What Is Eternal?
“This body is not me.
I am not limited by this body.
I am life without boundaries.
I have never been born,
and I have never died.
Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars,
manifestations from my wondrous true mind.
Since before time, I have been free.
Birth and death are only doors through which we pass,
sacred thresholds on our journey,
Birth and death are a game of hide-and-seek.
So laugh with me,
hold my hand,
let us say goodbye,
say goodbye, to meet again soon.
We meet today.
We will meet again tomorrow.
We will meet at the source of every moment.
We will meet each other in all forms of life.”
~Thich Nhat Hahn
As we develop relationships with the dead, the dead reveal themselves everywhere. We approach the ancestor altar in our dining room, lighting a candle, offering a little food and a prayer or two. We notice that a photo is crooked or has fallen over and we adjust it, our hands touching the image of someone who has passed on — an old aunt, a great grandmother, our mother’s best friend. Every day they are waiting for us to notice them, reach out, connect. Every day is the day of the dead.
As we become accustomed to communing with the dead, we may begin to experience their presence as we walk across the land. We come upon a rock or a stand of trees and find ourselves pausing. Somehow this place also feels like an altar — even if these dead, the quiet dead of deep time, come to us without names and faces. We may find ourselves returning to such a spot, bringing flowers and perhaps being offered a feather in return.
— Perdita Finn
I suspect that we are confused by our shape shifting physical world. It looks and feels so solid, until it suddenly doesn’t. We grieve for the temporal manifestations we knew and got attached to that have passed back into an energetic ocean we can’t see, that seems mythical and unknowable. What’s going on here? What is one to make of this world, what should we believe?
There is no lack of people who are dead certain they know what’s real and what isn’t and they won’t hesitate to instruct us. Still, there are people for whom questions are more alive than the handed down, well-worn answers. I like to keep looking. People believe all kinds of fanciful things just to give themselves a feeling of certainty. It’s how people defend themselves against doubt. It’s the most common thing in the world.
I prefer to handle a belief or idea like an interesting stone I just found on the ground. I turn it over and examine it. If it’s beautiful I’m already inclined to keep it around just for its vibrations. That doesn’t mean I’m no longer noticing other intriguing and beautiful things I run across in my aesthetic and intellectual investigations. There’s nothing worse than finding the ultimate answers and ceasing to learn, in my opinion.
Having said all that, it appears to me that we humans are a little too persuaded that our current embodiment possesses an ultimate reality, that it’s a reference point, an identity that continues into eternity. Maybe we’re missing something. Maybe what’s real is the voyage of the “soul,” for lack of a better word. Maybe the whole point of this experience is the quality of the experiencing. Maybe we are evolving consciousness and our bodies, like all embodiments, are vehicles that serve that evolution by concentrating experiences of both love and its absence.
It may be that we grow through this distillation of love, beauty and meaning. As ephemeral as they seem, they may be the most real things in the universe. If it’s true that we are matriculating in a school of love, most of us are still in first grade. We are distracted by the basics of living in bodies as we face unenlightened social constructs. We have yet to get to the essential issues. We are just realizing we’ll have to educate ourselves.
On the cultural and ecological level the outcome looks daunting, but on the spiritual level, it’s probably inevitable that we’ll all learn who we really are.