“I don’t have to have faith, I have experience,” said Joseph Campbell, the brilliant mythologist and author of several books on the world’s great religions. It’s a sentence that rings in my head every time I am allowed the experience of mystery, when I am shown something that matches what I’ve been told. That’s when the message really takes purchase for me.
Back in creative writing classes, and in subsequent advice from good writers I’ve known or read, the rule, over and over and over again, is SHOW, DON’T TELL. Don’t just tell readers it’s cold outside, show them a breath fogging the air. Show them red cheeks and a jacket collar turned up against the cutting wind. Paint a winter scene with ice straining to break bare branches, and snow banked up along a fence row.
As another year piles on to the already big pile, I think about a line from a letter that Paul wrote to the Romans. “From the beginning till now the entire creation, as we know, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth…” And even though he mailed his letter a couple of thousand years ago, it’s still now. So, from the beginning to now includes this very present moment.
The groaning continues, the pangs of creation are still being felt, and the cosmos is being born in every instant. Franciscan priest Richard Rohr speaks of the “Divine Radiance at the Beginning Big Bang and the Divine Allure drawing us into a positive future.”
Then me and my little dog Bobby go out for a stroll down in the piney woods at Weeks Bay, and nature, that good teacher, shows me what the saints and mystics are wont to tell me. Up from the rotting pine stump of some once-upon-a-time tall pine tree, now fallen and disappearing into the sandy loam, a strong tree that swayed in Gulf breezes, and shivered jade needles, silvery in the sunshine—up from its decaying form sprouts three spry seedlings. And I can almost overhear them giggling and cutting up with each other.
Paul told it pretty, I must say, when he called this world and the heavens groaning in one great act of giving birth. But I gotta say the three little trees were a more powerful note to me than his eloquent letter. I snapped the picture, grateful for having been shown, right in front of my face, how what’s past is ever becoming the here-and-now, and leaning into the ever-shall-be.
May 2020, this another new year, be for you the best one yet!