This post appeared on October 15, 2017 in the series, “Denim Spirit,” (Finger Lakes Times, NY): http://www.fltimes.com/opinion/cameron_miller/
The fiction and poetry I write, even the sermons I preach and publish, are an accumulated madness compelled by a need to point to the diaphanous veil between breaths. Yes, in that thin moment between the inhale you have not even noticed, and the exhale that will come but could just as easily be your last, is veiled the presence of something so much greater than ourselves.
In my tortured imagination, I stutter feverishly upon the notion that if we can just touch it – that thin translucent veil – then…well, I do not know what I imagine is next.
The ancient Celts coined the phrase, “thin places.” It describes those majestic or fearsome architectures of nature sandwiched by Heaven and Earth, a mere thin breath of air between them – a breath that can be inhaled by those with the presence of mind to apprehend it.
Surely you have visited them? At a beach somewhere, you were memorized by the voice of eternity whooshing onto the sand. With a sweaty face, air-cooled on the lip of an ancient Adirondack outcropping, you breathed deeply to inhale the panoramic view of valleys below. In any such place, we awaken to the inhale and exhale of life, and stammer on the presence of something beyond us.
The veil thins in other moments too. In the touchless margin between the warm palm of a Reiki master and the skin that encases aching sinew, or the healing touch of massage in a random moment that healer and healed become one. At the Eucharist, when the homely unadorned manila Host wafer is raised, and someone in the pew with nothing in particular on his or her mind suddenly is captured by a strand of mystery and awe. When the cantor sings with ancient language, its obtuse words meaningless to the modern mind, but still, the fingers of some Mesopotamian narrative climbs into the imagination and ignites a new thought. Even on the street, in front of your house, the autumn leaves littering concrete and lawns alike, along comes the wind of a different nature infusing you with a sense that something is about to happen.
In the Hebrew Scripture that Christians have also incorporated, the chiffon veil brushing our cheek in such moments, is named Wisdom. It is not the wisdom learned or accumulated by knowledge gathered in school or by practice or in the work of our daily lives. This Wisdom is a raw knowing, a slow burning ember that appears as if from nowhere and ignited by no one, to open our eyes or heart or mind or imagination – or whichever of our myriad eyes we are perceiving through in the moment.
She appears, and we see. We see what we didn’t see before. We need such assistance because sometimes we do not even see the very thing that has been staring us in the face, or walking just behind us, or appearing at our feet. Then, suddenly, we can see it, because Wisdom has opened our eyes.
This is of course ridiculous to write about, perhaps especially in a secular community newspaper, because Wisdom lives on the other side of rationality. Like a poem or a joke is diminished when explicated, as soon as Wisdom is explained, it no longer seems real. Still, at the turning of seasons, the barometric pressure of autumn squeezing toward winter, the thinness is palpable.