I knew a sick little boy, who looked at people as strangers, only to be avoided. I knew a young man, who saw people as rivals, only to be vanquished. And finally I knew a man who couldn’t see at all. He had gone blind seeing that way.
Until one day death came along and said, my child: I am going to help you see again.
Now I know a person standing at the edge of love.
Every life, I think, goes through four stages. Becoming someone, becoming anyone, becoming everyone, and becoming one. I want to talk about just one of these stages now, becoming everyone. Maybe the light of my crooked journey and improbable journey will illuminate your way.
Love is an ocean. There, far away, is the other shore. And though the swim is impossible, it is the baptism in the waters of grace that frees us. Not just if, but especially when, we drown.
Love is a jungle in which we must stand naked. No matter how afraid we are of all the beasts and their teeth. Just stand tall and shout our names to the sky.
Love is midnight. When all shadows disappear.
You may think I mean them poetically, but I don’t. We are always standing there. Right there. At the edge of love. Different parts of us. One part of us stands at the ocean’s edge, seeing fruition at the other shore. One part stands in the jungle, imagining all the fearsome predators and monsters. And one part stands at the edge of midnight, wondering where the shadow that has chased and pursued us all our days long has gone.
We. Each of us. Any of us. All of us. I used to see strangers. I was a strange and broken little boy, born into a warrior tribe. What could be stranger than that? I became a young man of the arena. What else was there? But every triumph only made me sicker. And then, at last, staggering and blinded by victory, I saw nothing at all.
To see is to see life. When we say that we see, really see something, we mean: now the life in a thing is clear to us. That a thing somehow contained the truth of itself, which is always somehow in us, too. How else could we see it?Whether it is a mountain or a river. When we really see it, in that moment of truth, then we feel, suddenly, that everything we have been taught is wrong — that we were never alone, that there was never anything apart from seeing this way, that everything is whole, one, true, still, beautiful, waves in one ocean, and somehow, that very ocean’s tide roars through us. If only we let it.
Then the moment is gone, and we fall again. We go back to seeing only dead things. Objects and surfaces, ghosts and machines, hunters and prey. That was true for me. Maybe that is true for you. Maybe that is true for us. Maybe it’s always true. And yet. Even when the mind has gone blind, with fear, hurt, anger, suffering, when the heart learns that the soul always sees — that not for an instant does it ever stop witnessing — then there is a truer truth. Then there is something like awakening.
And so there I was.
Death took me by the hand and said, come, my child. I want to teach you how to see. The gift I give those who I have held too close too soon is awakening.
He pointed out a man, over there. The man was just standing in a shopping mall, a little child in his hand. And yet I saw him looking out over the edge of a great ocean on a perfect summer day, longing for the other shore, to be one with the waters of grace.
He pointed out a woman, sitting there. She was lost in a glum reverie, sipping tea. And yet I saw her standing in a jungle, covering herself up, afraid to be naked, shouting for help, predators laughing and circling.
He pointed at two little children, laughing in the sunlight. They were falling down playing a game. And yet I saw them at midnight, holding hands solemnly, learning the great and ultimate truth that nothing has a shadow at all.
Now I only see that. Everyone and anyone standing at the edge of love. Every moment, every instant. Poised. To leap into the ocean. To stand naked in the jungle. To look back at midnight, and see they are free of the shadow that has chased them all their lives long. Everyone. Just always standing right there, at the edge of love.
Sometimes, just sometimes, they act. They leap, fall, step, dare, revel, with courage, beauty, grace, truth, defiance. Then — just for an instant — there is love. Sometimes, they don’t. Life goes on. Life.
What is it, life? The more clarity with which I see, the less I can say that I see anything but that life is just, only, ever that very same single instant, repeated eternally, infinitely. Just you and I standing there at the edge of love. Always and forever.
And then death pointed at me. I looked down, and I saw myself. I wasn’t there at all. Seeing this way, I had freed myself. From all of it. The warriors, their wars, the opponents, the adversaries, the anger, the fear, the hurt, the blindness. He took a step, and embraced me like a brother.
I have nothing more thing to teach you, he said. You are free from me, too.