This past week turned out to be especially busy for me, and so I decided to reprise one of my favorite posts originally written back in October of 2018. I’ve made a few minor changes to keep it current, but otherwise it’s mostly the same. I chose this one in particular because the subject matter feels very relevant to me right now. I am currently in the process of transitioning out of some of my prep responsibilities at Recklesstown to prepare for some exciting things ahead. More to follow on that! My perspective on life was certainly different four years ago, and I’m about to experience another big shift. It never ceases to amaze me how the universe continues to offer us endless opportunities to grow and change…
I recently watched the movie The DaVinci Code, which I confess to having seen more than once or twice since it first came out in theaters back in 2006. It still gets me every time: the mystery, the puzzles, the religious symbolism, and a particular question that Robert Langdon poses to Sophie Neveau when she learns in the final moments of the film that she is the Holy Grail itself. “A living descendent of Jesus Christ – would she destroy faith? Or would she renew it? What matters is what you believe.” Langdon’s question offers us the opportunity to consider what it really means to have faith. It is certainly true that there are those of us for whom spirituality is as necessary as breathing; we simply could not exist without it. We believe strongly in a higher power, whether it’s the formal deity associated with organized religion, or the omnipresent universe which stuns us at times with its ability to be equally omniscient. If we look up the word spirit in the dictionary, it is defined as “the vital principle in human beings, or the mediating factor between our bodies and our souls.” If we extend this idea further, we can allow spirituality to become the process by which this mediation takes place. We live an existence within our physical bodies, but we’re certainly not limited to that, no matter what the skeptics may say. Since mediation is a form of communication, is it possible to then view spirituality as the language that creates the dialogue between body and soul? I think it is.
I spent time recently thinking about some things I wanted to change about my life. I even made one of those lists that Virgos are famous for making with bullet points written in different colored markers. I named it My Wish List, kept it in a notebook, and showed it to no one. Very close to the top were items related to working on deepening the human connections I already have and not being afraid to create some that would be new. In particular, I had the thought that I wanted to organize a book group and have wonderfully profound discussions with like-minded readers and thinkers. I floated the idea out to some of my significant people, who reached out to some of their significant people, and after a flurry of excited emailing, the book group I’d wished for materialized right before my eyes. This past Wednesday night was our first meeting, and I had very high hopes that it was going to be a great success. I’m so happy to report that the outcome far exceeded any and every expectation I could possibly have had. The discussion was intelligent and thoughtful. The company was supportive and caring. I felt as though we arrived at the meeting as fourteen separate individuals brought together by a mutual love of reading and a desire for connection, and we ended the night as a newly cohesive whole. I woke up the next morning feeling truly grateful.
For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, yesterday brought the autumnal equinox, or the beginning of the fall season. The literal translation of the word equinox comes from the Latin aequi, which means equal, and nox, which means night. During the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, there are as many hours of light as there are of darkness. One of the great gifts of the summer season is the how long the days feel, despite the fact that they actually begin shortening right after the summer solstice in the third week in June. That never seems to register with us, or if it does, we pretend that it doesn’t matter. We begin mourning the shortening days right around now, at the calendar start of fall, when we perceive that it’s finally time to let go of the light. And yet, there is some cause for celebration as well. We look forward to cooler temperatures that call for boots and sweaters. We anticipate the leaves changing in their spectacular display, and we’re ready for the first smell of woodsmoke in the air. We try not to think about the darkness of the months ahead, but we feel a certain heaviness coming for us, and maybe something else that’s akin to fear. It’s possible that some of this stems from our collective remembrance of earlier times when we had no electricity, heat, or grocery stores, and the darkness and cold that arrived with fall were reasons to be afraid indeed. Winter was just around the corner, and although it’s hard to imagine from our comfortable place in this modern world of warmth, light, and Netflix, survival wasn’t always guaranteed. In any case, the rhythm of this seasonal change still resonates deep inside us, and the official turn from summer to fall can definitely invoke a sense of sadness or apprehension.
For the past few weeks I have been reading Thomas Pynchon’s Vineland at the recommendation of my daughter, Wendy. If you’ve ever read any Pynchon, you know that he can be quite the challenge, but many of the websites that offer advice on how best to read him say we should simply accept that we’re in it for the ride, much like cruising along with Haruki Murakami or David Mitchell. Anything and everything is fair game for Pynchon, and although we may feel at times as though we’re navigating an impossible labyrinth, there are instances of clarity that are amazing in their brilliance. I recently had a moment just like that. One of the characters in Vineland wants to learn more about her mother and is engaged in some online sleuthing late one night on a library computer. She comes across a particular photograph of her mom and a very close friend taken in a rare moment of tranquility on a college campus during the tumultuous 1960s when both women were fairly extreme activists. Realizing the lateness of the hour, the daughter powers down the computer and heads off to bed. Pynchon continues: