The man is tired of moving.
"I'm 73. I've packed too many boxes in my life. You can take the books I've left on shelves." I carry them to front seat of car, then back behind rear seat. There are a lot of books. The eight boxes of books he will take with him are boxed and sealed by front door. When my last trip is done, I bring him two French prayer books. He fingers them, pronounces their titles, then hands them back. "No, you take them." I say thank you for the books, "They'll go to our borrowing library at the hermitage." He nods to that.
Then I ask him for his blessing. If he is surprised it is translated into quick standing as I bow head. The priest puts both hands on my head and prays for good be done, helpful communication with all who come through our doors, and loving connections be forged. I say amen, we'll pray for you, take the (prison-made small wooden) boat to carry you well in your sails to unknown places, and be well as you go. This near stranger and I, in the glow of books relinquished and books received -- but more -- in the light of all we ever really need, mere attention and presence, however briefly, with one another. Handshake. A pause. A hug. I leave him at his desk in a room with empty shelves under a church he has served as good-enough priest.
Earlier in the dentist's chair (while nine fingers and a backhoe excavated my mouth) I thought about God. Grateful for no pain, (at that moment), I wondered about belief in God. An unformed notion came to mind. To believe in God is to believe in the cooperative nature of all-that-is working towards the cooperative nature that all-that-is encounters. At each moment. In each event. With each person.
The trouble many have believing in God is that they do not experience this cooperative nature in the world, in the earth, or in people. Perhaps sin is the withholding of cooperation.
More than that, the difficulty we experience has to do with mind and consciousness. When it is said that God is everywhere, does that mean that the cooperative nature of everything is always available? And if we do not consciously experience that nature, then are we not experiencing God? The mind, (actually the heart/mind), is pivotal here. The saying 'What you see is what you get!' is operative. All things can be seen as good, as cooperating, and graced -- no matter what occurs. The occurring is merely the occurring. Things happen! Things happen willy-nilly or they happen intentionally according to the actor. Bottom line -- things happen.
The mind that enters here. What it does with what happens determines whether the individual judges the action (or event, or words). Judgement takes up residence in the desirable or undesirable part of town in our mental neighborhood. What happens, of itself, is merely what happens.
Here enters consciousness. When those whose awareness is of a particular type say that 'All things work unto good!' -- they are considering "all" things, not some, not a few, not many -- but all. And they have this mind as a regular presence. No matter how much something hurts, or seems terrible, or is actually terrible -- their mind sees through the event, action, or words to an interconnective cooperative milieu. This milieu, a setting or environment of cooperative nature, is mostly invisible to the eye.
Old sayings such as "No one has seen God", or, "God is invisible', or 'You cannot see God and live" give us pause. They might be true, but true in a way we have yet to understand. To see God in this realm is not to see a particular distinct body with the nametag "God" affixed. Rather, to see God is to see the clear cooperative nature of all reality and all existence and all being. That "seeing" dwells nowhere else but in the eye of the one seeing. That which 'sees' God is that which is seeing.
You forget the Rock who begot you,
unmindful now of the God who fathered you.
The Lord has seen this, and in his anger
cast off his sons and his daughters.
“I shall hide my face from them,” he says
“and see what becomes of them.
For they are a deceitful brood,
children with no loyalty in them.
They have roused me to jealousy with what is no god,
they have angered me with their beings of nothing;
I, then, will rouse them to jealousy with what is no people,
I will anger them with an empty-headed nation.
Yes, a fire has blazed from my anger,
it will burn to the depths of Sheol;
it will devour the earth and all its produce,
it will set fire to the foundations of the mountains.
(~ Deuteronomy 32:18 - 21)
The jealous, angry, demanding God of our linear narrative thinking is becoming the accepting, compassionate, inviting God of our encircling existential consciousness. The fact that we feel the face of God is hidden from us posits some faced being hiding that very face from us because we deserve to be so treated. (And often, it must be said, we behave so badly that this line of reasoning appears a valid line.)
But what if God is the encircling existential consciousness of pervading cooperative nature -- nascent and inchoate throughout all that is?
I don’t go out to wander around
I stay at home here in Miura
While time flows on through
The unbounded world
In the awakened eye
Mountains and rivers completely
The eye of delusion looks out upon
Deep fog and clouds.
- Muso Soseki (1275-1351)
We don't see God because our minds are looking for someone else, someone other, far away, beyond this world, this time, this reality. God, like our notion of heaven, is somewhere else.
If we were to drop all notions of God and settle into a mind that transforms everything into such a cooperative nature milieu, an existential consciousness dwelling in the between -- between good and bad, between right and wrong, between heaven and hell -- perhaps we might come to see in a way quite different and wholly encircling. Nothing left out, no one othered. Each place a sacred place where holiness is our ordinary life lived with quiet awareness and listening openness.
The elderly priest moves on leaving his blessing in place.
It is a long journey, it seems, home.
We need help.
Perhaps a blessing.
And a hug.
On our way.