It might have been caused by a change in air pressure or hormones, or a freakish rise in serotonin levels but
I felt suddenly at one with the universe. There was no separation between me and the rest of world.
It might have been caused by a change in air pressure or hormones, or a freakish rise in serotonin levels. Maybe the ineffable was able to reach my soul because I have, at last, shed my down-filled jacket on my morning walks.
Whatever the reason, I felt suddenly at one with the universe. There was no separation between me and the rest of world. I was no longer a distinct and separate creature buffeted by storms of feeling - transient but no less powerful for that - of loneliness, fear, sadness, fury, hurt.
On a different morning I might have seen nothing but the detritus of careless humans: fast food cartons, empty beer bottles and drink cans, burnt remnants of fireworks, a supermarket bag and pages from a porn mag fluttering in the wind.
But on this morning, everything, myself included, was miraculously imbued with this mysterious thing called “life”.
It was a feeling which I could summon as a child by lying flat on cool damp grass and closing my eyes. Then I could feel that it was only a tiny dab of the glue called gravity that anchored me to the curve of the earth and stopped me drifting upwards where I would whirl and spin with the invisible planets.
In Song of Myself, Walt Whitman comes at the feeling from a variety of directions: “Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical / I and this mystery here we stand”; “every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you”; “Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is / not my soul.”
Mark Strand imagining life after death in his poem After Our Planet says ”I would like to step out of my heart’s door and be / Under the great sky” ... “to be on the other side, and be part of all \ That surrounds me ... In that solitude of soundless things, in the random / Company of the wind, to be weightless, nameless.”
English playwright Dennis Potter, interviewed on TV only weeks before his death from cancer, talked of the plum tree in bloom outside his window. “it is the whitest, frothiest, blossomest blossom that there ever could be, and I can see it … the nowness of everything is absolutely wondrous . . . the glory of it . . . the comfort of it, the reassurance ...”
Robin Morgan, U.S. feminist, activist and poet, who now has Parkinson’s disease must sometimes sit still " in the doctor's waiting room watching the future shuffle in and out”. But she also reports, sitting in the late-night dark of her own garden, an “hour when nothing mattered, all was unbearably dear.”
It’s there even in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical The Sound of Music. Gambolling in an alpine meadow Maria Von Trapp sings “I pause, and I wait, and I listen / For one more sound \ For one more lovely thing \ That the hills might say.”
This lovely feeling of oneness brings with it tenderness, compassion and gratitude. Amanda Petrusich, writing in the New Yorker about New Orleans musician Allen Toussaint, describes the “uncomplicated sincerity” his music as an invitation to “reconsider every ungenerous assumption ever made about humanity”. Toussaint’s work she says tells us that “Joy can change us . . . There is so much gratitude in this music: a true gladness. What a thing to hold in mind. What a thing to let yourself follow ...”
But we are only human. Poet Mark Strand having imagined “being part of all things”, admits that “in no time / I would be back.” Back to “... the old heart ... in which / My grief is ponderous, in which the leaves are falling, / In which the streets are long, in which the night / Is dark, in which the sky is great, the old heart / That murmurs to me of what cannot go on, / Of the dancing, of the inmost dancing.”
That feeling I had on the walk last week has faded. I am just me again - back to my own “old heart”. But in an effort to keep the memory fresh I am going to practice some prayers recommended by Annie Lamott.
Lamott who writes wonderfully about writing and the writing life (most notably in her book “Bird by Bird”) suggests there are just three prayers we need for life. They are Help, Thanks and Wow!