a moment of clarity

Posted: January 11, 2011 in clarity
Tags: , , ,

“Aha!”

“What?”

“I get it.”

It’s a moment of clarity. I was boxed in, two SUV’s in front of me on the two lane road, side-by-side and going slow, oblivious or perhaps intentionally blocking me.

I knew what was  up. Sometime when I leave my office in the evening, they make the call, “He’s on the road, headed east on E Street; Get him!” Then out of their homes they stroll, and into their cars they ooze,  the slow people, the hired-guns who won’t gun it, the  decelerated personalities, their brains adagio, men moderato, ladies lento, sent out on the mission, to drive  in front of me and impeded my progress toward home.

It doesn’t work. There is something about slow that speeds me up inside, like the slow line to get my blood tested at the medical clinic the day before the SUV’s blocked me on the highway. Twenty-five minutes in line, just to check in, and then the question, “Did you fast?” from the nice lady behind the counter. “Yes,”  I wanted to say, “I fasted, and I wait-ed!” But I didn’t because I thought that if I got smart with her, she would give me a high number, punishing my insolence, making me wait even longer.  Slow and no go, and it adds up to cummulative-slow. Life piles on slow, the mounting slow of  medical lines, grocery store lines, rush-hour traffic, the agonizingly slow drip of the coffee pot in the morning, dripping at the pace of an IV, as I wait to pour the liquid life into my cup  — pure torture!

Finally, on the commute home from work the other night, one of the SUV’s pulled ahead of the other and I was on his tail until I saw it gap open, the space between the cars, and I made the cut from behind one to in front of the other and there, finally, ahead of me, “finally!” — daylight and the open road. My foot pushed ahead, the car surged and my blood pressure dropped, “I think that now I am going to get home.” And then it came on me, the twinge of guilt and the shame. To think that I thought, “They intend to hold me up,” to be so risky-impatient, to upset myself, by my own skewed interpretation of such neutral, everyday events —  and for a brief humiliated moment, I wished I wasn’t so fast with slow. But I was and I am.

It has occurred to me, in moments of recent clarity, on the road, that the universe is slow, think evolution or human maturity or the coming of dawn when we can’t sleep — slow, slow, slow. I think of the speed of light, fast, but then again slow, so terribly slowed by the vast distances of space, so that light takes years, light-years to get places. Last year, when I drove out to see the Perseids, I binoculared NGC 224 — beautiful, at 2.5 million light years away, our companion, the galaxy nearest to earth. Let’s be clear on this. If I was to head out today toward the Andromeda Galaxy at the speed of light, fast, and travel toward the great star spiral at 286,000 miles per second, I would arrive in 2.5 million years. Far has made the great star house we live in slow.

And so, it is not paranoid of me after all, to think that life is a plot, a slow-moving plot, and that I would perhaps do better to slow with it, to pause over the coffee pot, to luxuriate on the road, to dawdle with the gas pedal, to loiter in space, to ride the languid current of time at its own pace — laggardly. God is slow and has created slow. Who am I attempt fast?

And so this is what it means to live, to be the scientist, the teacher, the discoverer, the rhetor. It is to have moments of clarity — the major premise, the minor premise, the conclusion; the conjecture, the train of events, the conclusion.  “People are slow. I am a person. Thus, I am slow.” And also, “Yesterday was slow. Today is slow. Tomorrow will also be — slooooow.”

I want these deliciously hot and spicy, chai-tea-latte moments of insight, these psychosocial, deductive-inductive epiphanies. I think of Einstein, how he labored to discover  a “Unified Field Theory.”  He was interested in the four major forces: strong interaction, electromagnetic interaction, weak interaction and gravitational interaction and the fields that mediate them.  His unified theory, if discovered, would  bring  the force-mediating fields together into a single framework. He failed.  So have others since then in making this same attempt.  

In physics, there has also been a related  pursuit for what has been dubbed, “The Theory of Everything,” a supposed theory that  explains and links together all known physical phenomena, predicting the outcome of any experiment that could be carried out in principle. Not found.

It is frustrating; we want to know, the spring, the mechanism, the cog, the wheel, the everything; we spend a life on elusive epiphanies and exit in darkness. I salute! The attempt! I love the quest. “Einstein, you are not alone!” in the work, in the failure. Many of us long to know, with you, but we don’t, get there. We can’t — blocked by big, slow SUV’s along the way. We want to measure life, seize on its explanation, the famous answer, the essential theory in our discipline, the next generation’s popular paradigm, the eloquent model that becomes the standard, perhaps not everything, but at least something.

And we do, somewhat, have moments of clarity. The other day, I realized that when I was young I learned to speak up; now that I’m old, I’m learning to shut up. Slow — talk — works — best — sometimes. Last week, someone failed to do what I had asked of them, and I didn’t say anything, yet. There was a time when I couldn’t let such things pass, without a critical remark, stupidly right in the moment. Now I pick my remarks carefully, mostly, and I pick the times when I say things, mostly.

Such restraint is the wisdom of experience. But other insights have come to me uninvited, unannounced, a surprise. They are my unearned wisdoms, my unstudied knowings, my uninvited and subconscious awarenesses.

Unpaid insight? Amazing. There was cell division, so thrilling, “I can increase!” There was cell differentiation, “I’m powerful! What a hoot! My DNA knows.”  And there was birth, that amazing new awareness that there could be an unhooking, a detrailering of my body, a personal voyage into separateness. When I broke out of my mother, my soul  must have shouted,  “I’m free!” What a rush, to escape mother; I think that it can only be matched by death. Coming into the world, breathing, lying alone. The end will be the same, my last-minute, listening to the sound of my own labored breath, lying alone, detaching from family, flying out of my body, alone; I can hardly wait for this to-be-experienced epiphany!

