I have a recurring dream in which I discover another room in my house. The new room is either off the kitchen or behind a back bedroom, and I’m always surprised I’d never noticed it before. These dreams often feel like wake-up calls – what have I been missing that’s been there all along?
Last night’s dream was this:
I live in a penthouse apartment in a great metropolis and discover that one of the large windows in the big room is actually a door and it leads onto a spacious balcony overlooking the city! I’ve never noticed it before! I open the door in amazement and step out onto the balcony, high above the city where the air is clear.
From here I can see for miles in every direction, beyond the busy city streets and way out into countryside. From this new perspective I see how complex the interlocking pieces of the living world are, and the miracle of its wholeness. I can feel mingled chains of being, everything in motion and mutually interdependent on every level at every moment! It takes my breath away!
And I had no idea it was there.
I remember having a similar daytime experience in Paris on the Eiffel Tower when I was a student, climbing the iron staircase to the very top. The city spread out more and more the higher I climbed and the busy lives of the people and traffic below became a blurry toytown with scurrying dots. I could barely hear its sounds. A very different Paris from the one I thought I knew!
I keep discovering that it doesn’t take all that much to change my perspective of things, opening me up to a whole variety of other possible ways of seeing the world. When it occurs, that’s when I’m most creative.
I was eleven when I first experienced a big shift of perception roller-skating with the kids on my block in Brooklyn. I took a fall and landed flat on my back and lay there for a moment with the breath knocked out of me. I had a flash of vision for about two seconds, but it was an instant of inspiration, of ‘initiation’ actually; I saw something that lit up my path for the rest of my life.
It was like looking through both ends of a telescope simultaneously, and I saw that I was in the middle of the whole Universe and so was everybody and everything else. I saw everything that had come before me, all the way down to the atoms that first created life itself – my ‘ancestors’ as it were. And I saw out beyond the planet we lived on, all the way to the infinities of space.
I saw all the children who would follow me, and their children through all Time and Space. I saw that Time itself was forever, that backwards and forwards were the same, and that I belonged to every tick of Time and every dimension of Space, no matter what.
I saw that the Whole was perfect just as it was and that everything belonged – the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly all part of One Whole Thing. I could feel the breathing miracle we lived in with all its hardship and storm, its beauty and its grace. I understood that everything had a purpose, and that the world was our Teacher and we were Her students.
And that we always have been and always would be held by Love, no matter what.
That’s what gives me hope and strength now as we go through the eye of the needle of this time in our world. Nobody ever said it would be easy, but from a broader perspective I believe these hard times may have the purpose of waking us up to inevitable change, teaching us it’s all bigger than we think. My dream showed me that.
I’m remembering a day in Oxford during Herb’s post-doc year, where we spent a kind of honeymoon-year after we married, living in a flat above an Irish couple who sang in the bathroom and had fights in the kitchen. We became great friends. Peggy was pregnant, and one day she went into early labor while Eoghan and Herb were both at work, which meant it was up to me to get her to the Radcliffe Infirmary, and quick! I all but carried her to the bus stop, hauled her up the steps and held on tight while the bus driver sped to the Radcliffe without stopping. Peg was ready to burst.
We got there not a moment too soon, and from the hallway where I paced I heard the first squeaky cries of baby Una as she arrived into the world. I was allowed in later to see mother and child tucked in and we both gazed at this baby, awestruck.
“Break it to Eoghan a bit slow, like,” she told me, “And tell him to get on down here and meet his little gal!”
It was dusk when I walked home from the Radcliffe in an altered state, the Woodstock Road bustling with scholars in their robes and shopkeepers on their bicycles all making their way home. By some trick of the light they all seemed to glow from within, from the housewife rushing home to cook supper to the Policeman directing traffic.
I suddenly realized that every single person on the street had once been born! We were all of us blimey miracles! I wanted to run out into the street and shout out,
“Listen to this! We Have All Been Born!!”
Because knowing that changed everything! Boring became magical; ordinary became precious. That’s what they should be teaching at the University, for goodness sake, the Great Mystery of Birth and Death – not Latin!
I was pretty intense in those days…
But that’s the right perspective, I think, even when times are hard; especially when times are hard. Which is right now, and we’re all dealing with a lot and witnessing others dealing with much more and none of it is easy, to say the least. But who has ever had it easy?
Not Eoghan and Peggy, for example. They’d fallen in love across the religious divide in Ulster during the Troubles and had to escape Ireland for their lives. England gave them refuge, but not home, except for an American couple upstairs who were refugees in their own right with stories to tell. And we made home together with baby Una.
We and they have brought new life into the world, continuing the miracle against odds, dreaming our wise dreams and providing beauty in whatever ways we can.
We’re all in the same boat with one another and perhaps always have been, and we have an immense, extraordinary power to do good right now.
That’s our assignment. We mustn’t mess it up.
Una in Irish means ‘the Lamb, the One Who Knows.’