“To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to the violence of our times,” wrote the Trappist monk Thomas Merton.    For weeks now, I’ve been away from this blog and from my own writing, working on the upcoming issue and a couple of other projects–all of them ultimately aimed at helping people find the still place within– “where spiritual traditions meet.”   I was working on pulling together a collage of articles that will hopefully take people from the shallows of sound bites to the depths of the crucial topic of “Water.”    You might have any number of reactions to “Water” positive or negative but linking it to violence?  It’s not waterboarding.

But if I get so busy I lose contact with the sense of really being here, living my life, with the quality of inquiry that comes with it, well then I am taking part in a mechanical process that is ultimately destructive…if the passage of the days and years keep rolling along as they have been, it will certainly end in my death.   I don’t want to die haunted the way I often feel haunted at the end of a day where everything just happens and I am just more or less with it.   It’s almost a cliche these days, to talk of being mindful, of being present.  There’s a yearning in it like the yearning to be closer to nature, to come to our senses, to be still and know.   It’s hard to put into words, but it seems like something else is needed, at least in my case.  I need to shine the light of inquiry on the moment.  I need to ease into a sincere encounter with the big, echoing question “Who I am?” …or “What is this?” …or no matter what you’re involved with it can start to feel false and bad.

I’m really interested in those moments that bring a sense of scale and a sense of connection with everything else.

6 thoughts on “Back

  1. Dear Tracy,

    Forgive the anonymity of my “name” and email address. The address I check every few weeks, and have only established it in an attempt to say something to the world for which I wish no credit, no attention and no recognition.

    I believe I have seen god, or “the divine” in a very direct way. In a revelatory way, one might say. Yet the experiences, and there have been many, have not included the direction that others seem to have possessed from time to time. I wish to share what has happened, what I’ve learned from these touches of divinity. Yet to publish it in any traditional way myself does not seem appropriate. I will say that I’ve been a Parabola reader for many years. Because of this, I have some hope that you might have some advice or counsel.

    I thought of buying advertising space on your site or in the magazine. Yet to do so is to open the door for possible attention in my private life. I have a family. Loved ones. Children. A career. If truth, as Ted Koppel once wrote, is a “howling reproach.” Then I find myself reproached by what I have learned. I fear no controversy with the extremists who might be alarmed at anyone who might express a new (and old) view of God. I do worry about strain on my family if what I have to say offends anyone. As a student of the search for meaning, I’m certain you know there are too many lessons in violence as a response to religious experience to ignore.

    It has occurred to me that I might use technology to avoid the problem. I’ve recently registered a Twitter account for instance, under the name “godpal.”

    “godfriend” was taken and although “pal” seems light-minded it helps remind me that god encompasses lightheartedness as he does all things, with love.

    Have you any counsel? I’m posting this on your blog. Perhaps we can create a dialogue there where I can share what I believe I have learned with you and your readers.

    With warmth and love,


    PS – as a point of reference, I use “he” and “him” only not because I believe maleness is primary in God, but because of the limits of language. Also, if you or anyone who reads this is Christian, you might read John 15:15. It expresses well why I have chosen to speak as a friend of God and neither a prophet or saint.

  2. Thanks for your post. If there is an experience or experiences that you would like to share, please do. Tracy

  3. Language is the first limitation when attempting to communicate something transcendent. Words are currency for meaning that we exchange but have no intrinsic value. What I say to describe God, what anyone has said, is not what you will hear. You will hear the meaning in your own head and heart associated with those words. The sentences themselves seem not to make sense, regardless of my ability both personally and professionally to communicate clearly about any other subject. That in itself is a form of confirmation. As it has often been said, light shines in the darkness and is not comprehended, or worse, is misunderstood, that misunderstanding taken for truth and the messenger accused of teaching what he never intended to say.

    The first time that I was overwhelmed by the presence of God was not the first time I recognized what I was seeing. Like looking at those drawings which are easily perceived to be one thing or another, depending on how you look at them.

    The first time I saw God and knew that what I was experiencing was the very face of God, the essence of God, all my other experiences opened in my mind and heart like flowers I’d passed, but only remembered their beauty later.


    1. Thanks for your post, Godpal. What were you doing when you first became aware of this other form of seeing/experiencing? Were you outside in nature?

      1. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, Tracy, I was in the middle of a morning drive to the airport, thinking as I often do about God and wrestling in my mind with thoughts about his (I could as easily say “her”) characteristics. Part of what is so striking is that the first moment of awarness came suddenly and not while engaged in prayer or in the midst of nature or at some holy site. The first time felt like an entire world of understanding that at one moment was not in my mind and in the next it was. It was a clear morning and I was not prepared for the moment; I did not see it coming. It didn’t effect me physically, although I sat on the plane afterwards and wrote for four hours straight trying to capture what I thought that infinite moment meant. All subsequent times have ranged from dramatic, in moments of prayer or contemplation, to subtle. Like looking at a scene that would otherwise be unremarkable and suddenly seeing a color that no one else perceives.

        It is clear to me that if what I perceive is real (and I accept that it may only be real for me) then the answer to the mystery of seeing god is a matter understanding a critical fact. God, to use the language of mathamatics, is trans-dimentional. That’s easy to grasp intellectually. What is more difficult is recognizing that the manifestation of God is never a complete revelation of his scope and depth and attributes. We see for the most part only in the dimentions available to us through our senses and through how our hearts and minds interpret that input and translate it into coherent thought. This thought becomes our view of God, but is never the substance of God nor completely reveals his nature. The simplest thing to understand about God is the most important, yet it is also the aspect of God that the world most wants to ignore. Because knowing that God is a being whose only motive is unconditional love of his creation and that He seeks that we, His children, become like Him in this aspect, requires that we seek to change our hearts. To seek to want what God wants, the welfare of all His creations, and to replace our selfish hearts with hearts one with God’s. Love truly is the most vital message in the world . . . and in all of religion, it receives only a portion of man’s attention where, were it completely up to God, it would permeate every conversation and every moment of our lives.

        Thanks for responding, Tracy. I hope you continue to ask questions.

        Semper Caritas,


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