The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It will transcend a personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another. Everything is energy and that is all there is to it. Albert Einstein
“She loved to read.” That should be the inscription on my tombstone. Sometimes, however, I feel that I must leave my books and go out into the world.
On this occasion, I decided to accompany my husband, John. He wanted to visit a few people we knew from our community's weekly meal. They were now in the local jail. Usually for drugs or as they said it for "putting their hands on each other."
I had never been a visitor to a jail before. As it turns out, it’s a pretty complex affair. You must call before the desired visitation day. You may only call between certain hours and you may have to keep calling many times to get through since many people are trying to call at one time.
Once you get to our local jail, you must wait until a jailor opens a window. You sign in and wait until your name is called. Then you are allowed to go to a hot, tiny room the size of phone booth. There's one chair and a telephone which connects you to the person you want to see who will be brought in to the other side of a glass wall. Two people have a very hard time talking through one phone and using one chair during the visitation.
John started doing these jail visits on a number of occasions. At one point, I decided that I didn’t want to go inside to visit anymore, instead I would accompany my husband to the jail and just talk to people who were waiting in the visitation room. Most of the people were anxious as was I.
At least that is what I told John - "No worries, I'll just visit with people." What I really thought is that I'd be able to get out and about AND I'd be able to take my book along. And READ.
On one particular night no one was there. Everything was buttoned up after the visitors went inside.
That was just great. I could finally READ! At one point I looked up and realized that I felt a little scared, but I quickly forgot the feeling and headed back to my precious book.
After a few minutes the door flew open; a cold puff of air blew in. A disheveled man sat down. I looked up at him, smiled, told him that the jailor would probably open the window in 10 minutes or so. I noticed that I was feeling... something… something sweet about the man. His age seemed impossible to guess. Then I went back to my reading.
The man started talking. He mentioned his fear. Then he starts to explain that there could be a warrant out for his arrest. He meandered around with his words considering that he might have inadvertently done something wrong as a person on probation. He wrung his hands at the thought of being put back into jail.
Then the man stopped his chattering and said, “Sorry, I’ve interrupted your reading.”
My mouth opened and…
these words fell out, “I care more about you, that I do about this book.”
Frankly I was more than a little surprised. I wanted to ask, “Who said that?” I knew that literally it was me who had talked, but I didn’t usually go around saying touchy feely stuff like that.
The man appeared stunned too, “What did you say?” he asked.
I repeated what I had heard myself say, “I care more about you than I do about this book.”
It was true, I really did care more about this strange man than I did about my precious book. My chest was radiating warmth like when I had first laid eyes on my newborn children.
I was aware of what I can only call an... Energy. An Energy which caused my heart to swell and my... I don't know what to call it... I'll say "my ego self" to shrink. We just sat there starring at each other for a moment.
“You are a beautiful person,” the man said.
A shockwave surged through my body. I certainly had never thought of myself as a beautiful person. My father, a minister, had told me on a number of occasions how ugly... particularly certain of my behaviors were. I realize now that it was a misguided, embarrassed, frustrated young man's attempt to parent his own preacher kid. (In his early years, before he embraced the possibility that he, himself, was a beautiful person, he tried to preach his parishioners out of their ugliness as well). It was not an uncommon way to talk in the South. Nevertheless, I internalized a lot of that "ugly" identity from my young years.
We sat there, then, again, starring quietly at each. Both of us with tears streaming down our cheeks. In this...Energy.
After a few minutes, the jailor returned and opened the window from the office to the reception area. Through his tears, the man explained his situation - could it be that they are looking for him he wonders aloud.
The jailor looked through some records and confirms that the man is being sought by the police. He motions for the man to get ready to come inside the jail.
When the door is opened, several guards come to take him away. I’m up on my feet, at the door, sobbing.
The man and I are trying to touch each others’ fingers over the heads of the guards.
“What’s your name?” the man asks.
“June,” I reply. “What’s your name?”
“Chris” he says.
“You’re going to be all right, Chris.” I squeaked out in a choked voice. And then he was gone. Honestly, I had no idea how he would be. I was just sincerely hoping.
I share that personal encounter with...the Big Something with trepidation. It's different. Not what I usually talk about.
Odd that it's so hard to do. Like I'm talking about being abducted by aliens. But some of you have shared your moments of Sensing the Sacred with me. Thank you. I can't hear them without wanting to hug someone.
You've told me many stories...like the one about helping a mother of a different ethnicity carry her load. It included heaving a toddler onto your shoulders. You felt the warmth of his arms around your neck. It was a sacred moment that continues to warm your heart.
Several of us in our compassion circle shared these times which we rarely talk about, these times when we "sensed the sacred." The scene would have taken most people aback. We sat together in the Old Mill Tavern, in Peshastin. A "quaint" place situated toward the end of "town." Really it's a block and a half with a hairdresser, a laundromat, a mini-mart, and a post office. Some might describe the whole shebang as... dilapidated.
We might think not a lot would go on in there. But...maybe we're wrong. Maybe Something Big...mysterious IS [happening] everywhere. Not just in the woods, not only on a mountain top. Not only when we light a candle and listen to a hymn or sit in a quiet church.
Wild. Weird. Wonderful. Crazy? Strange.
I don't know enough about religion and theology - though I have a degree in religious studies. I certainly don't want to predict anything about religion in the future as Einstein did. I am aware of people like evolutionary scientist, Dr. David Sloan Wilson, who writes that spirituality and religion are vital for the survival of the species. He says that the whole language of spirituality and religion, which uses words like worship and sacred, is about becoming so other-oriented that we are in a state of being that seems larger than ourselves. Maybe.
One thing I am pretty sure about. Those really strange folks who founded most, if not all of our world religions throughout history, would nod their heads and smile while hearing these stories.
How might we journey together to the Good Life by sharing our stories of sensing the Sacred?
And this quote by Jesuit priest, paleontologist, theologian, scientist, and teacher Pierre Teilhard De Chardin has echoed through my head for the last few days:
“Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”
And, as a post script, maybe the word God and encounters with God fits perfectly for some. I am not really satisfied using words like "The Big Something" - maybe the Big No-Thing is closer OR the Big Silence behind the hum. Or Cosmic Pulse or the Big Mystery. Energy. Light. Love. All of these are linguistic stabs at capturing the Essence or the Potential of being caught up in a Different Reality - experiencing to some degree an altered state of oceanic consciousness; an Encounter, usually ineffable, uplifting, unifying, light-soaked, unforgettable, loving, and often transformational even if lasting for only a moment. Grasping for words to describe the indescribable, some say it feels like standing on holy ground. And despite appearances, all is well.