This Opaque World

Things seem quite clear. We trust our eyes. If our sight is blurred, we get corrective lenses and the world sharpens. We believe in the reality that we see. We accept what we observe and place (too) great faith in our interpretations. We operate from our understanding without second thought. How else could we live if we didn’t trust our vision?

And yet, though we often forget or ignore it, we know that there is always a deeper reality. A world that exists beyond the one that we live in every day. We know this world exists, but it remains a vague whisper in our minds, like the dream from a few nights ago. Just as every now and then a dream leaves a deep enough impression to stick with us over time, to overcome the veil of waking reality, so too this deeper reality sometimes raises above a whisper, sometimes lingers with us longer than the passing breeze.

We see it in nature. The moments when the beauty of the world strikes us in surprise. It has been waiting patiently. Nature rarely shouts. And then suddenly we see it. Often we have to be taken out of our ordinary setting to recognize the great beauty with which the earth overflows. But it is always there. Our lack of recognition does not dispel it.

We see it in art. A painting grabs us and halts our museum meandering. We stand before it knowing that it is infinitely more than just paint and canvas. Or the song that resonates all the way down into our very depths. Or the book that stays with us for years.

We see it in people. Those who we know best and who have allowed us beyond the veneer, who have given us a glimpse of their soul.

And every so often we see it in the ordinary. The look on a stranger’s face caught in a passing glance. The sun caught on the pavement. A sip of cool water. The feel of soil on your fingertips, or sand against on your toes.

Sometimes we name these events “moments of rapture.” We say we were lifted up for a brief time, out of the ordinary. Out of the way we almost always see things. And if we can find the courage, we just might believe that these moments are actually more true, more real than every other. That might be what we call faith. To trust that those moments are all the more real despite their infrequency. That they are the fullness, not the illusion. Do we not somehow, deep down, know that to be the case?

That it can be recognized not just in the beautiful and sublime, but also in the most everyday ordinary–this is the intimation that these moments of seeing do not point to some realm that is distant, one that we must ascend to through great striving and travail, but that this reality is constantly and always among us. It is in every particle at every second, but we just cannot see it. We do not have the eyes. The vision of our souls is opaque.

Our journey is not to another realm, but to fully realize the one that is actually already here always around and within us. It is a journey of sight, of recognition, not of movement.

Life is happening in the present. Not in the future. Not in the past. Not in our plans or in any arriving change. Reality is now, fleeting as it is. Obscure as it is. How can the scales fall from our eyes?

Do we even want such a reality? Is it simply too much? Do we dwell in the fog because the sunlight is too bright?

We cannot hold it all, we cannot live in it every moment. It is too much. And so we narrow. And so we distinguish. We dwell in what we can manage. But then we forget. We slowly begin to accept this limitation as the norm, and resign ourselves to limited reality. Until we are reminded again, if only for a brief moment, that we are meant for so much more, that we are offered eternity at every moment, that our eyes are not the ultimate judge of reality.


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