The Astronomer by Johannes Vermeer (c. 1668)
Astronomy has always fascinated me. Ever since I was a young boy, I was intrigued by the planets and the stars, and wanted to know everything there was to know about what I could only barely see when I looked up at the night sky. Constellations were magical in my young mind. I truly believed that the ancient people who gave each of the mysterious shapes a name, and to which they attached a meaningful story about the various mythological characters and the mystical creatures of those mythologies, knew something about the universe that I could only imagine. I could not fully grasp the ideals contained in the mythological stories, nor could I truly decipher what they were suggesting about life right here on Earth. I couldn’t even truly understand why I felt such a powerful urge to gaze up at the panorama all around me in the night sky. Somehow, opening my heart and mind and spirit to the stars, made me feel alive and real.
As my life progressed, I never lost my fascination with the experience of the firmament of night, and even into my adult years with the additional opportunities to view the starry vault from different locations in the world, my heart would always long to fly up into the darkness for a closer look. Something about outer space drew me inexorably up amidst the innumerable elements within the celestial sphere, until one day it finally dawned on me. The universe all around me was my reference point to know that I am truly here.
We can get lost in a crowd and still feel completely alone. We can disappear into the night, but still see where we are going. We can be absorbed in a book or a movie, and still realize who we are and where we came from before becoming absorbed. We can live our whole lives without ever experiencing a truly transcendent moment, and still feel that we somehow have a connection to something bigger than ourselves. But once we discover and truly experience a deep and abiding love for another human being, once we are awakened to the existence of the unmistakeably potent thrill that accompanies our acknowledgement of that connection to another, and then inexplicably suffer the gut wrenching experience of loss of such a connection, it throws away every doubt we might have about truly being here.
“Love – Loss” by Philip Straub. Medium: Oil on board. About this Image: One of a series of paintings created to explore human relationships.
Recognizing that our lives, and the lives of all those who inhabit the planet, are an essential component of the universe in which they come to pass doesn’t come easy always. With so many human beings populating the Earth in the 21st century, and with so few of us finding each other, caring for each other, or even getting to know each other well, it’s hardly surprising that we sometimes fail to see our essential connection to the lives of the billions of inhabitants who share this life with us, including every other living creature who walks, flies, or crawls along the surface of the planet with us. In order to reach such a recognition, we must carefully examine our relationship with each of those we do encounter, and as far as possible, engage them fully and learn to accept the diversity of strengths and weaknesses that each soul possesses, without relinquishing what is most essential to the connection in ourselves.
My good friend and fellow blogger patricemj recently posted an insightful look at one particularly illuminating example of how this awareness and love for others can bring us to see that we are truly here, and I recommend you stop by to have a look:
Of the many illuminating experiences which can be instructive with regard to knowing that we are truly here, particularly after what might have been the accumulation of many years of almost forgetting that we are here for some good purpose, is the arrival in our lives of a brand new person on this Earth. Here is a brief excerpt from my personal journal about one particularly illuminating moment:
“Writing this morning next to a portable crib with my two month new granddaughter, sleeping peacefully after I shared a sleepy half hour or so of her morning feeding, I can’t help but contemplate the extraordinary quality of our communications since her arrival in my world. Pure delight overcomes me as my eyes land upon her face, and she bursts into a wide smile, her own eyes opening widely as well, and her arms and feet gyrate with excitement in anticipation of being picked up and cuddled. As a man with a reasonably functional adult brain, my responses enjoy a much richer and fuller range, but my granddaughter’s more limited repertoire of responses are nonetheless sufficient for her to receive the desired, although instinctive immediate response from me to satisfy her immediate needs.”
Watching a child awaken to conscious awareness is a nearly miraculous process, and if you are not fully conscious yourself when such an opportunity arises, you will soon find yourself in the thick of it before long. As time progresses, each time I have the opportunity to share time with this bundle of excitement and joy, I am reminded again that I am truly here:
Now three years along in life, this young lady hasn’t lost a single bit of her power to remind me that I am truly here, and while there are many ways to increase our understanding and appreciation for the power of love in our lives, including every possible variation and quality of love between two human beings, there are no limits to what we can accomplish by opening ourselves to our powerfully urgent longings to connect to others.
…..more to come….