There have been others, major, unsought — decentering, individuating, reattachement, each a new experience an insight.  Sexuality, “What at kick!”My body can feel, pleasure with another body, close, loved, accepted, received. “Who would have thought it?” and then at one stage, I thought it.

I want this too, socially, spiritually, psychologically, philosphically a unifying theory, and a theory of everything, and I now, finally, at this distant point of life, I have it.  I’ve discovered it. I know it, deductively, inductively, revelationally and in every other possible way of knowing.  “Aha!” I have come to a true moment of clarity.

“It is love.”My ultimate moment of clarity is that love glues the  force mediating fields together. Love is the unifying field, everytime it happens. Among the forces physics and of mind and body and spirit soul and object and idea, love mediates. Love links! Love hooks up the other with me. Love creates the time and space continum in which we meet, where spirit and soul connect, where idea and emotion merge. And when I do depart, love will bring me back again. I’ve reasoned this out; I know.

My wife and I sat on the couch last week and talked, about the girls, about her job, about this week’s calendar, chit-chat, small stuff, shared, between us two. It was easy talk, comfortable talk, much-assumed talk among two people who love each other. There are few greater small pleasures, than to talk, with someone you love, slowly. I love this slow.

My mom called me today because it’s my birthday. She reminded that she and my dad have been married 63  years and that my grandma and grandpa, on my dad’s side, were married for  71 years. It’s good martial DNA. She said, “We’ve been blessed.” Nice.  I’ve also been married a bit, trying to catch up, 31 years, to the same woman, who loves me, still and through it all. It’s slow, and long, and good.

I asked my wife recently when she thought that we had most experienced our love, some moment together, when we knew, the romantic now, the turn, the  click, the lock. I said to her, “Was it in Italy?” I was thinking that Italy must have been romantic for us, standing on the arching bridge over the canal in Venice, riding through Tuscany on the bus, the grape vines and castles along the winding road, among the hills. Surely this was the moment of clarity in our love.

She laughed and said, “No.”

I said, “Surely it was in Tuscany, in the back of the bus, remember that moment, when Céline Dion and Andrea Bocelli were singing “The Prayer,” and we were just there.”

She laughed again and said, “That was when you were in love with Italy, not me!” We both laughed. She had it right. She was seated forward; I was in the back with Celine, my beloved journal and the gorgeous Italian landscape.

“It was duing the whole church devastation thing,” she said. “We went through it together. That’s when I really loved you.”

I agree. “Your gentleness with me,” I said, “that’s the thing that made me know you loved me I was so crazy, and you were so gentle, so gentle.” I love gentle. It’s a kind of good slow. 

I remember the day we went to La Jolla Shore for surf day with our daughter Rosalind. The La Jolla Surf club was there, helping people with disabilities surf. Roz surfed. The sun shone. The waves danced, and  I sat disabled on the beach. I was the most disabled person there. I have never felt so crazy, so whacked, so alone in my life. I twitched.

“I’m not sure why I was so crazy,” I told Linda the other day.

“It was because they beat the crap out of you in meetings,” she said. Right. They did, but she didn’t. She was there for me, she believed in me, in my dream, in my future, to be the thinker, the speaker, the writer, the pastor, the lover — of people.

Life can turn out so hard. Stuff happens, and when it does, and people don’t love you, it is just so crazy hard, being alone, having no support.  

A friend of mine told me today that she has a friend who has a friend who died of cancer a few years ago,  alone. “Wow, so sad,” I said. “What happened?”

“Well,” my friend said, “she got cancer, but she was pregnant and so she didn’t have full treatment so that she could protect her baby, and she died just a few days after the baby was born by C-section,  but I was told that some members of her family weren’t there for her at the end, and so I think that she knew in the end that she wasn’t really loved by them as she needed to be, and she knew that she wouldn’t be able to love her baby either, and so at the end she must have been just so alone. ”

Wow and wow! Too sad. What would it be like to die like that? 

It is interesting to me, a real moment of clarity, how love is most needed in pain and loss, and how it shows itself most clearly in the devastation, when in the, “I’ve got nothing left,” the broken on the floor, done in the sand, love rushes into the dark cracks and say, “Not! You’re not alone, and your’re not done. You’ve yet to live, and love and be loved by me.”

When I tell my wife Linda, “I love you,” I know now that the “I love you,”  is weighted, historical, slow. It is full of appreciation for her being there for me. It is full of knowing, who she is, what she wants, how she feels, what she needs; who I am, what I want, how I feel, what I need; who we are, what we want, how we feel and what we need — together. Our love is inductive, packed with patterned experience, logical in the conjecture, the evidence, the conclusion. It has come through the night, the coldest, darkest point when we huddled together against the world, and there it deepened.

I love my wife Linda in a way that I will never love anyone else, not even my two daughters. She was there before them; she gave us them; she was there in the broken hour, and she is here with me now when we are in the process of moving on. It’s all this, and I want her with me at the end, except I want her to move on before me, so she won’t be left alone inside, if I go before her. She is me, and I am her, but not completely, but the most anyone can ever be.

“Aha.”

“What?”

“I get it.”

The unified field theory, the theory of everything, comes clear to me now. It is love that heals, mends, lives on, deepens slowly — over 71 years or 31 or 2 — and lasts. “Love is the essence of the essence, the core of the core, the field within the field, the everything of the everything.

Love is what remains when everthing else is busted flat and gone, inside and out, and then love rushes slow and fast to our sides and says, “It’s going to be okay, because, I love you.”

Clarity.

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