Inspiration, March/April 2000. pp. 48-49.
"There Is That Within Us That Can Call A Stone Young"
"...is like stone in that it is still young."
I wake up in the night with these words in my mind. Nothing more. A fragment. A piece of a different way of seeing things.
Not a dream. Something different.
What does it mean?
From the other side, things are seen in a different way.
Some timeless chunk of rock drifting through space, on a collision course with eternity. "... still young "?
Yes. This is the amazing thing. That there is that within us which can call a stone young.
There is another way of seeing things. There is another side.
We get glimpses of it. That is all.
When we are awake, when we are asleep, it comes to us. When we are dreaming, when we are not, it is there. We are informed by another source. Only that we seem so poor in understanding that we can't make very much of what it is that other source is informing us about. We have no inkling of what that other source is. In the truest sense of the word, then, we don't know what it is we are or are about. Our education has not been in this direction.
If we see ourselves as mammals -- primates -- that's maybe like looking at a bowl of tea without taking into consideration the tea. The bowl holds the tea. The bowl is not the tea. We drink the tea. We set the bowl down.
We have ways of considering ourself -- what we are as a species -- Homo sapiens -- that don't take into account the beginnings of our real biology. What was that voice Abraham heard in the desert? -- the voice that brought the Jews into being as a people. "In the beginning was the word..." Last night in my sleep, I heard a little snippet of that "Word".
"...is like stone in that it is still young."
What does this mean?
In the movie "Abraham", which I had watched before going to sleep, at one point the patriarch is out in the desert, addressing this voice that comes to him, that he calls his God. For a long time the voice had been silent and he'd felt alone. Now here he is in the desert again. He calls out. It answers. The look on his face, to be back into connection with what means everything to him, what he had come to look to for guidance, for the deepest companionship -- that look made my heart melt. For the first time I understood what prayer was. "Who is there to pray to," I had always thought, "when there is nobody there?"
Now I understood.
It's like in gestalt work with a dream you can become the voice of a chair that appeared in your dream and learn the meaning of things you could not know of otherwise. This man -- I saw this in the film -- was gestalting with something that was really there. Gestalting with something within himself and beyond himself that the others around him had no way of connecting with, although it was also in them and beyond them. He was evoking it. This was the genius of his undertaking off alone in the barren desert. He called upon something beyond himself and he waited and he waited. He waited for his ability to hear it again to come to him.
Wrongly understood, misconstrued, the thing goes away. Like mist, it vanishes, it eludes us. There is a part of us that is not to be attained in the ways we can know from this side. It is incumbent upon us to undergo the task of educating ourselves as to how things proceed from the other side, so that we might make ourselves susceptible to its influx. We are the empty bowl, Homo sapiens . The tea pours into us from the pot. We are full to the brim with the hot luscious beverage. We can drink of ourselves, as can others. And yet this that we drink is not exactly ourselves. It is the essence of what we are. But it seems to come from elsewhere. With it we are ourselves. Without it, especially after we have tasted it even once, we feel we are nothing. We are empty.
This to me is the essence of the intelligence of Judaism, and of the Jewish people -- the tribe -- that they sprang from a big enough piece of what a human is in his fullness. This includes, necessarily, not just this side, but the other one too. The branches we see today may have gone overboard or astray in one way or another. But the root -- I don't think this can be denied -- comes from the right place. Abraham is there in the desert. He hears a voice. He knows to recognize. He somehow knows what it is he has heard. He knows to follow. He has the genius to attempt to set up a dialog. Thousands and thousands of years before Fritz Perls, this man discovers gestalt. He gestalts with God.
This is an incredible development -- that a people should set up a relationship with the whole of themselves -- in a way that works, in a way that is functionally efficacious. A straggling band, this little tribe, with their goats -- and with their God: what a sight! How it captures our heart.
In a disproportionate sense these people gave rise to our world, to our way. It's a different world than theirs, a different way, and we are different people with different kinds of minds and probably different kinds of hearts. We have different kinds of ways of needing to understand things because we know different kinds of things. To look upon their experience, though, especially the experience of this man Abraham -- whether he existed or not or represents the amalgam of various men or not -- doesn't matter. For the story certainly is true to the experience of something that is real and that we ourselves can verify. It happened to some man in some desert somewhere. And the civilization we now know issued forth from this happening and the continued unfolding of this happening. The contact of a people, a simple people, an intelligent people, with a deeper source: this was the magic.
To look upon this experience as mere superstition -- even though there was ample superstition mixed in to the way these people related to the experience -- is tantamount to being blind to the difference between an empty bowl and one full to the brim with freshly-poured steaming hot tea. The one thing differs from the other in its essential ingredient.
Last night when I went to sleep, some equivalent of an antenna or lightening rod in my mind threw itself open to that which was beyond it -- a personalized version, say, of one of those huge satellite dishes we have scanning the galaxy night and day for radio waves. The scenes of Abraham in the desert left me with a desire, an intention, to hear what was beyond me, to open myself out to it. And indeed, looking, I found. In the night there was the Word. It came while I was sleeping. I only caught the tail end of what it said. I don't have a lot to work with. But I can ask myself: "What is like a stone in that it is still young?"
Having nothing to go on, I can only assume the obvious. What is like a stone in that it is still young has to be eternity itself. A part of me, as I was asleep, chanced to open out into timelessness. This experience of the eternal, which must always engage some aspect of me, so much so that I take it for granted and don't notice it, impacted this additional component turned out towards it as a result of seeing the movie. This component. not normally privy to such experiences, was befuddled to recognize itself thus melded with that which was beyond it and yet paradoxically at the same time an integral part of it. The words, then, came from it but also from beyond it. Hence their authority, their numinous aspect. The discovery of truth is an authority that cannot be denied. It comes with a voice that convinces, or at least that startles. We are startled to know the truth so nakedly and without apparent reason. Even a piece of something that is true can be recognized as true, much in the way that a small chunk of a feldspar rock can be seen to be feldspar and not limestone.
To be sure, I am no Abraham. But in a certain cultural sense, I'm a derivative of that man and his experience. In the same sense that holds for all of us, Jewish or gentile, I am one of his sons. To the extent of my limited ability, while I was asleep last night, I reached out and was touched by something from the other side, just as he was. It's there. It's still there what was there thousands of years ago. Just as the stones in the desert Abraham walked over are still there. The same stones! The same mountains he climbed! The same stones! This something is there too, unchanged just like those stones. It's always talking to us, if only we find a way to listen. This is what prayer is. It's not about asking. It's about listening, receiving the gift.