Branded #6: “The drop becomes the ocean.”

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A peak-religious-experience moment at New England Yearly Meeting [see “Bread for Home”]: Jay O’Hara was showing pictures of the coal-burning plant at Somerset, MA; one pic featured a veritable mountain of coal—and someone commented on its enormity.

“Oh, yeah,” Jay said off-handedly. “It gets really tall in the summer.”

As Quaker scholar, Michael Birkal, would put it: “The drop became the ocean.” That mountain became what makes my air conditioner work. I knew this, I felt/saw/experienced the whole damned thing, from mountain-top-removal in West Virginia or Kentucky to pushing my AC remote control power button—totally and whole-heartedly.

Other faith traditions, of course, also speak of and practice this mindfulness, this Consciousness*, this perpetual connectivity, this grokking The Whole. And, of course, drugs do the trick, sometimes. A friend I’ve sadly lost track of, once told of a similar peak-experience moment when he was super-high so scribbled down something, ya know, profound. The next morning he couldn’t wait to look at what he’d written: “Everything is everything.” (Yup.)

Being a Quaker’s my faith tradition, however; here’s where I’ve landed. So as I continue to join others working on climate change, that mountain-top to mountain-top to my bedroom moment will feed me, sustain me, my very own, inner power button.

 

A Garden Beyond Paradise

Everything you see has its roots
in the unseen world.
The forms may change,
yet the essence remains the same.

Every wondrous sight will vanish,
every sweet word will fade.
But do not be disheartened,
The Source they come from is eternal—
growing, branching out,
giving new life and new joy.

Why do you weep?—
That Source is within you,
and this whole world
is springing up from it.

The Source is full,
its waters are ever-flowing;
Do not grieve,
drink your fill!
Don’t think it will ever run dry—
This is the endless Ocean!

From the moment you came into this world,
a ladder was placed in front of you
that you might transcend it.

From earth, you became plant,
from plant you became animal.
Afterwards you became a human being,
endowed with knowledge, intellect and faith.

Behold the body, born of dust—
how perfect it has become!

Why should you fear its end?
When were you ever made less by dying?

When you pass beyond this human form,
no doubt you will become an angel
and soar through the heavens!

But don’t stop there.
Even heavenly bodies grow old.

Pass again from the heavenly realm
and plunge into the ocean of Consciousness.
Let the drop of water that is you
become a hundred mighty seas.

But do not think that the drop alone
becomes the Ocean—
the Ocean, too, becomes the drop!

Jelaluddin Rumi, “A Garden Beyond Paradise”,
A Garden Beyond Paradise: The Mystical Poetry of Rumi
(translated by Jonathan Star), Bantam Books, NY, 1992, pp. 148-149

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