Over the years, I have learned to allow time, often a considerable amount of time, for the opening up of new ideas. The tendency is to pry open as much meaning as is possible as quickly as possible, as if one would greedily pry open a rosebud in order to hasten its revealed wonder. And just as rosebuds require sun and moisture, new ideas require thought, pondering and wild imagination.
These new ideas are the energy that brings the dawning of a new truth. We long for this light, as there is always more we do not know than we do know. And that’s not a bad situation.
I just now glanced up to look out the window into my backyard. The sun is coming up, and as it does, its light is beautifully sporadic — a patch here, a streak there. The light comes gradually, but for now, there is more shade than light. The dawning of truth takes a similar trek: a patch of insight here, a flash there and, early on, more mystery than knowledge. But the movement is an exhilarating process, pouring wonder into being.
Every once in a while, you hear a line that feels so truthful and so clarifying that it takes hold of you and won’t let go; neither do you wish to let go. At its dawning, there is less light and more shade. This happened to me a few weeks ago.
We were reading when my wife interrupted, “Listen to this: ‘We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.’” Captivated, I said, “Read that again, please.” And so she did. “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” (Teilhard de Chardin, Jesuit priest)
The idea intrigued me, taking up residency in my mind. I could not evict it even if I so desired. Since hearing it, I have enjoyed its company. I have given thought. I’ve pondered over it. I have applied imagination, knowing that I will agree either with all or only a part of it. Either way, it will have accomplished its purpose.
It’s not that I am unaware of the dichotomy between body and soul but that I had never put it together in this particular sequence: spiritual beings having a human experience.
But still, this angle, this twist, is new to me. It challenges my understanding of what it means to be human. Is being human only a physical experience? After all, with my human eyes, I see and observe only that which belongs to the physical realm. And what I see is temporal: birth, growth, aging and dying; spring, summer, fall and winter. Even our solar system will “die.” I wonder why you and I are so compelled to live as if this human experience is the all in all?
Immediately I am drawn to Jesus’ teachings. They seem to speak the idea of spiritual beings having a human experience. First is the admonition to invest more heavily in spiritual treasure than in earthly treasure, which decays with time. Elsewhere, Jesus says “I am come that you might have life,” speaking to human life, which is having this physical experience. Even the old saying “This world is not my home” receives added nuance.
And then the imagination of Jesus bursts into full bloom as he challenges us to use spiritual ears and eyes: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” and “He who has eyes to see, let him see.” What an imagination Jesus enjoyed.
Craig Tally is a minister in Joplin. His column appears bi-weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com.