Mariners of the Once and Always Mysteries

The morning sky lights a pink the color before we’ve awakened. I look through the window of the ship of my life and the oily lattice-work obstructs the Eastern lightening even as it reveals it with the roiling of the waves like cold mystery beneath me, beside me, above me, hanged in the remnants of the paling sky against the world’s physics like some phantom strung up for treason against reality.

My sails take on alien winds. I am far from home. I am a mind afloat on this rebellious sea where every gut-wrending trough is separated by a wave a mile high. My province of this sea is not yours. Yet I feel watery wetness just as you do. I taste salt as you do. I cry out, I laugh, I pray as you do. We are of this same mystery that encircles us at every compass point and every cardinal direction and every place of turning whether logical, spiritual, or emotional.

As others have before, many after us will engage with the vastness of this Truth in the same way, separated by troughs but joined by the very mystery that allows us to call each other mariners on that same phantom sea hanged amongst the beauty.

Those that follow will engage with the very many mysteries that have been scribed by some divine hand upon the parchment that guides our reckless expeditions. This litany is long and here is only recorded a portion of those mysteries: “The paradox of the beginning of existence: that miracle of something from nothing. The distant points of space: the voids of black holes that are portals into new ignorance and the black spaces of missing energy. The meaning of human relationship: the holy give and take, teach and learn that exists between all people. The riddle of time: that arrow that moves only forward only toward a blurring chaos of less understanding. The wisdom of new and ancient gods: that struggle to pull total meaning that is independent of circumstance, time, place, existence itself.”

The waves tear at the boards and soon they will be pulled free or cracked beyond repair and the vessel take on that dark phantom water and it will drag us down or up dependent upon the capricious whim that rules its nature. And we will sink through that salty sea to rest in the alien soil many leagues beneath or we will rise through the clouds and be split apart into a million atoms that we may be totaled into the dark water mystery by condensation or precipitation. And though we are split beyond recognition we will be joined: mariners of the once and always mysteries of life.

Photo by Jamie Morrison on Unsplash

She Dared to Laugh in the Place of the Dead

We were headed down to the Outer Banks. We made a pit stop at a little gas station in Virginia. Across the street was a Baptist church. Single room, white pine siding, black steepled, with a cemetery off its side, no fence. No fence to keep the living from the dead.

Leah fed Simon in the car. I went across the street to the cemetery with my daughter.

The headstones all waited for remembrance with their stony dignity. Flowers rested at some. Some were well manicured. Others overgrown.

“What are these?” Hat asked.

I told Hat that cemeteries were places where people are who other people love and miss. And that’s why there are flowers. Because people bring flowers to people they love. And I smiled at her, and it was clear she did not understand what I was saying or what I was trying to say.

“Oh,” she said.

It is not an easy thing to explain: rocks rising from the ground, the flowers, the quiet, the solitude, the density of the air, the weathered whiteness of the church.

She skipped and ran to a stone. Then another, and she reached out and touched it. She smelled the flowers. She smiled and asked again where we were, what this was. I tried again. Again the misunderstanding. Again the little “oh.”

I stood there and I remembered, as a boy, riding bikes in the summers with my brother and father. We would sometimes visit Cemetery Road and bring flowers to a young girl who died a hundred years ago. Then I remembered my college days when I had to get away from the mayhem of a party and how I would take the long way home so that I could go by the graveyard where it was quiet and the distant murmurs of the parties didn’t have a hold of me (I had to hop a fence to get in there–I definitely wasn’t supposed to be there). I remembered how I have watched loved ones pass on, and I thought about how I will probably watch many more.

Death demands something of me, whether I want it to or not. I have responded to that demand in many ways. I have honored the dead. I have wept for the dead. I have sought peace amongst the dead. I have stood with a brave heart before the dead. I have loved the dead.

But I felt as if I were missing something as I watched my daughter. In pink shorts and a white, sparkly t-shirt, she ran between the headstones. She dared to laugh in the place of the dead, a smile emblazoned on her face.

I smiled then, too. And I ran to pick up my beautiful daughter, from whom I have learned so much.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

The Broken Orb: Scattered Bits of Light in a Shattered Mirror

If the world was ever one thing, it was this: a fluid, molten sphere that reflected back all existence at a single glance. Every being that looked into this mirror saw more than themselves. They saw the totality of existence. The lines of sight were not linear, but they were clearer than any eye could see. They warped and wrapped and dove through time and space with a single glance of the heart.

But something went wrong. Perhaps the orb cooled. Perhaps the beings who looked into it cooled. But the orb cracked into a million pieces. A single moment splintered it apart, sending separations through it like black veins, and the light that it reflected back to the world was scattered.

The Shattered Mirror

Our mirror is a cobweb work of irregular angles and sharp-as-knife edges. Now, we can only see what’s in front of us. If we look too far to left or right, up or down, the image cuts short and we fall into an ink-black void that holds the shards together.

Sometimes, if we stand on tippy-toe, we can get a glimpse of another fragment. “Ah, there is something else!” we say. “But what is it?”

That being feels so alien, so disconnected from us. We can’t find a way to synthesize it with our own vision, so we reduce it to its lowest state. “That is no human over there; it is merely a mass of atoms, spun together to give the illusion of a life. Split it apart, and you never had a human in the first place,” we say. But with good humor, we say, “Nonetheless, I hope it does well.”

And then we stop standing on tippy toe, we look straight ahead, and stare into our own faces.

The Scattered Light

“Now this is reality,” we say as we look at our own face. “This is a human. This has dreams. This has a future. This is more than atoms and organs. This is a burning spirit that will change the world.”

But we can not see that this face has all the grotesque horror of a Picasso without the redeeming virtue of creativity. We can’t see that we’ve split out our identities across an array of technologies and groups. Bits of ourselves are lost in the wasteland of America’s servers and America’s history, sitting, dying, suffocating in the past–but alive. Those past identities rip and tear our flesh. There is no possible way to pick up the scattered bits of light and life that we have trailed behind us like chunks of our own flesh.

So, when we look into our small shard of that broken mirror, what we’re left with is blurred out, scattered, unfocused, unsure of what eyes it sees with, what mouth it speaks with, what ears it hears with.

Is it possible to see the world again as a mirrored orb? Perhaps not. Perhaps it never was, not in this age or any age past. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try. That doesn’t mean we slice up our identities like pre-cut cheesecakes and serve them to any grotesque, scattered-light face that pops its head into our lives.

The Mirroring Orb

And I am just as guilty of it as anyone else. So perhaps it’s time I try to focus the light of my own image. And then, maybe–when my own face has become clear, when I can see with my own eyes, hear with my own ears, speak with my own mouth, I can work on repairing the orb.

Even if it never was a molten sphere of pure reflection. I’d like to build it into one. Or perhaps just a small part. The part I can get to in my lifetime. I think that would be a beautiful thing.

Photo by Matthew Fassnacht on Unsplash