The Many Faces of Being

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Christ / Creative

Jesus dwells in Heaven these days.  My guess is that you are aware of that.  You may even have an idea of what that means.  You may have a concept of Heaven.  I do.  From the outside, it looks like a pretty lovely place.  Standing where I do, looking towards its shimmering reaches, it looks like it’s always running smoothly, like it never skips a beat.  It glows unceasingly and when I walk near unto its boundaries I hear soft sounds, as if hymns are being sung faintly by a chorus of stars.  I never get bitten by mosquitos in the tall grass along its borders, and I never see storm clouds over its brilliant gates.  The breeze is always mild.

Lately, however, I’ve become convinced my concept is badly in need of revision.  I think there is something going on in there I don’t know how to see or hear or touch, as if I’m missing a pivotal sensory system.  I think actually there may be a riot going on in there and its being broadcast on a cable channel that’s not available in my area.

Put bluntly, Love is having its way with the place.  It’s become epidemic.  The Holy City’s streets are teeming with the faithful, who are shredding concepts nightly and flooding the hills with Being.  They’ve been up for 40 nights straight, banging the Drum in time with the heartbeat of the Universe and drinking Love Potion Double Zero, whispering untold mysteries into one another’s ears and sharing secrets that make their way around the town in waves, leaving new worlds in their wakes.

There’s a committee at work attempting to reinstitute the Day of Rest, but Rumi is at it again tonight, running through the streets like a man possessed, whipping up the holy denizens into an ecstatic frenzy and pasting the town with posters.  He’s advertising for a new show he and Jesus have been working on.  I know because back at the beginning of this story, when I was going for a stroll along the border, enjoying what I thought was a beautiful glimpse of peace and quiet, all I could see was a quiet glow… and a poster that was caught by an updraft.  I saw it get whipped up high into the air.  It fluttered around, was whisked over the walls, and eventually landed near me in the grass.

There was a hand-written message from Rumi stuck to it with some old bubble gum, and that note pretty much told me what I just told you- Heaven is a hive of raucous collaboration.  He was breathless even in his note.  His words ran right off the page.  The poster told me that he and Jesus were giving their first performance of a new show they’d been dreaming up together called The Many Faces of Being.  It was billed as some kind of stage show, like an illusion.  Also, folded eighty-eight times and partially concealed by the overdone wad of gum, was an invitation.  It said, in fact, that the tonight’s performance, the opening, was just for me.  I should come check it out if I wanted.  My call.

What was I to do?

The auditorium was massive and it took me nearly twenty minutes just to walk down the aisle to get to the front.  I sat center-stage, a few rows back, in a plush velvet chair.  The rest of the place was empty and pitch black.  Occasionally I heard the ruffle of curtains, or the dampened thud of some production artifice being rigged backstage, or a sneeze, or the ratchet of some hoist, or an awkward splatter like someone had rigged a microphone next to a tube of jelly and squeezed it.  These little disturbances grew into what I could only describe as a cacophony just before everything suddenly went silent, and Jesus walked out onto the stage.

He was brimming with enthusiasm.  I’m pretty sure he winked at me.

He said he was really glad I had made it, and that the show was a fresh take on the Loaves and Fishes Episode.  Kind of a cross between that and what we commonly call the “Shell Game”, only it was the “right side up” version.  He said if I paid attention, when I left I’d probably be able to pick up that hidden cable channel I’d been thinking about lately and tune in to the festivities.  He said the production was His Father’s Idea, and he was both honored and privileged to be able to present it, and right then Rumi flung a tomato at him from stage right that I clocked at about 102 miles per hour.  Don’t ask me how I had a radar gun or how the tomato was holding together.  All I know is that somehow I was suddenly holding a radar gun clocking the speed of a tomato that was rapidly putting distance on its point of origin, which was Rumi in a vintage rainbow-banded Houston Astro’s uniform doing his very best impression of Nolan Ryan.

Jesus ducked gracefully, just in time, and transformed his duck into a bow.  The tomato whizzed past, hurtling towards stage left, where Shams was playing catcher.  He was squatting down in a spotless white catcher’s uniform, exhibiting perfect technique, his right hand behind his back, mask pulled down over his face, brandishing an over-sized mitt made of beautiful white silk, and- as I soon observed- stuffed with feathers.  The tomato exploded in Sham’s hand, blew straight through the silk mitt, and splattered across his chest as feathers blossomed from the point of impact into a slow-swirling crowd around him.

