A ferocious rain fell here in northern California yesterday, with high winds that pelted the house with water almost horizontally. It was over in 20 minutes however. Sitting on the patio afterward, the earth held that intense stillness that follows strong storms.
It began to rain again, this time gently, pregnant with immense beauty. It felt like a baptismal rain, and there was a reverence about it that came from immeasurably beyond one.
The hazy orb of the sun brightened through the bare trees on the western horizon. A hummingbird appeared at the feeder and hovered for 20 or 30 seconds at a time, drinking deeply of the sugar water.
While it was still raining, the sun broke through to the west and flooded the land with light. Suddenly a smudge of color appeared to the east. It grew in vividness and length until it was an intense spectrum of color extending a full 180 degrees from horizon to horizon.
A second rainbow developed, not as vivid but clearly visible, not as full but still extending 90 degrees into the sky. I was agape, not just at the beauty of the earth, but also at ongoing creation in the cosmos.
It was an event that had never occurred before and would never occur again. For a half hour everything stopped, especially the mind, the intellect, the known.
The palpable feeling of reverence grew within one. For those timeless minutes, the earth was permeated with beauty and wonder, and the human being was part of it.
Rainbows aren’t romantic displays of nature, but reminders of life’s ephemerality. “Color is God.” Standing in the gentle rain looking up at those arcs of color, I understood the meaning of that saying.
The double rainbow lasted a full 15 minutes. The main one was the longest and most intense rainbow I’ve ever seen. By the end of the meditation I felt that I had lived a lifetime in half an hour.
During those timeless minutes of beauty, one felt the ‘peace that passes all understanding.’ Though it isn’t based on the intellect and reason, such peace does pass the test of rational understanding however.
The basis of inward peace, which in turn is the basis of outward peace, is a heart and mind that is completely free, at least temporarily during the day, of the divisive, noisy mind.
The mind that automatically associates memories is the source of suffering and strife. When that mind, which is the movement of thought, is deeply still through passive awareness gathering undirected attention, ‘the peace that passes all understanding’ is.
One doesn’t have to feel the presence of immanent God to feel such peace, but one does have to end thought/time to feel the presence of the immanence called God.
The question to my mind is: Given the human brain has the capacity for perceiving the beauty of nature, and sharing in the Consciousness that imbues the cosmos, why is it so rare, even for those who are genuinely contemplatively inclined?
Is it because though the evolution of conscious symbolic thought gives us the capacity for cosmic consciousness, it tends so strongly and universally toward engendering self-centered activity?
Eugene Robinson is right when he says in his column today, “The chaos all around us is what happens when the nation elects an incompetent, narcissistic, impulsive and amoral man as president. This Christmas, heaven help us all.”
The crisis of consciousness goes far beyond one nation and the crisis of Western democracy however. It is the crisis of man, the creature that even as a Stone Age hunter drove megafauna such as mammoths, short-faced bears and ground sloths to extinction.
Thinking in terms of “summoning the faith that we will survive the trial of Trump” seems downright silly in this context. Besides, a nation that has no place for its best deserves its worst.
I have faith that human beings can and will not only survive, but make the transition to a species worthy of the name we have given ourselves, Homo sapiens (wise humans). I may not see it in my lifetime, but that is the breakthrough we are preparing for, whether we realize it or not these dark days.
Following the short storm and baptismal rain, the sun shines brightly in a cloudless sky today. Get out these Christmas days wherever you are, and see and feel the beauty of the earth. For without a relationship with nature, we cannot have relationship as human beings.