The last half of this year, and the last two months in particular, have reduced the aperture of my life down to such a tight radius that I feel as though I’ve been scanning the field of experience and possibility one dim pixel at a time. There’s not much plot to derive from such a view– not much context or depth with which to work. Day and night are shades of brightness, but little more. Is it night again, or just cloudy out?
Is that the alarm? Already? What about dreams? Do I still have dreams? Who has dreams any more? People who can afford to shut their minds off at night and use the time for something besides catching up on the minutes of the previous day and assessing their potential impacts on events six months out… they have dreams.
What can do this to a person? What forces can result in such a contraction?
Being busy. Feeling busy. Feeling burdened. Being poured from one day into the next like a slinky tumbling half out of control down a staircase that has been lowered down from the sky. In my case it has been the influx of professional responsibilities that will wait on no man, with financial consequences should they not be attended to in a timely manner. This may sound wholly unappetizing, but the particulars are not where to focus, as a similar contractive pressure could have been brought on by any number of situations with other types of forcing functions– needing to get the harvest in prior to a turn in the weather, tending to the wounded or dying around the clock in a makeshift field hospital, working double shifts for weeks to fix the electrical grid after an ice storm, being the de facto caregiver for an elderly parent who is losing their rational faculties, being a single parent with children at home and any number of jobs outside of it, or simply having your house blown away by a violent atmospheric outburst. The mind has a tendency to rank these in some order of severity, but I encourage you at least for my purpose here to treat them equally, as circumstances or inciting factors that focalize our lives, and trim the fat from our wandering minds.
As Jesus says in A Course of Love, our lives are our curriculum. Life is what’s happening. Life isn’t what happens when we’re done attending to what needs be done. That’s a modern notion rooted in images of success and desire that often breeds resistance to what is.
Regardless of how you rate these various circumstances, the main point is that sometimes things get busy in ways we cannot control. The conceptual life to which we were trying to attend, that version of life we were trying to invent or distill from the one we already had, that one is cleaved from our conscious reach. We are honed to a functional point. We find ourselves in continuous service to the needs of the moment. There can be a certain relentlessness to it, though if we’re paying attention we will also find moments of beauty and grace interwoven throughout– like the way a brilliant yellow moon settling down onto the horizon near the end of it’s nightly journey shone upon me like a great, full eye during a 4 AM commute through a wintry wasteland, catching me off guard and flooding me with a thousand whispering reminders of what lies beyond the single pixel view.
If we’re not careful, these are also the times when we will be ambushed by the sensation that something is wrong. Something isn’t right is a thought form all too easy to endorse. Whatever philosophies regarding cause and effect that we carry around inside of ourselves will be badgering us at peak intensity levels to take stock, and take action. Look! Here’s a story about a person who created the life of their dreams! All it takes is a few upgrades! We, too, can get back on track with the types of lives in which we can flower, make a difference, or follow our passion! Be all we can be. We all want to maximize, and take our shot. No one likes being derailed. Such responses can hide the deeper meaning and purpose of these experiences, however– can render us insensitive to the holy messages they convey to us.
It is not that the dreams or passions towards which we grow are unattainable or problematic, but that we must be brought to the point where we can see what hinders their realization. We must be delivered into a face-to-face encounter with whatever hidden machinations aren’t working, so that we can choose anew. So Life, ever compassionate, presses upon us. Pressure refracts the ideas of our lives into their individual colors and paints them on the wall for closer inspection. And as we squirm under the pressure, we see just how strange some of the ideas are that we have carried. Reduced to a shrunken point of tenacity, we find our anger. We find out who or what to blame. We find out about our doubt or shame. But the holiest of our desires, too, press up from within against the cover-slip our live’s boundaries, like the cytoplasm of the inner life to which our magnified focus has been drawn. Their beauty and possibility comes into focus. As we yearn to reach for the fruits of this sanctified fire within us we discover where our reluctance has been hiding. We discover our fears, and they also are magnified, and become tangible– like a choking heaviness in our center.
We reach the point then– the sacred fulcrum at our center– from which new forms of experience are possible. Jesus suggests in A Course of Love that when we are free our hearts will be the cause of our experience, but that so long as we remain trapped within the thought system on which illusion rests, we experience the illusion and the suffering. What our hearts know and desire is unable to fully arise as the cages of our thought systems establish the boundaries and parameters of the possible. When we ask to break free of these cages, then I think sometimes we are dragged into this slow motion world. Everything slows down so we can pick the lock…
Today, in a brief window of time in which I’ve been able to rest and allow my vision to stretch out a bit, I find I am immensely grateful for the past few months. Yes, in moments I have wanted to abandon the ship of circumstance, or at the very least make a righthand turn. Yes, I have been confused and disappointed, uncertain and overwhelmed, contemptuous of my own stagnating efforting at times. But it has also whittled me down, and brought me to intimate contact with something that’s always present, even in a single pixel of reality. Ask for Love, and you will be obliged to take a tour of the ways you distance yourself from it, and you may find your life is reduced to a single pixel you can square off with. Inspect that pixel very carefully, for you may find Love looking back like a full moon flooding every corridor of eternity with soft light.
We do well to remember in times like these: one healed pixel is all it takes… We don’t need to fill an entire screen. Just one pixel will do. For there is only one pixel, anyway, and it is everywhere… Always…