If I were to look closely at my nose, it would disappear. First, rather than nose, it would be a close-up of cells, skin cells and cartilage and the parts that lie beneath. Then the atoms, particles making up the atoms, then smaller, then finally a field about which we know nothing. I look at my nose, and I see I am insubstantial. I read that if you took all of the matter of all of the humans on the planet and put it in one place, it would be the size of a sugar cube. A very heavy sugar cube, but not much there nonetheless. Somehow, I find this comforting.
When I sit in meditation lately, I chase a dream of non-subjectivity. What if my nose is not an absence of nose, but a nose that never exists, that is in relation to nothing? I see myself not as a singular point of consciousness, but the place where I reach for that single point and find infinity in the reaching. Again, somehow comforting.
There is one image that I remember every year at the holiday, that of my father untangling Christmas lights. I was about 17 years old, and I happened to be in the back yard, when through the window I saw him sitting in the living room, with my little sister sitting next to him, the big pile of colored lights reflecting on to his face. I don’t know why I stopped and imprinted this moment on my consciousness. I stood there for a while and watched. His face was oddly peaceful, and the weight of his deep domestic spirit sort of fell on me. At this point in my story, we rarely got along, my teen angst frustrating to him and his authoritarian personality angering me constantly. But at this moment, I saw him clearly with a deep compassion. I felt his love of the family, for the rituals of family life that gave his life meaning. I understood him as I gazed into his face without him knowing, seeing the ripple of frustration at the tangle of lights and the stern acceptance of his duty to untangle them. My little sister was sitting quietly and watching, asking him questions and pulling him gruffly out of his reverie.
I never could reach him. From the time I stopped being a small child I was closer to him through that pane of glass than I was with him. All of our emotions and assumptions, all of the past and projections of the future, all of his gruffness and my pride, all of the frustration of what we wanted the other to be, was there ever a moment of pure communication? He loved me so much he sacrificed his dreams for mine. I loved him so much I always reached to shine some glory on to his sacrifice. All of this is story, all of this is so far from true connection that it is as if we didn’t know each other at all.
No matter how close we get there is no touching anyone. We reach to the singularity of connection and we find infinity there. We gaze through a fog of story and emotion, we reach and yearn for connection and never seem to break through the narrative we are telling ourselves about the person for whom we reach. No wonder this time of year, when we are supposed to feel the most love, many people feel the saddest.
This inability to connect happens when we see those around us through the lens of our own ego, our own story. This inability to connect happens when we are looking for something separate from ourselves, and never see that we are all the same substance, connected at the base of it all. We reach and yearn and strive for intimacy when we are not separate. Underneath every person is this infinite plain of unknowable energy. Infinite consciousness. Infinite love.
I sit here in the middle of the night regretting all of the ways that I have not connected to my family and those I have loved. I regret all the ways I have kept people at a distance and even when I love them enough to sacrifice my life for them, how I can never seem to get close enough. During the holiday I miss my family and yet when I am with them I can’t figure out how to get close to them, to convey the profound love I feel for them. There is only this poignant reaching and inability. I worry that they will never know my love for them, and this worry separates us even more. My wonderful family is so free with their love. I think, if my heart breaks a little at the holiday, how deep the pain of those who feel loved less.
Yet here, in this infinite plain, we are love. We are communion. When I let go of all the story, all the memory, all the projection of the future, all my own wants and needs and ideas, there is only this still place. I bring humanity into my heart and the love that I feel spreading out beyond my body, beyond the room, beyond the stars and planets, beyond the universe, this infinite place that never reaches the singularity of “I love you,” this is what we are.
I am looking through the window, at my father. I am my father. I am the window. I am the light, shining into his face, first red, then green, then white. What am I here to learn and tell?
You can hear me read this here: https://soundcloud.com/clemthegreat/of-light-and-love