Full Circle or how Paradise was regained for a brief moment

Today the story made full circle. As a child my father´s garden was a real paradise to me. There were trees, shrubs, crops. In between the plants there were exciting paths that nevertheless felt safe. In summer the green coolness of the leaves protected me from the scorching sun. There were animals, too, but I did not call the animals by their names. Nothing had a name yet: the plants nor the animals nor the green coolness nor the scorching sun: to me it was as if it were one. And not only didn’t I distinguish between the phenomena around me, I didn’t experience a separation between those phenomena and me either. All was one and eternal.

But one day I was riding on my tricycle in my father’s garden: back and forth. Just a few inches, back and forth, back and forth, over and over and over again.

The day before it had rained a lot and with my head bent downwards I watched the wheels dig deep into the mud. Back and forth, back and forth, still deeper into the morass.

I must have been four or five years old. Oh, I awoke in anger, so alone and terrified. I wasn’t part of the wholeness anymore.

***

It was an early winter morning, two years ago. I drove my wife to work. Wet snow was drizzling down. Suddenly she says:

“I know what you should do. You get off that bike, leave it stuck in the mud and start looking for a new horizon. Remember as a child, in church, what you wanted to be? Well, become that bird in the child’s hand and fly away!”

Full Circle

Full Circle
Back in the Garden, for a brief moment…

Today the story has come full circle. I was back in the village of the cinema.

The cinema has been closed for years. As I passed by I saw a child’s tricycle lying in the middle of the road. Without thinking I picked up the tricycle and put it at the front door of the former cinema.

It wasn’t until I walked away, that I realized how wonderful and mysterious this moment was. Thank God, because otherwise I might have taken a picture and spoiled the mystery.

***

I remember what my wife had also said during the car trip two years ago: ”You may believe that you are kicked out of paradise. Or you may believe you walked out voluntarily to experience life in a world with myriads of choices. In either case you may stay out of paradise or you may return at any time you choose to do so.”

For a brief moment I felt like flying, far away from the mud.

For a brief moment…

 

On making gestures and reading words to a dying dog

Gestures

Gestures

I am always on guard in a group of people, but the gesture of an individual can move me to tears. Like in church in the old days, I shouldn’t mind words that much and pay more attention to gestures. Small gestures made unconsciously, without calculation: a father holding a little child’s hand or a grandma blowing kisses into a pram.

But sometimes words can make a difference, too.

I remember the night before one of my dogs was to be euthanized. It was the one dog that I had had since it was a puppy. I could literally read its mind. It was only eight years old and dying of cancer. That night I picked up the Tibetan Book of the Dead from my bookshelf and let it fall open arbitrarily.

I started reading to the dog:

Dazzling Bright Light

Be not fond of the dull, smoke-coloured light from Hell.

That is the path which opens out to receive you because of the power of accumulated evil karma from violent anger.

If you are attracted by it, you will fall into the Hell-Worlds; and, falling therein, you will dig yourself deep into the morass of unbearable misery, from where there is no certain time of getting out.

That is an obstruction on the Path of Liberation, look not at it; and avoid anger.

Be not attracted by it; be not weak.

Believe in the dazzling bright white rays of the Light.

I understood that these words weren’t meant for my dog. My dog was a playful, happy fox terrier who hadn’t known anger. It was a time during which I myself fed the malign wolf way, way more than the loving wolf.

***

Yes, it’s true: we live in a Universe that is ruled by the Law of Cause and Effect. But sometimes this Universe holds its breath to give way to the Grace of God. We wouldn’t stand a chance if it were otherwise.

***

In this bleak winter of existential loneliness (not a trace of the Big Painter, even the candles in the alcove of my mind have dimmed) there’s nothing I can do than sit by my window and wait for God to come by in the words and the melody of a song, a spring bird that lands on my windowsill or, yes, the small gesture of a grandpa scratching his head in amazement. Is that all there is to life in this world? It seems so. But it isn’t forbidden to keep dreaming of a Pure Land where God manifestly walks with us every single step of the way.

Impatience

Whenever I get impatient with the imperfections of my species and myself, I  try to remember what my old dad said: “Neither you nor the others have created yourselves. That is an advantage as well as an disadvantage. The clear advantage is that if humans were only slightly able to create themselves, they would have made of themselves unbearable, self-indulgent gods which wouldn’t allow imperfections neither from themselves nor from others. That’s the First Sin.

But we were driven out of the Garden and allowed to become human. We may make errors or may not make errors. We grow by our imperfections, the shadows cast in front of us. The disadvantage is that this growing takes a million reincarnations, over and over and over again, and a hundred thousand wars and famines. But we can’t have it all, you know. We can’t have freedom and perfection at the same time. Thank God there’s forgiveness.”

On making gestures
Grace as a wormhole

Madonna in the Dark Alcove Of My Mind

On Sundays my parents used to take me to Holy Mass, even though I was still very young. In a way the weekly gestures of the priest swaying his aspergillum, his arms spread wide over the sacred host, his fingers subtly making the sign of the cross, marked the passing of time to me. Until then I had floated around in a vacuum where time didn’t exist. Sunday’s mass was like a levee in that vacuum to which I returned every week. But there was also another presence at that center: lady Madonna

Madonna watching me

I was fascinated by the gestures, though, not by the words. As soon as the priest started to preach my glance strayed to the Madonna which stood in a side aisle. Candles were burning in front of the statue.

The Madonna held a child that seemed to be floundering in her arms as if it tried to escape from her grip. In his left hand the child held a bird.

As the priest’s words floated unabsorbed high above me in the nave of the church, I wished I was that bird.

As time goes by…

I have not been back to that church ever since I was ten years and I don’t intend to go back soon. I’m too scared to destroy the perfect image of the candles, the loving countenance of Mother Mary and the floundering child with its bird. Mother Mary is closer to my heart than abstract concepts as the Big Painter in the Sky, God or the Universe.

I reckon Mother Mary understands us, having gone through the same tribulations as we do.

Often I ask Her to give me some of her warmth and mildness in my voice as I speak to others. Some of Her peace, gentleness, simplicity, the radiant look of Her eyes when I meet other human beings.

However, I don’t build my castle on a force from outside. I believe in the Rock in the Dry and Weary Landscape of my Interior, where there is no water.

Sometimes the Rock disappears under the sand.

Don’t despair then.

Only those who are unaware of the Rock inside, never doubt its existence.

Madonna in the Dark Alcove of my Mind
The Madonna burning bright in the Dark Alcove of my Mind