A recent trip to Israel generated the following account of a day in the Holy Land – not so unlike any other land. Not unlike most other days filled with random acts of chaos.
… Just reaching out from warm, sunny Israel with all its blooming flowers. I drove down to the Dead Sea yesterday afternoon. Down in that lowest spot on earth I thought to myself… “The Dead Sea might really be dead and you’d never know for sure because it’s preserved by all that salt. ” I never thought of it quite like that before!
After driving south a few more miles I took a right turn up over the mountains into the Negev Desert, following signs to Dimona. That’s the secret place where they do secret things like making and storing atom bombs. Guess it’s not a secret anymore. But the multiple, “DO NOT STOP,” signs suggest that they don’t want you to see anything. That would make something secret – right? As requested, I did not stop and as the signs also commanded, I did not take pictures – no camera with me anyway. But I think some lenses may have been focused in my direction. Keeping this in mind, I was careful not to touch my nose in a potentially embarrassing way.
Thankfully deserts are not what they once were – deserted – because I needed gas! At a convenience store, not unlike “C” stores anywhere, I found gas pumps and convenient things to buy while traveling – expensive water and canned drinks as well as a variety of edible but non nutritious items to distract me from all that there is to not see in the middle of a desert. I bought water and passed on the snacks.
It was the gas pumps that got me. They looked like gas pumps. Other drivers had nozzles poked into the side of their cars, indicating that gas really would flow – if – you could read and respond to the messages displayed in that little LCD screen. After the initial card swipe, (Swipe… what an odd word to attach to our daily, financial transactions), the screen came alive with the letters of an incomprehensible language. Normally so obvious, but now the instructions were obscured by the glare of a scorching, mid day sun and written in Hebrew. I cannot read one word of Hebrew. Were those squiggly lines asking for my pin number, my zip code or my weight?
Having no idea, I went inside and asked the clerk. Card in hand – prepared to mime my way through confusion – the young woman quickly reached for the card, swiped it again – really swiped it – and handed me a receipt for NS159.50 – while saying, “Thank you for stopping today!” I think that’s what she said but she was speaking Hebrew and I was still having the “not bi-lingual” problem.
“Hey wait a minute… I didn’t even lift the pump handle!”
“Don’t worry”, she said, “I already “swiped” your money”
This is sort of good because I’m learning a little Hebrew – I know this because I remember how what she said sounded – and that must have been what she said!
Fortunately, a woman standing behind me handed the clerk a pump receipt and some cash and explained that she had pumped NS159.50. Now, I’m still doing the imaginary translation thing, but I saw the receipt and the cash, and…
They kept looking at me and talking. I think the clerk tried to tell her that she didn’t have to pay because she had just ripped off the guy standing next to her. Luckily, woman with the full tank of gas was honest and practical too. After they had both looked at me long enough to unravel the secrets of my soul, she said to the clerk, “Naa – just give him my money. He looks like the type who will stand here and gripe. Besides, it’ll be easier than doing a credit refund.”
Now I also remembered how what she said sounded, so I’m feeling like I’m really making progress on the bi-lingual thing. And then it dawns on me…. I just got an advance on my credit card with no cash transaction fee – how cool is that!
I gave the clerk a hundred sheckle note – “Uh, uhh – not the credit card.”
Outside, the screen is not asking any more trick questions. I stick the nozzle in the side of the car and gas is flowing…. life is good!
But this is not what this week’s article is really about – this was just the set up – the details of life as we live it day after day, one place or another. These events and the stream of thought they generated – coming at us – actually from us, constantly. The equivalent of a fire hose drowning our awareness – dulling, rather than awakening us… to life. Life! Fierce. Unrelenting. And every moment Sacred.
The words, “Sacred Space” carry a calming vibration by themselves. They evoke hope for better things. Sacred Space is not a better place but all places and all persons. All that is living and all that seems lifeless are actually humming with the same energies. To be sacred is nothing special. To recognize sacredness… is quite special. To see the sacredness in the entire living and non living world is to see clearly. To see clearly is the unusual ability to recognize that nothing has ever been a-miss.
But I did miss it. And now I’ve come looking! “What about the poor, the homeless in this world?” No answer is sufficient to satisfy the question. If I am asking – as of yet – I do not have ears to hear. “I am rich, and have wealth stored up, and I stand in need of nothing!” And the Prophet responds, “You do not know that if there is a wretched creature it is you, as you are pitiable, poor, blind, and naked!” How can this be? If I am asking – as of yet – I do not have ears to hear.
“Son of man, you dwell in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see, and don’t see, who have ears to hear, and don’t hear…”
“The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.”
Do I think that, the LORD, refers to a Christian God – the one many are loath to believe in? “Yes!” I answer, and I am pleased. “No!” I answer indignantly… but pleased. Either way, can I – do I see the sacredness in all the living and non living world? Do I know, in a way that makes me smile from deep inside, that all is perfect – nothing has ever been a-miss? I don’t. I understand with my rational mind but am still torn – I chase after comforts that elude me and I run from discomfort, felt and imagined. Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Jew. Sensitive Secularist, Atheist too… Piss on what I think I know – I do not live in Sacred Space!
Having lost sight of Eros and Agape – the Life forces of nature… Feeling separated and projecting my dissatisfaction on what and who I see – the world looks ever more desert like. Already running low on gas, I cannot do this any longer. Wisdom teachers of today and antiquity laugh at me, knowing the problem is one of perspective rather than circumstance – knowing it is I that must change. Somehow – beyond my understanding, the world I thought I could save is just fine – just as it must be for nothing is or ever has been… a-miss.
“In case of emergency, oxygen masks will drop down in front of you. Please pull the mask down toward your face and place the mask securely over your mouth and nose. Attend to yourself first. Until then… you are a blind guide, well meaning, but ineffectual.” Holy Crap! Did the flight attendant really say that or am I hearing voices again? Doesn’t matter. Blind guide? Ya… a blind guide.
But then… all is as it should be. Nothing is a-miss. I am a growing thing – like other people, other things.
On the drive back to Jerusalem, the moon rose full over the mountains of Jordan, its aspect magnified by tremendous humidity. Such a big moon. But I couldn’t admire it properly. Other cars had begun to surge all around as we raced each other up the hills. Up from the desert, up from the depths of the Rift Valley, the Dead Sea and its briny ripples, each a scintillation of moon light.
But I was seeing none of this. Traffic consumed my attention. These people were bad drivers. No… actually they are very good drivers. They did the stupidest things and lived to cut sharply in front of me again and again.
While I competed with cars and drivers the moon shined reflectively on strange water. Night settled on deserts and valleys. The perfection of all was easier to see. Always there – though most often ignored, Sacred Space.
Near as I could tell, everyone made it back to town, as God blessed us, each and every one.