Wednesday, July 30, 2014

“Strange Angels” or Reflections on a Wedding

The Buddha said that we contain the world within this fathom-long body; William Blake had a twist on this “How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
Is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses five?”

A large room filled with music & food & well over a hundred people: men & women, children. They are dancing, they are talking, they are sitting & walking, glancing or watching. The children run & spin as the musicians play on stage; the adults dance too, some awkwardly, some gracefully. We are celebrating love—a wedding, a joining of “I” & “Thou.” Each is an “I,” each is a “Thou,” & they seek to become a “We.”

The “you” I know is both contained within myself & is simultaneously an immense world of delight, autonomous, that “I” can never fully know—& to “you,” “I” myself am the “you.” Known & unknowable. Cherished & alien. The “We”—sharing in action, but also seeking a linkage, access to “Thou’s” immense world of delight, beyond the boundaries of the senses.

It’s a true ritual indeed, because there in the swirl of musical chords & flower petals, amongst the cookie tables & the chafing dishes, amongst connection & small talk, I have ample time to reflect. I am among friends—old friends, the dearest of friends. In another sense, I am “alone”—a bachelor well into his fifties. What are the decisions I’ve made that brought me to this exact point? & on an existential level, how is it that I’ve often been acutely aware of being a stranger even among the people I care about the most? We are all haunted & haunting each other—we are all reaching outward, we all love each other at some moment during that evening. 

Strange angels—on a grand & memorable day doing the things we always do—eating talking, listening, moving, touching—each other & the things in this world. Ritual—making the mundane sacred, because the mundane is what we know, & when we transfigure the mundane, we transfigure ourselves.

The next morning at the beach, the Pacific Ocean undulating & breaking & sweeping the kelp & shells & rocks ashore. An infinity of drops of water; an infinity of tears. I remember a moment in the Deep Space Nine series when the lost changeling Odo asks the Female Changeling if the Founders are individuals or one entity:

Odo: When you return to the link, what will become of the entity I'm talking to right now?
Female Shapeshifter: The drop becomes the ocean.
Odo: And if you choose to take solid form again?
Female Shapeshifter: The ocean becomes a drop.

Later I’m on an airplane watching the city I now call home in miniature far below. I am here, returned, turned again to the now, the constant progression of present moments. & I am there as well in memory, the recollection of what was experienced & continues to be so. I & thou. So is much contained—both loved & alien, both familiar & unknowable—in that part of my fathom-long body called “heart.”

Strange angels - singing just for me
Old stories - they're haunting me
This is nothing
like I thought it would be.
Laurie Anderson

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