moment,” turned around and walked away.
I was already a convert. Unexpectedly, this time, I not so much felt it, but somehow became fused with it. A place beyond ‘intellectually’ knowing’ and ‘feeling.’ I have had moments of awe as I stared at a mountain range, or watched a rainbow live through its lifespan of a few seconds, or looked into the eyes of my granddaughter on the first day of her life. But I had never KNOWN, from the inside out, that I was witnessing a representation, a sliver, a moment of the Divine, the Great Mystery, or whatever you might call it. This kind of “KNOWING” is totally different than intellectual knowing. There are some of you who know exactly what I am talking about. You, too, have had ‘those’ moments.
So, what difference has it made since I had that experience? A dozen times a day, when I touch something, the thought comes through me reminding me that I am touching a representation of the Divine. My steering wheel. Yep, a representation of the Divine. When I look at someone. When I touch the shoulder of my grandson. While my hands hold a sandwich. While I touch the keys of this keyboard. When I picture a friend on their birthday. When I hear the voice of a loved one. No great credit due here, I forget this until I remember, dozens of times a day.
I heard that Mother Theresa when asked how she could be so loving of the filthy, smelly hoards that she worked with, said something to the effect that when she looked at each one of them she was being blessed with being shown a representation of the Divine. I believe that Thomas Merton said he had a similar experience one day in downtown Louisville, Kentucky that changed his life.
A friend of mine is finishing up a documentary that had as its genesis a desire to have someone reveal God to him. It is interesting what he found and where he found it. Similar experience.
I am not in any way comparing my experience to theirs or anyone else, but I do think I know a little more of what they might have been talking about. Some of you do too. Tell me about that?