Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Fireflies - everything is never as it seems..."

"You would not believe your eyes,
if ten million fireflies,
lit up the world
as I fell asleep...

'Cause they'd fill the open air
and leave teardrops everywhere.
You'd think me rude
but I would just stand and stare...

I'd like to make myself believe
that planet Earth turns slowly.
It's hard to say that I'd rather
stay awake when I'm asleep.
'Cause everything is never as it seems..."

- Adam Young

It was a beautiful September day in Evanston, Illinois. I loved walking along the lake, turning left and heading up towards the center of town, past gracious old Victorians with wide porches, and craftsman-style bungalows with deep lawns dappled in the golden shade of autumn. One-by-one, I greeted them like old friends, as I approached the center of town.

I was on search for answers, and I'd narrowed all of my questions down to one. One question. But it was a question I'd been pondering for almost a decade. It was my annual one-hour visit with my teacher in Christian Science...a man who was also one of my very dearest friends, and the person most likely to call me out on my nonsense...but always in the most disarmingly arresting way. He was kind and funny, but didn't suffer egos...mine, or his own.

I rang the doorbell and he buzzed me up. After a warm greeting from his wife, and a tour of their most recent art acquisitions...and a few dozen of his own paintings...we made our way to his sun-drenched office.

A few minutes of catching up and it was time to "get down to business." I asked the same question I'd been pondering all along my drive across the state of Nebraska, through the seasons that marked the year, and back over a decade of wrestling.

It began, "Do you remember during our meeting in (and I referred to a year over a decade earlier in which he had spoken to a group of us about an aspect of our work as spiritual thinkers and healers) when you said, .......... , well, I am still trying to understand that concept."

He sat, heavily, back in his chair and let out a laugh that worked its way up, from the cavernous space of his enormous heart, thorugh the avenue of his throat, and finally, bursting from his being like Mt. Vesuvius spewing magma and ash over Pompeii. "Are you really
still chewing on that one sentence?" he asked.

I dropped my head in my hands and sighed a meek, "I guess..." His kindness reached across the space between us. I thought he was disappointed, that I hadn't "gotten it" that day, and morever, after a decade, I had still not fully "gotten it." I felt like the worst student in the class. I wanted to crawl under the desk and disappear. But when I looked up from where I'd dropped my gaze, in disappointment with myself, I noticed that he was grinning from ear to ear. It was that smile of his that made you feel like you were in the presence of a beneficent, spiritual Santa Claus.

His face was filled with compassion, joy, understanding, comraderie...and if that look had had a sound, it would have been a cross between the voice of angels twinkiing laughter, and Owl City singing "
Fireflies." It was light, and sweet, and visceral...full of meaning, without spelling it out.

Then he told me that he, too, was still wrestling with that very statement made years earlier. The thought/idea had come to him, quite surprisingly, as he was standing in front of us, speaking from notes that day. He told me that, even for him, it was a divine surprise. He said he'd quickly scribbled what had come out of his mouth, in the margins of his notes, without really missing a beat, and had been pondering it since.

Then he told me that he loved those seemingly "little" ideas that kept him awake at night. They were the ones that continued to poke at him, leading to more questions...than answers.

Then he shared with me a idea that had occurred to him, sometime earlier, as he was pondering Jacob's wrestling match with the angel at Peniel. He said that for many years he'd thought of Jacob's wrestling the angel, as if the angel was an opponent Jacob was wrestling
against. But that one long, dark night, when he himself was tumbling and turning with questions that seemed to be ready to "take him down," it occurred to him that the angel was wrestling with Jacob...they were on the same team. That the wrestling was a good thing...a very, very good thing.

He said to me, "You just keep gnawing on that bone like a junkyard dog. It's the persistence in questioning that really matters, not the answer."

Then he referenced a citation from Mary Baker Eddy's
Miscellaneous Writings 1883 - 1896, by quickly scribbling a page, and line numbers, onto a little slip of paper, slipping it across the desk before turning my attention to a painting on the wall, and walking me through its spiritual symbology. It wasn't long before we were embracing, his wife was recommending restaurants, and I was thanking them for their hospitality.

When I got back to where I was staying, I couldn't wait to find a copy of Miscellaneous Writings in my host's bookcase, and look up the reference he'd cryptically shared with me...thinking it would point me towards an answer to my question. Here is what I found:

"My Beloved Students: - This question,
ever nearest to my heart, is to-day uppermost:"

Yup, that was it. What he'd written on that slip of paper was:

"MW 116: 11 - 12 (to the colon) no further!!"

It was my turn to laugh. I realized that he didn't answer my question in our meeting, and he wasn't answering it through reference to the writings of any other spiritual thinker...no matter how inspired. He was suggesting that I stick with the question myself, taking it to God...persistently and patiently...and I have. It’s probably the most important lesson he ever taught me.

Later, while praying with the fourth Beatitude:

"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness,
for they shall be filled."

I would discover something critical to my spiritual journey...for myself.

It dawned on my heart, so clearly, that "the blessing" is not in being filled, but in staying empty, being willing to abide in the wonder...the hungering and thirsting after righteousness. To be aware of ourselves as thinkers, brimming with inquiry, filled with questioning, is the most deeply satisfying kind of peace.

Another friend, Susan Dane, calls this place "the space of the question"...it has become my favorite place to live.

Today, I love letting my questions go inconclusively un-answered. I love showing up in the middle of the night with my sleeping bag, a woolen hat, my journal...under a sky full of twinkling questions...and wrestle
with - not against - the angels who ask more questions...than they offer answers.

Recently, I became an even
more devoted fan of Albert Einstein when I discovered this statement:

"It is not that I'm so smart.
But I stay with the questions much longer."

Ahhh...to float in a silent pool of spiritual questions, under a canopy of infinite truths, tumbling and wrestling with possibilities, words, ideas...flickering, like ten million fireflies, generous angels full of light...this is where I am most satisfied and at peace.

"I'd like to make myself believe
that planet Earth turns slowly.
It's hard to say that I'd rather
stay awake when I'm asleep.
Because my dreams are
bursting at the seams...."

Dreams, questions, wonderment...bursting at the seams, I'm ready...bring on the fireflies, and send in the angels!!


Kate Robertson, CS

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:36 PM

    Thank you for sharing those ideas about Jacob's wrestling "with" the angel, about how the angel was not his opponent, but that he was there helping him. It has given me a whole new outlook on the story and has helped me to look at my times of wrestling in a whole new light. ♥♥