I often wish I had the spirit of Georgia O’Keefe, so I could paint beautiful close-up images like hers that take over your entire view when you look at them. Or the spirit of Walt Whitman in order to create a sustained homage to nature. Of course, I can imitate other artists, looking long at an O’Keefe painting or reading Whitman’s poetry hoping to catch the spirit from which their work sprang. Artist and poet look at the world more intensely, with more intentionality, so that every day things like a piece of drift wood or even the tiniest blade of grass come to life in a way that allows us into their singular vision, and enlarges ours. Mary Oliver meanders through the woods early in the mornings with her notepad, watching and waiting for the deer to come down and drink at the pond, or the flower to open at the first light of day. I often read her poems of a morning as I would the psalms, wanting to enter into the spirit of the world that she has been able to capture in well-chosen words. Her poetry also brings with it a sensibility for the sacred and the blessed in our world. As the artists opens other worlds for us, we glimpse this world with more truth, beauty and grace.
Jesus left his Spirit with us in a very decisive and intentional way. Two thousand years later how do I come upon his Spirit? How does his Spirit enter into you and I so we might see more truth, beauty and grace in the world and in ourselves? Can I look at his life and his ‘work’, what is left to us of him, so I can enter into the Life of his Spirit? Shall I watch and wait for his Spirit to come down from Galilee to the river, or like St. Paul says, ‘walk according to the Spirit’ (Romans 8:4) looking for the day to open its broad petals across the landscape.
We are the people of Pentecost. On that day Jesus poured his Spirit out upon the world, like a rainbow of colors spilling down, transparent, washing over us all, the felt experience of his life. His Spirit is like the rainbow in Genesis that the Lord set in the clouds as a sign of his promise and blessing upon the earth and all the people in it.(Gen.9:13) Christ’s Spirit remains too as both promise and blessing. The promise of our becoming and the blessing by which we are touched by his Life in his Spirit. He is with us too in a reign of words that comes down to us in stories about him. Whatever he did and whatever he said, he was unforgettable. Surely some sacred Spirit created in those whose lives he touched the need to tell others what they knew of him, so that we too might get a glimpse of him from the distance of two thousand years and today enter into his Spirit, and into the timelessness of his presence as it remains with us. Perhaps all I need do is stand under the rainbow and believe.
Another mark of creative spirituality is that it resists being packaged or codified. I think there is a deeper message in the fact that the stone tablets were broken. The life of the spirit lives in the heart. The law is that which is written not on tables of stone, but on the heart, the heart that can be carried with us wherever we go.
Each age discovers itself a new, as if for the first time. Because for us it is the first time. As we journey to self-understanding and self-realization, to our life in Christ, to the Christ-self, we remember and honor what has gone before. We honor it by recreating it, giving it new life, new insights, new dimensions. Our history is never so fixed or stayed that it cannot rekindle within us our own creative fire which lights up what has been given, gone before us on the path.
The artifacts and literature of our ancient and not so ancient worlds live on as our cultural heritage, the rainbow visible in the present as it marches into a future only darkly perceived. And yet, we can test its wisdom against the wisdom of the ages as it makes its path into our souls and hearts and makes its own legacy in art, literature and song.
The Soul then is that unlimited reservoir of revelation, insight, meaning. It is the inner house of the Self. It has depths and dimension, faculties which can reach to the height and depth, length and breadth which it alone can attain as its sacred roots and ground reach deep, even as it gives one the ability to reach higher, to become all that we can be. In its reach back beyond our personal time, it reaches into the bowels of the earth where the layers of history lie encrusted there. It is capable of rising with our spirits into the cosmos and with it we are able to touch the face of God and also experience the sacred embrace in our depths, in our hearts and souls.
This first Sunday of Lent was about rainbows and wilderness. The God pledging fidelity to a boat maker who would cast his fidelity, trust and life out upon the waters and await the world to be made a second time. The human and the god to begin again. The wilderness where one searches out the pledge of that fidelity in one’s life. While angels and beasts attend, one gentle, one fierce, one winged, one earth bound, a sacred and human nature, the light and the shadow, at play as the god and the daemon square off for the soul of a man. Is he still in that wilderness, in the remembering rainbow, by the river?
Perhaps as one who sought him concluded, he come to us as one unknown, across the lakeside, down the green hill, in the warm dough kneaded by human hands, in fields, carrying rocks, making baskets, in silent moments, in the children’s laughter, in the book that opens just so and the song playing on the radio just when you needed to hear it, in jails and in churches, where the bread is broken, and hearts also, coming and going, men bowing, women rising, on a dusty road wars raging, two people, one people, three faiths, tearing at the heart of the gypsy-god with a human face; there, just on the horizon, as if on a cloud.