On Universal Oneness

Okay, so, as the title might suggest, this post might drift more into the mystical and the romantic than I usually do. I have reservations about this sort of experience, but then again, I can’t really ignore it either.

Here’s the thing – I can remember, twenty years later, vividly, far more vividly than many other supposedly more important things, the first time that I really felt what I can only call “universal oneness”, despite whatever baggage you might associate with that sort of language. I was on the bus, on the way home from the university library. It was a Saturday afternoon in the fall, early in the first year of my undergraduate degree in English literature. I was reading Gerard Manley Hopkins in a trashy paperback edition that I still own because I haven’t been able to throw it out. The sun came through the bus window, just as I looked up, and it caught the hair of the girl sitting in front of me, became a halo. The moment was transfigured. The universe was impossibly, I don’t know – impossibly what it is. Even two decades later, the memory of it moves me.

I’ve had this experience, to various degrees of intensity, more than a few times since (if you’re ever over for coffee, ask me about the time I had a vision in a coffee shop). The circumstances around these moments vary wildly. There seems to be very little rhyme or reason about them, and no predictability whatsoever. I have been surprised by the experience everywhere from bus rides to coffee shops to walks in the woods. Sometimes it occurs when one might expect (like when my child came home to me from his foster parents), sometimes at times that feel entirely incongruous (like at the bottom of a ruck in a rugby match).

Today I was sitting on my porch. The rest of my family was gone at the park. I had just finished a couple pints of Octopus Wants to Fight IPA and smoked my pipe as I read the ARC manuscript of a friend’s new novel. The bees were swirling around the flowers in my garden. The cicadas were buzzing. A breeze kept shuffling the shadow-leaves around where I was sitting. The sense of rightness and oneness laid me down on the badly painted wood of the porch like a child in a cradle.

I have no explanation for these things. I’m certain of nothing except that I don’t deserve them, and that I am granted them nevertheless.

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