Stepping out into oneness

"Now I think there is only one subject worth my attention and that is the recognition of the spiritual side of the world and, within this recognition, the condition of my own spiritual state...What I mean by spirituality is not theology, but attitude...

I would therefore write a kind of elemental poetry that doesn't just avoid indoors but doesn't even see the doors that lead inward -- to laboratories, to textbooks, to knowledge...

I would say that there exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one.  The farthest star and the mud at our feet are a family; and there is no decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list.  The pine tree, the leopard, the Platte River, and ourselves -- we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together.  We are each other's destiny."

-- Mary Oliver, Winter Hours

I read this first this morning, and loved it; knew I wanted to share it.  And then, after my meditation, I came to my computer and found this quote from this morning's edition of "Practicing Spirituality with Richard Rohr," an e-course from Spirituality and Practice:

"When we separate the scriptures from history, we are in trouble. When we separate the scriptures from real life, we distort the scriptures. When we separate the scriptures from the people out of whom the scriptures were written, we misinterpret the scriptures.

The Lord entered history. And ever after, history and the flesh are where we encounter the Lord, rather than running from life and history into principles, theories, and the too-quick answers that put us back in control."

— Richard Rohr in Job and the Mystery of Suffering

Why is it that reading these two pieces fills me with joy, and attending church rarely if ever seems to elicit that response?  I think I'm asking this because last night when, wandering around the galleries that stay open late the first Friday of every month on the island for the art walk, I ran into Emily Joy, the pastor who invited me to show my work at her church, and who invited me to lead a workshop on finding God in everyday life.

I hadn't seen her in quite a while, almost didn't recognize her at first (it was seeing her out of context that threw me off, I think) but when she told me she had started a new church "for people who don't like church," something in me woke up and clapped its hands.  I hadn't realized I still felt such a deep longing for some new notion of church, but clearly my heart leaped -- a feeling not unlike that sensation you get in pregnancy when the babe first kicks in your womb.  Something new is being born here, the heart says, and hope rises anew...

After reading these two pieces, I went looking among the week's photos for something that would speak to what I heard each of them saying about the folly of separation.  And this is the photo that called to me: when I looked at it, my heart gave that same little leap of joy it felt at Emily's words. I think the reason this image jumped out at me has to do with the way fog tends to blur the boundaries between things: it's no longer obvious which is sky and which is sea; which is object and which is its reflection.

So somehow two days photographing fog this week, and these two readings, all speak to me of the folly of separation; the allure -- and importance -- of stepping out into oneness.  And maybe I'm hoping Emily's new church will have that same pull, to a more unified experience of spirituality...


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