April 30, 2011

flow me a sign

“Black holes are where God divided by zero.” What better way for the universe to announce that I have pondered the cosmic ramifications of quantum physics enough than to flash a bumper sticker like that across my path? The universe may well be ultimately unknowable, but it sure does have a sense of humor sometimes.

Once last May while caravanning two kids around town to three events and fretting about four job-related deadlines, I sat in a malaise at a red light. Just another one of those late-afternoon immobilizing ruminations we humans get caught up in, when we are quietly panicking because we can’t quite remember why we do anything anyway, we still don’t comprehend why we are here or the true meaning of our existence and we aren’t at all sure we will ever will (cue more paralytic panic!) but actually think that if we could just think about it all for a long time, just stop and ponder and, well, quit for awhile, then all would be revealed.

I looked in the rear-view mirror at my girls, drew one deep breath and reminded myself, “There is a reason around here somewhere. I have felt its presence now and then. We’ll all get to it one of these days. Have faith.” I took one more deep breath as the light turned green. At that very moment, a purple VW bug flew across the intersection with one of those large magnetic signs attached to its passenger door. All it said was KEEPGOING.biz in bold font. Amazed, my eyes followed the little vehicular angel on its flight westward toward a setting sun. Across its back bumper was but one unusually long sticker proclaiming, “NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS.” Onward, indeed.

Sometimes the universe even sticks out its tongue at us. Four years ago, I was strolling down Congress Avenue and holding hands with the hot Presbyterian while having some small version of our ongoing and uncomfortable dialogue about what he believed and what I did not. We had both been unfailingly gracious up until this point, but he had just said something that I partook as judgmental. Staring down at my feet, I was preparing a little gob of intuitive sarcasm with which to respond when, quite literally, I stepped on a small 3 x 5 inch flyer that simply said, “God Loves You.” Ouch. But thank you, Judeo-Christian manifestation of the Divine. I kept my mouth shut and my ears, and my heart, open. I learned more. I responded lovingly. We broke up lovingly not long after. Such a better way to go.

More signs started popping up in my life the more I stuck with the basic drudgery of spiritual practice. When I had gotten to a point where I had to admit that no amount of either stopping to figure it all out or running like crazy to do it all were getting me anywhere, I got back into my beloved books and into a new job. When I began to stop for as little as 10 minutes a day to meditate and began to stop procrastinating the other 23 hours and 50 minutes each day, I began to get a taste of what the esteemed psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as the experience of “flow,” or optimal experience. To translate, “flow” is the state of happiness we experience when we align our energies with the challenge of doing stuff and in so doing lose the ache of our self-consciousness. Then, we simultaneously experience the stillness of fully being with all of this stuff. Sort of “Be Here Now” meets “Just Do It.”

This peaceful ground is where there be dragons, quantum or otherwise, as well. Magic happens the more we are conducive to it. Synchronicity jolts us more. Signs start showing up, and we start seeing them. Not long after returning from India and getting back to the old routine, I was heading down MoPac to get to Target before getting the girls at school but pleasantly ruminating on, yes, what a blessing it was to be going to a Target. And, even more, what a blessing to have two lovely daughters to be getting things at Target for. To be picking them up soon after a flowy day of work. To have been blessed to recently travel to faraway places, but to be truly blessed to come home to one place that finally felt like home.

Suddenly traffic screeched to a halt, and I found myself almost eyeball-to-bumper with a poorly painted old van. On the vinyl cover of the spare tire affixed to the back door was stenciled this quotation from T. S. Eliot:

We shall not cease from our exploration,

and the end of all our exploring

will be to arrive where we started and

know the place for the first time.

I don’t make this stuff up. And, I nearly had a wreck scribbling that down as traffic started flowing as quickly as we all had stopped. As I changed lanes and began passing this heavenly mother ship, I realized that the entire vehicle was enveloped in a messy but joyful spray-painted rendition of the entire cosmos.

Sometimes, the universe laughs at its own jokes.

Categories: Poetry, T.S. Eliot

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