The Intimate Ultimate: Self-discovery, Art and the Power of Conscious Awe
Births, graduations, falling in love, marriage, new jobs and promotions. These constitute a list of memorable occasions in the course of a life. They leave an impression on us; they are landmarks along our journey and climactic chapters in our story.
But there are other moments that tell our narrative — the engrossing tale of our spiritual awareness, inner life, and really, who we are and what matters to us. I am discovering that these small but profound moments, these luscious experiences, deserve more serious reflection. After defining and analyzing things according to the outer picture of human experience for a damn long time, I’m realizing that I’ve neglected to acknowledge, celebrate, and honor the dots that connect beneath the surface.
I’m talking about those times where the divine and the human met inside of me, and sometimes to my own surprise, moved me deeply and revealed something more profoundly me than what parades as a life in my daily walk.
Here are a couple of examples, dating back a number of years but still strong in memory:
- As a high school student, we took a field trip to the theater in Washington, DC, and saw Othello, with James Earl Jones as the Moor and Christopher Plummer as Iago. We sat in nosebleed seats. I could barely see the actors. And I left in a state of absolute awe. Shakespeare came alive to me — its brilliance almost dizzying me with poetic words (something I would come to realize is a weakness of mine) — and the sheer brilliance of the performances took my breath away. I blocked out most of my high school experiences, but that one still stands strong in memory and with gratitude.
- When I lived in a small town in Texas starting up my career fresh out of college as a radio news professional (they call it “paying your dues”), there was so little to do or see that I kept a pretty quiet life of pre-dawn rising to write copy and spar playfully with the DJ, going to deadly dull city council meetings to “get the scoop” and a soundbite, and going to bed early. The town was sweet, but not a hotbed of artistic activity. So, when I went to hear the local symphony to do a little arts review for the radio station, my expectations were, to be honest, tepid. Until I heard them play. I don’t know if it was the group itself — they were surprisingly tight and talented — or just the fact I hadn’t heard many classical concerts live at that point in my life, but I was moved to the core. Sitting by myself, in mediocre seats this time, I couldn’t stop tearing up. What was this? What was going on? These old classical pieces were just thrilling. I felt some strange sensation of being at one with something peaceful and yet stirring. I hated that it ended.
Many performances since then have awakened this spirit inside of me to feel somehow connected to the beyond, in fact, to everything, because the art made contact with my soul. Yes, the experiences were sensory. But, the impact was more than that. It was spiritual, something within me that felt universal as well. I call it the Intimate Ultimate — a feeling both of profound awe and an inner and personal recognition.
Visual arts have slayed my mortality and given me glimpses of the immortal as well. In fact, this blog got its legs because I had a reminder of this theme and its importance in my life as I stood in front of a Monet painting and wept big tears very recently. Monet’s manipulation of the paint to produce light was enough to melt me, but my personal connection to a place and time in my childhood through the images and colors, had me a puddle. I didn’t even know I was crying till I felt the tears. The passive peace was active upon me. There was some inner soul-response that was more than memory. It was an acquaintance with self — a light on the inner me and another link tying together the true experience of my life.
The poetry of Rilke; the artistry and depth of Alvin Ailey’s dance; Michelangelo’s Pieta seen in person (OMG!); these are the moments of my life that really matter to me and that should be allowed to matter. They are why I am a poet and a writer myself and why I sing. But, I think they are more than that. These are not fleeting times randomly scattered through a lifetime. They are glimpses into the beauty, as well as the pathos, that is our individual life. Without these things, and them pondered, I don’t think I would be nearly as aware of what and who I am, or of the many colors of Life and Love that don’t present themselves merely through personal achievements or even personal relationships. They are the unique union we all have to something tangible, yet intangible — seen and felt through the senses, but connected to a deep place within that is ours alone. This is where our most authentic selves reside — the true soul of us on a journey that transcends the physical and yet never takes us away from home.
I long for new precious moments such as these, and I love to remind myself of those that have gone by. They make me feel alive. They leave me in awe. They humble and empower me at the same time.
As D.H. Lawrence puts it:
“Oh, for the wonder that bubbles into my soul.”
Want to explore this topic more? Get in touch with me for awe and wonder workshops, talks, and one on one Life Purpose session. www.poeticandpowerfulliving.com.
Originally published at poeticandpowerfulliving.wordpress.com on January 13, 2017.