Tuesday, March 01, 2005

A Blot Of Mustard

That the mustard plant is a member of the cruciferae family is almost ridiculously Christian. It's natural, then, that these beautiful, skeletal weeds with their uplifted, translucent, septated gray seedpods might remind me of people praying. Arms uplifted, faces turned toward heaven, with body language that says: I am open to you, Lord. I am willing, welcoming, calling you forth, calling you down. Possess me. Overtake me. The body language addresses an Other, an Outsider. Someone absent, but potentially present. Someone exalted. Someone hailed. The direction of the prayer is vertical, an ascent. The whole vector of it defies abjection, gravity, the thick, afflicted, hankering body. The prayer begs for excarnation. For a blissful unsouling.

But what is the soul apart from the flesh ? Even the milkweed seed's most slender and airy filaments are flesh -- cellulose, carbon, water -- and not simply light. Kensho, rapture, infused contemplation, insofar as these are experienced states are neurophysiologic, brain -- that is to say, body -- based. Profound, visceral insight, perhaps, into being-in-the-world (being-world ?) achievable only when the discriminating mind shuts up/shuts down, but something of the body/mind, nonetheless.

How does it further matters to call this participatory "being-world" God ? Or to designate the experience of it as something "mystical" -- kensho, nirvana, cessation, Buddha mind, Kingdom of Heaven ? The very act of speaking and naming sets up a duality. This, and not that. That thing. There. Your thing. My thing.

The thing, the special thing, for adepts and initiates. The thing in the zoo. The thing in the pyx. The thing in the lotus position. The transmitted thing. The priestly thing. The scriptural thing. The thing at the bake sale. The thing at the rally. The thing on the tablets

that commands thou shalt have no other Gods before me, and in whose name blood flows, fists are raised and humans are subjugated time and time again.

The other vector of prayer is down and in. Bowing, prostration, introversion, introspection. Involution. Dessication. Withering. Hearkening to the pull of the earth. Becoming a black hole, outside in.

This "path"of mine is strange. Overgrown to disappearance in spots, it winds through fields of weeds, winds past the back door of cathedrals and the side exit of zendos. Little draughts of heat, scanted with candlesmoke and incense, trickle out through their chinked windows with the sounds of off-key hymns, chants in a foreign tongue, and the smell of sweat, feet and cheap perfume. Out here the air is fresher. Snow, water, humus, a whiff of oil.

In this metaphoric homelessness, is everywhere home ?

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