"The Big Picture'
It’s been so hot out here in the desert that, for the past few weeks, I have been “staying inside” most of the time. Daytime temperatures bordering around the 120 degree range have pretty much confined those of us who live out here to stay well within the confines of our air conditioned homes and offices with only an occasional trip to an air-conditioned market or climate-controlled restaurant.
Yesterday as the sun was setting, the Western skies were brilliant in an array of stunning gold and red, and I realized just how much I am missing by spending so much of my time inside.
As I observed last evening’s sunset, I suddenly realized that “staying inside” may well represent the very essence of the spiritual problem that inflicts so many of us in the culture today. We “stay inside” the neat little confines of our own private egos, we surround ourselves with like-minded others to whom we tell our own myopic stories about what is real and what is true, and in doing so we often miss the big picture.
Our myopia prevents us from being pulled into transcendence.
I just came across an article I read in the New York Times a few months ago - a story about “staying inside” the confines of our own myopia, a story about our failure to see the big picture of who we are as human beings:
We spend our lives confined to a tiny narrow strip on earth’s surface
and so we tend to think of the cosmos as a lofty inaccessible realm
far beyond reach and relevance.
We forget that only a thin layer of atmosphere
separates us from the entire universe.
We are cosmic beings.
We each may be but a tiny speck in the larger scope of things and yet we belong to the universe. We “are” a complex, massive web of dynamic interconnection, and only a thin veil separates us. A thin layer of skin separates us from one another and from the world of nature, “a thin layer of atmosphere separates us from the entire universe.”
Even though I spend a lot of time “staying inside” in these sizzling summer months, living in a desert has really helped me to understand something of the bigger picture outside these walls. Unlike almost any other place on earth, the desert environment is a very fragile dynamic ecosystem. In the desert everything totally depends on everything else or the entire system falls apart- trees, shrubs, cacti, plants, animals, insects, birds, snakes and creatures of all sorts, along with billons of invisible micro-organisms all live together in a fragile dynamic balance, each contributing to the life and existence of the other, no one more important, no one less important, all the many are the ONE.
The famed environmentalist, John Muir (who spent a great deal of time in this desert region where I currently live) once offered this powerful piece of wisdom:
When we try to pick out anything by itself we find
it is attached to a thousand invisible chords that cannot be broken,
attached to everything in the universe.
As I sit inside the four walls of my “climate controlled’ little house on a hot summer day, I hear the truck outside stopping to pick up the trash and this is followed by the sound of our mail being delivered, and it strikes me that I depend on all those people. In fact we all depend on one another for our very survival. We depend on the farmers who grow our food, the truckers who bring it to the market and the vendors who sell it to us. In fact there is no aspect of any single thing any one of us does that doesn’t somehow depend upon others.
As I sit inside my “climate controlled” house, I think about that far bigger picture outside these walls- that vast, fragile, dynamically interdependent desert ecosystem and I realize that I am part of it all. In fact, I am but a speck on a narrow strip of earth’s surface but only a thin layer of atmosphere separates me from everything in the universe. I am a cosmic being.
The Sufi poet Rumi said;
The whole universe exists inside you.
God writes spiritual mysteries on our heart where they wait silently for discovery.
No matter how hot it gets, I have to be sure to spend some time outdoors today.