The two are not necessarily co-restrictive, but pretty fuckin’ close!
We (the artist’s husband and I) were drinking Scotch, expensive stuff —
And smoking cigars, also pricey — a bit of manly success and masculine, not bravado exactly, but call it the opposite of shyness — the antithesis of modesty. And to be honest, probably more than “a bit.”
We had a hint of appreciation/self-satisfaction, some sliver of humble pride (emphasis on sliver) at work in us, but well-disguised, especially from ourselves.
My friend was a doctor, myself, sometimes a poet — we were happy, laughing, visiting, as I barbequed the steaks —
And from somewhere . . . The scotch? The smoke? The coolness of the desert evening? I heard words come out of my mouth,
“Does yer wife believe in god?”
His wife, the artist, was sitting with mine inside our house; they were having their own conversation. Her paintings had grabbed me by my balls, heart and whatever minimal vapor of invisible/nothingness one might call a soul...
He said, “I envy people’s faith’. I wish I had it, but
He went on and his explanation made sense; experience and intelligence informed his views, modern, reasonable, and smart.
He asked, “Do you believe?”
I felt the scotch warming my brain and the cigar charging my confidence, so I launched into my standard hodge-podge that had always been, has always been, and still is, my view:
“I think the words we possess to try and consider the mysteries, fail us. ‘God’, ‘life’, ‘the soul’ what do all these things really mean? Operational definitions are impossible, therefore the parameters for understanding are bigger, broader than our words can accommodate...”
And right at this moment, this Nano-second, as I was preparing to launch into my Buddhist leanings, my deep attraction to its tenants and practices, as I minimally understood them —
Suddenly, the world blew up!!
It turned into an expanse of color and shapes, wildly out of control —
Nothing of the little patio where I’d been standing, next to my tiny barbeque, tongs for turning steaks in hand, not the cigar smoke, not the ice in my glass, nor the jo-jo-ba hedge against the stucco wall, none of it remained.
I was swept up, sucked into the sky, as if lifted by a huge hand — and the colors were amazing: reds so bright that the flames of a perfect sunset couldn’t match them —
Blues so deep that I wept in their grip —
Landscapes far beyond mere Earth, far beyond other planets —
And mountains, deserts, rivers of color, skies of light unlike any light ever seen before —
There was no sound,
Maybe a wind unheard, maybe the silent crawling of an unseen creature moving through this impossible . . .what? World? Planet? Heaven?
Hell? And I had no body, none that I could see, none I could feel —
I was simply consciousness without ego, without ‘self’ but still me, still perceiving, knowing, feeling all until...
My wife opened the screen door and asked, “Are the steaks almost ready?”
And I knew this was not god’s voice, nor an angel checking-in — and the cigar smoke was back, indeed, I puffed and the doctor asked,
“You need a light?”
But smoke ebbed out from the corners of my lips and he answered his own question, “No, you’re still good.”
And I said, “Yes, I’m fine.”
Then, I said to my wife, “The steaks look okay, Give us 3 or 4 more minutes.”
She smiled and stepped back into our warm house.
I watched her through the glass window in the door, sit back down with the doctor’s wife, the artist who’d painted the mystical Kingdom I’d just visited —
A place created not by god, but by a human being, with eye and ear and something beyond senses, something perhaps, beyond simplistic, childish beliefs in a big daddy who loves or hates. who rewards and punishes us —
Not god, not God, but a human spirit, a human talent, more miraculous, or at least more interesting than superstitious belief.
And with a talent beyond and outside words —
‘Do you believe in god?’ I thought again about this, silently this time — remembering that a wiser man than I once answered with only an expression “Who’s asking the question?”
Yes, God/Words — god/words
If any answer exists it’ll come from inside us: from feelings outside of words, from thoughts apart from language, it’ll come from someplace other than conversations or explanations.
Like a visit to great art, while stoned on acid.
Images used by permission of artist Dragana Skrepnik