The curtain fell, and a few moments later it went back up, and the show began.

Everything was dim except for a wooden box at the center of the stage that looked like an upright, perfectly rectangular coffin.  It was backlit and glowed around the edges.  Jesus began by explaining that God had provided this box, and that nobody else had even worked on it.  It had just appeared out back behind the studio one day, and the only thing anyone knew with certainty was that whatever happened in the box was entirely up to God.  Jesus said Creation occurred within that box.  That was all anyone could really say about it with words.

Jesus then explained that there were two more props for this show.  He help up a mirror and said that anyone looking into the mirror would see the Face of Christ that lived within them.  Then he held up a second mirror and said anyone looking into the mirror would see a reflection of their Physical Form.  He handed both mirrors to Rumi and started to walk towards the box, but he stopped and came back, and said, “I am going to tell you a word now.  Regardless of what happens next, by this Word you shall know me.”  Then he told me the Word, and stepped into the box, closing the door behind him.

Rumi, meanwhile, was transfixed by the view in one of those mirrors.  I thought he had utterly lost himself in the experience when he said to me quite matter-of-factly, without taking his eyes from the mirror, “That box is the real McCoy.”  He was pointing up and over his shoulder to the wooden box into which Jesus had just disappeared.

The theater was silent, and then the door opened and a young boy stepped out.  He was about eight years old.  He had worn sandals on his feet, was wrapped in a colorful tunic and he carried a short staff in his hand.  He looked around the theater, confused, shielding his eyes from the stage lights.  Rumi coughed gently and waved the boy over.  The boy approached cautiously.  Rumi showed him the mirror of Physical Form, and the boy saw his own image.  He studied it closely, moved his head back and forth to confirm the properties of the strange glass, and touched his face, as if questioning his existence.  Rumi then brought out the other mirror and let the boy look into it.  Instantly, a quiet tear came to his eye, and he whispered into the empty space of the theater the Word Jesus had told me earlier.

I wondered if God had transformed Jesus into this boy…  Rumi touched the boy on the shoulder and nodded his head in my direction.  As if understanding perfectly, the boy’s face lit up, and he ran to the side of the stage, down some stairs, up the aisle, down my row, and plopped himself into the seat next to me.  He simply looked at me, expectantly beaming, as if I was about to turn into a purple chicken or be presented with a crystalline bowl filled with chocolate pudding.  I was looking back at this boy who had spoken the Word, wondering exactly who he was, when the door on the box opened again and Jesus stepped out.

“This is Creation,” he said.  “The multiplication of One.”

Rumi set the mirrors down on the stage and went into the box.  Jesus followed him.  There was hardly room for a small man in the box, so I have no idea how they both stuffed themselves into it, but they made it look effortless.  Almost instantly the door re-opened and a man stepped out in a pin-striped black business suit, mumbling to himself in French.  He was followed by a short, deeply tanned elderly woman with a basket on her head.  I thought I was starting to understand the math behind God’s box when a young woman stepped out in blue jeans and a sweater, completing the procession.  The man stumbled around for a bit, and picked up a mirror.  He witnessed the Face of Christ within himself, and unconsciously spoke the Word Jesus had spoken earlier.  Then he turned to the elderly woman, looked deeply into her eyes, gently smiling, and waited expectantly.  She was put off initially, and then she gave a gentle laugh, spoke the Word, and embraced him.

How many Jesus’ were there now!?

The two of them extended their hands to the young woman, who took them questioningly.  They began to walk and sway around in a broad circle, practically dragging the woman along.  She was a little embarrassed to be led around the stage like that.  Rumi stepped out of the box then, dressed in a tuxedo, and gave a performance of polishing his nails on his jacket.  He picked up a mirror and ducked behind the box.  Just as the awkward threesome rounded the bend he extended his arm from the cover of the box, holding the mirror up to the young woman, who looked upon the Face of Christ within herself, spoke the Word, and began to dance with her partners.

Jesus stepped out of the box.  Rumi bowed and extended his arm in my general direction, and the three came over to sit beside myself and the boy.  They each kissed me and the boy on the forehead in succession.  The elderly woman pulled some candies from her pocket and offered them to the boy, who beamed at me expectantly in reply, as if saying, “Do you see?”.

