Monday, August 4, 2014

Killing me with delight

Below is my reflection shared as part of the service on August 3rd at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara.
I'd like to share a poem that was introduced to me by Nancy Edmondson at a recent retreat for the Worship Committee at USSB.
by Mary Oliver
Every day
      I see or hear
                  that more or less
kills me
      with delight,
            that leaves me
                  like a needle
in the haystack
      of light.
            It was what I was born for –
                  to look, to listen,
to lose myself
      inside this soft world –
            to instruct myself
                  over and over
in joy,
      and acclamation.
            Nor am I talking
                  about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
      the very extravagant –
            but of the ordinary,
                  the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
      Oh, good scholar,
            I say to myself,
                  how can you help
but grow wise
      with such teachings
            as these –
                  the untrimmable light
of the world,
      the ocean’s shine,
            the prayers that are made
                  out of grass?
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During the retreat, we reflected on what kills us with delight. I knew right away what I would share.

This summer, my 12 year old's voice changed. One day he was a sweet soprano, and the next day he sounded like Bowser from  Sha-na-na. "Hey mom." I'd make him repeat it, just so I could hear it and reconcile this grown man's voice with my first baby's face. "Hey mom," he'd say again, humoring me. 

It killed me to hear it. It killed me with delight, this incongruous sound coming from that same boy who's first word was "hi!" which inevitably made every stranger he greeted melt. This new deep voice would stop me in my tracks and make me giggle. He knew it, and would repeat whatever I asked him to, giggling with me. Laughing together at the wonder of life, growing up and recognizing that while he's always going to be my first baby, he's not a baby anymore. 

This month's theme is transcendence. It's such a big word, transcendence. And there are multiple meanings. It's original definition was that God is outside of and beyond the world, as opposed to being in and part of the world. Later, Immanuel Kant defined transcendence as that which lies beyond what our faculty of knowledge can legitimately know. Most of his philosophical thinking was focused on the relationship between our knowledge of self and our knowledge of objects. For example, how do we assign characteristics to new objects we encounter without having previous knowledge of those objects? This is the basic plotline of many a horror movie...we encounter aliens for the first time with an expectation that they are friendly, only to be horribly horribly wrong. And then there is the modern colloquial definition of transcendence, a feeling of going outside of yourself, a mystical sense of the universe.

Such a big idea, and yet, it's often quite little events, little moments, when we feel that sense that there is something bigger than us. It might be standing in the never ending ebb and flow of the waves on the beach when I realize that I am small, and weak, and powerless to stop their relentless motion. It may be as I'm standing in the middle of a crowd, looking across at people all with their own stories and hopes and fears that are probably not so different than my own, that I feel like I am one small piece of a puzzle so big I can't grasp it's size or meaning. It might be looking up at the stars and wondering if anyone else is out there. It might be examining a spider's intricate web and marveling at the beauty of it's form and function. It might be examining the wings of a ladybug that my daughter caught that don't seem capable of carrying it's hard-coated body. It is definitely hearing my son's newly deep voice, and realizing that just as he is changing, so am is everyone. It is bigger than me and it is miraculous. 

You'd think that feeling small or insignificant or mystified would elicit negative feelings, fear or anxiety. But it's really quite the opposite, isn't it? When I feel transcendence, I am killed with delight. I feel hope and connection and a faith in a power much bigger than me and bigger than my capacity to understand it. I feel it when I hear my son's newly deep voice. I feel it every Sunday, here with you. Transcendence makes me feel the compassion of the universe and my fellow travelers in it. I appreciate our shared human experience and our unique roads on the journey. I feel wonder. I feel love. Maybe I am small and insignificant, but I am also important and able to do good.

Perhaps you feel it too. Perhaps you feel it here. So today, as we finish singing Call out a Blessing, you know that the little squeeze you give to my hand? That squeeze is going to kill me with delight. 

1 comment:

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