As of this morning, I’ve very nearly completed reading Haruki Murakami’s novel 1Q84, my first encounter with his work. Early on, say two hundred pages in, I happened to mention to a friend at work that I was reading the book, and they replied with the requisite question, “What’s it about?” I knew it was going to be a good read when my immediate reaction was a blank stare and a smidge of resentment for being put under that type of pressure. I stumbled through a plot summary, which is basically the same as trying to convey the essential qualities of your soul by describing how you spend your time. Something was happening- a shoot or two had broken through the soil, but who could say what type of flower would eventually be revealed? The book and I were just getting to know one another. Something was alive between us, something innocent and vulnerable, and I had to protect it.
Sometimes we know things without ever having consciously thought about them. When they lie dormant inside of us, and surface inadvertently in a moment of candid self-expression, it can be both beautiful and awkward. If this occurs in conversation, the exchange is transformed from a tennis match of sharing, one more or less under the parties’ control, into a moment of genuine intimacy. Mostly, however, we are not permitted our conclusions independent of supporting arguments or observations. This is part of our social contract. A person may mention walking out their back door onto the prairie and discovering a small meteor, but they will far less frequently- rarely to acquaintances and surely never to new clients or customers- mention walking out their back door onto the prairie and discovering a small meteor whose appearance produced an instant, clarion type knowing within them, an ineffable signal to their heart that subtly altered the trajectory of their life. We wouldn’t typically say to just anyone, for instance, “This morning I went out back and saw a small meteor in the ground, and I knew instantly that my daughter (the one who had died in the accident) is alright.”
And yet, this type of knowing is quite real. I knew Murakami’s book was going to be good- it simply tasted that way. It is the tastes that arise within my heart that I am learning to savor, and I’m discovering how to savor those tastes even in the absence of any meteors, to accept that a butterfly of knowing has alighted within my mind in the absence of any previous formulations or logos.
An interesting theme in 1Q84 is the overlay of two worlds. Several of the characters are aware that they seem to have somehow drifted into an alternate world that is very similar to the one they had always known, but with very particular differences. Although the characters do not necessarily realize this at first, their movement into this alternate world is related to deep connections between them, and in this new reality, there are developments that seem to defy the basic principles of the reality they have always known. Yet the two worlds are interwoven- people in both worlds share a common Tokyo. They wait in line behind one another at the train station. They bump into one another on the sidewalk. They live in the same apartment buildings.
When I read this I was reminded of my own nascent, exploratory experiences of subtle movements between worlds. A Course of Love describes the House of Illusion and the House of Truth. While these are not places per se, I have come to think of them as ways of being and experiencing oneself and one’s reality. In the House of Illusion, we perceive ourselves as images, and the world we perceive is an image as well. In the House of Truth, we know ourselves as living embodiments of Truth, and all that we see is the expression of Love. Occupants of both houses, however, could be standing in line to board the same aircraft, or shopping at the same grocery stores, or taking their cars to the same mechanic.
There is an irreconcilable gap between the fundamental meaning of these two worlds, a gulf as vast as the cosmos that cannot be bridged, but the two worlds intersect all around us. They are overlaid upon cereal boxes, subway stations, and baseball parks. We are living in the invisible plaid of their juxtaposition.
For me, the simplest difference between these two worlds is the tonal structure of the inner feelings on which their respective songs are carried. I bounce back and forth every day, skating across moments that seem to border these worlds, caught in moments that require decision- the decision to resist or accept, the decision to focus or to open wide, the decision to protect or to trust. The day does not always proceed as planned, and I am not always certain how to maintain the inner structure of the world I would choose, as the outer one pushes, prods, and confounds. For the time being, I am like one of Murakami’s central characters- adrift in an uncertain node of possibilities, searching for the fulfillment of something alive within myself. Like the cast of 1Q84, I feel myself drawn to new worlds through the power of connection.
It is my yearning for the face of Christ within myself, the orchestra of silent feeling that arises when I think of Jesus, that is pulling me into a new world. This presence wipes away my tears. This presence rearranges meanings without moving a single piece of furniture. A life is exploded from within, remade, illumined, but the body still rides the Number Six bus to the office each morning. This presence seems to be opening up a new world right around me, and I am finding the steps into this world are simple knowings, discoveries of inner contents that I did not design or build.
I have yet to read the final chapters, but I wonder if the two worlds will somehow clarify in Murakami’s characters, if their yearning will be fulfilled? I wonder if they will pass through the intersection of worlds, and solidify their presence in a new one? I wonder the same for us… will our hearts lead us to that world we can taste inside of us? How will we know it when we see it, if we are looking for a completely different picture?