Today I had this thought: I had made it to spiritual fruition, whatever that may be- Nirvana, Heaven, etc. - and a wise old angel exclaimed, "Why would it be anything different?" Death and rebirth were all around you; why would you doubt that it would continue?" The natural world has its tell-tale signs. Take the Universal Law of Gravitation: every mass is attracted to every other mass in the universe. Is not love a kind of gravity? And Newton's laws of inertia, acceleration, action-reaction; they have their spiritual counterparts as well. Take depression. It's a closed and isolated system and it will continue as such until an outside force like compassion knocks it on its head, sending it ever so slowly in a direction. And action-reaction- cause and effect. It is the multitude of action-reaction couplets that create one's history, one's experience, knowledge and eventually, enlightenment.
Patterns. The microcosm of the self, the macrocosm of the universe. Artists are constantly striking these comparisons. As Dillard says in An American Childhood:
Artists, for their part, noticed the things that engaged the mind's private and idiosyncratic interior, that area where the life of the senses mingles with the life of the spirit: the shattering of light into color, and the way it shades off round a bend. The humble attention painters gave to the shadow of a stalk, or the reflected sheen under a chin, or the lapping layers of strong strokes, included and extended the scientists' vision of each least thing as unendingly interesting. But artists laid down the vision in the form of beauty bare ...- radiant and fierce, inexplicable, and without the math.
The life of the senses mingles with the life of the spirit; they reflect, dance, intertwine and it's up to us to observe and define.
Last night I had lunch with a friend on the wharf in Salem when a wayward night heron perched on a boat observing the goings on. I had never seen a night heron out and about in a crowded place; it was an anomaly. The sun was setting and it was cool; I had not brought a sweater and I was starting to be chilled. But there was something else chilling me and it had to do with change. I had sensed the turn of the Earth through the solstice toward darkness, starkness, and cold. I thought about the news I'd heard: my brother-in-law's mother was dying from cancer. Her body was riddled with it and she told no one. What is it about the culminations of the little deaths that we have known? This is what that first acknowledgement of the oncoming darkness presents. Over and over again, we pass through winter to spring, and over and over again, the harbinger of darkness sets us at unease. We forget the patterns. We forget, because they are not properly acknowledged. We forget the patterns because we have lost our rituals.
According to Psychology Today's Hal E. Hershfield, Ph.D., rituals "increase our involvement with the experience itself." They create community and connect us with nature. In short, we live a more fulfilled life through ritual because we connect the life of the senses to the life of the spirit. We feel in control, better equipped for uncertainty. But the conundrum for our less-than-religious society is how to engage in seasonal rituals that are meaningful (not superficially materialistic) as well as independent of religion. This requires a certain amount of creativity, open-mindedness, and possible research. This might be asking too much of the typical overworked American.
And yet, if we don't do it, we'll be living a fraction of what our lives could be.