“This is Creation,” Jesus said.  “The multiplication of One.”

Shams entered the scene from stage left on a unicycle, holding an umbrella over his head, complaining about the weather until he exited stage right.  Rumi vaulted off in pursuit of him, and Jesus went back into the box.  The entire auditorium was quite for a moment, and then space itself seemed to shudder.  The door began to open and close in slow succession, as people of all ages, races and sizes stepped out.  Some came out, and as the stage began to fill, some went back into the box.

A great wind developed inside the theater and thunder crashed up in the rafters.  The swinging of the door began to accelerate, cycling to and fro in a blur, as people practically flew in and out of the box.  The entire stage began to melt into a swirling mélange of color.  People became colors became light became inky blackness.  Blackness became sounds and I could hear strangely beautiful tones that I knew were songs that I knew were worlds that I knew were permeated with Jesus’ Word.

When the lights came on, the great auditorium was packed full of people whose voices were intermingled in one Great Conversation and my friend, the boy seated next to me, was laughing.  Rumi came back onto the stage and walked down the stairs to the crowd of seated people.  He looked at me and winked again, then whispered into the ear of the first person, a balding, middle-aged man in coveralls who stood up and looked around, taking in the enormity of the crowd.  He then handed the man a mirror.  The man looked into it and saw the Face of Christ within himself.  What I felt next was like a jolt of lightning.  The recognition of Love’s (and only Love’s) Existence traveled through the crowd instantly, from one to the next with electric intensity.

Jesus stepped out of the box.  “This is Creation,” he said.  “The multiplication of One.  There is no end to this performance.  It never began and it will never end.”

Rumi fired a shiny red tomato from stage left, a split-fingered heater that looked set to find its mark, but at the last moment Jesus ducked gracefully, sweeping into a low bow.  Shams, crouched stage right in a white silk bee-keeping suit, leapt into the air and swung a butterfly net on an intersecting course with the tomato.  The tomato was extruded instantly into a thousand radiant globules by the silk netting.  Shams put down the butterfly net and ran, along with Rumi, to center stage where the two gave one final bow with Jesus as the curtain descended.

We filed out together then, into the streets of Heaven, eager to join with every last one of our selves.

* * * * *

This short fiction was inspired by these quotes from A Course of Love, and reflection upon the notion that in our Oneness, we share a common identity.

“Your identity is shared and one in Christ.  A shared identity is a quality of oneness.” (CoL, 20.17)

“You are a unique expression of the self-same love that exists in all creation.  Thus your expression of love is as unique as your Self.” (CoL, 20.30)

“Only lack of expression leads to powerlessness.” (CoL, 20.28)

7 Comments

    • That is a lovely photo. I first stumbled deeply into Rumi at a conference at the University of Science and Philosophy in Virginia, where a woman named Gabrielle was giving a recitation. I think if you Google Sea of Splendor and her name you can find a link to her page and her recordings. They are sublime.

      Michael

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      • Thank you for sharing that. I’m going to have to look into it. She apparently has retreats out in Sedona, Arizona.

        One of these days, I’m going to go on a spiritual retreat, but I haven’t decided if I’m going to Esalen, Kripalu, Sedona, or someplace in Colorado (there are a few…).

        I have a book of the teachings of Rumi that I haven’t dug into yet that I found at the thrift store. But as I know, my reading a book, and listening to readings are quite different. so I’m really looking forward to hearing her speak.

        Belonging to the Beloved.

        That’s what’s been missing. I think I’d attended about 20 different churches since my 20s, looking for this belonging. There’s a lot of false doctrine out there, and there’s a bit of poisonous pedagogy when it comes to parenting.

        Most of my life I’ve been on the outside looking in, belonging nowhere and to no one. There were times when I felt I belonged to my husband…and we were very close in the early years of our marriage. And then, as life would have it for us, that connection was broken, our paths diverged.

        I’m hoping the work I’m embarking on this year will assist me. Thank you so much for writing as you are, because it resonates at a very deep level with me, in ways that really touch me deeply. I appreciate you so much for that.

        Casey

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      • I was thinking I need to print out that photo and attach the Rumi quote to it. Turn it into some wall art. =)

        Oh, and is that where you are from, Virginia? Or did you just go to school there?

        Like

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