The other day a Messenger came to my home with a certified letter. I happened to be standing at the window of my apartment, roughly a hundred feet above street level, aimlessly observing the Saturday AM shuffle of humanity down below when he arrived. He glanced up from the street right at me, as if he knew exactly which unit I was in, and of course I had no idea his arrival had anything to do with me at all. He hopped off his thirty-eight speed carbon fiber bike, leaned it up against the nearest sturdy object that was bolted to the street, and jogged into the lobby awkwardly on his clipless bike shoes, catching the door just as my neighbor Noelle was heading out for a morning of yoga, fruit smoothies and a bevy of other death-staving activities she was hard-pressed to manage during the week.
This gave birth within me to the contemplation of the harried nature of modern living, and the evolutionary pressures are cells must be constantly whispering back and forth about all day while we live out our lives on LCD displays, basking in our electromagnetic sea, scheduling time slots three weeks ahead for sessions of ancient calisthenics, when he knocked on my door. Two taps, authoritative but brief.
I opened the door and found him fishing around in a deep-pocketed pouch made of heavily stitched ballistic nylon suspended from a shoulder strap featuring some sort of walky-talky and an electrified pin containing the tiniest neon sign I ever saw. It said, in glowing pink, “Run Now, or Forever Be at Peace”. He looked up and nodded, producing a carefully folded packet made from coated, water-resistant cardboard and affixed with a wax seal. He nodded at me, verifying my surname, then asked me to sign receipt of the Message.
“Who sent this?”
He laughed and smiled, shaking his head as if we were sharing an inside joke. “Your Brother.”
To which I replied, “I don’t have a brother.”
To which he replied, “The Brother we all have, not the one you wished you had when you were thirteen and your friends with older siblings knew things you didn’t.” And then he was gone.
* * * * *
I sat down on a stool at my breakfast bar, one of many artifacts of my present life whose name was borne of another time and no longer bore any relation to its actual function, and examined my unexpected parcel from my unknown Brother. One word, “Christ”, was impressed into the wax.
The letter inside was hand-written, and said simply, “Your ego has landed. In a pool of molten lava. There wasn’t even a puff of smoke. Your task now is to create a Life without it. Please don’t try very hard. In fact, don’t try at all. But do get on with it. The whole world is waiting for the Gift that only you can give. Your heart is a pregnant bud, and your Self is the flower growing inside it, and the world is a vast garden, and I am the water.” It was signed, “Your Brother”.
* * * * *
Some context will be helpful to your understanding why I sat dumbfounded for the better part of an hour before getting up and fixing myself a buttered blueberry muffin. For many years I have studied A Course in Miracles, and days of angst have been steadily transformed into days of peace. A mind at peace is indeed a tremendous gift. But there remains a feeling of unfinished business, a desire to create, a wish to experience the world the way a forming cloud experiences the sky, coalescing from its hidden vapors, reflecting the light of the sun, riding on invisible currents.
Do you know what I mean?
Sometimes I get the urge to be immersed in, and know myself integral to, the form of art that makes universes. Sometimes that urge is scary, and I remind myself there is nothing I need do… This contemplation creates a cycle- a movement towards the world, a confrontation with the unknown, and then a receding. I was a wave lapping on an unknown land, a peaceful wave, but not a wave expressing the full power of the ocean.
* * * * *
The next weekend the courier was back with another letter. Same deal. Peach raspberry muffins this time. The letter said, “There is nothing you need do to become who you are, no accomplishment in this world that can give you what has been given. You know, rightly, that you have not been called to make yourself. I ask only that you be your Self. This is the art form you are becoming. This is the art of becoming. Your old wardrobe of thoughts are not well-suited to this. So what. Here is a hint. Try being naked.”
* * * * *
In the days that passed, I was struck by the inertial force of my habits. I awoke each day intrigued about the possibilities, and went out into my life, only to find that it had become an empty husk. At first, I responded to this emptiness by turning to a quiet and familiar place, as I had learned to do, settling the currents of my mind. This is the force of habit. But I slowly came to realize that the new space I was encountering was not to be withdrawn from, but to be filled.
I began to sense that when the ego has been undone, and the canvas of the world is transformed from a threatening mirage to a blank sheet, it calls to you. When I allowed it to be so, I found my heart was a delicious pot of ink, and my life a great brush ready to apply it. I had that image walking home from work. I let it take hold of me, and I found vestiges of littleness in countless corners of my world, and found they held no sway over what came next. I had looked at them, and found them wanting, and as I approached them they crumbled into dust, and I simply swept them up.
I began to offer myself to the world in new ways, to speak authentically where once I would have silenced myself, to seek out others and tell them a great secret was inside of me. I had the feeling I needed them to see it somehow. I told them one was buried in them, too. What was it? Could they tell me? At times it was awkward, and unsettling, and other times it was ecstatic. When you realize you are you and you don’t know what comes next, that is when it finds you.
I took a trip to the country and I met a man and his wife in their antique shop. They were arranging and scurrying and bustling and we talked about the winter that had passed, and how snow is removed from the city, and how owls call to them before dawn. He had a beautiful shop in the back full of sawdust and fresh furniture, and he confided in me that they were struggling to understand web sites and browsers and the patterns of a world that had somehow outdistanced them. We all just want to be known, don’t we? They were looking for a way to reach people in the city they could hear calling to them when they worked in the shop, and I gave them help with that- just a nudge- and they gave me a new friendship surrounded by trees, with new fields in which to roam.
I think this is what Jesus meant when he sent that letter. I didn’t go back to school for new credentials. I just stopped trying to figure out the how of things. ‘How’ is indeed an old habit, and it dies hard, but it is so beautiful to know who you are in the absence of that question.