Chances are that we try to collect our scattered outposts of being—all those interests, panicked alarms, shifting allegiances—within some kind of overall image of ourselves and our world. Friends, families, communities of worship, places of work, neighborhoods, a spiritual practice perhaps, may help us gather around ourselves a sense of a place and time we share with something larger than our own individual being.
But the frameworks of society are not holding up very well. Anger, desperation and inequality of opportunity wash through our communities like rising floodwaters. Signs of disintegration are everywhere.
The supports that scientific inquiry and spiritual truths have provided in the past—and which for some, like Einstein, were two compatible ways of understanding the Creation—have become like oil and water, repelling one another and thereby robbing us of a balanced view of our humanity.
We may be devoted to our family, yet remain suspicious of others in the wider human family with whom we share our planet. Perhaps we are estranged from our own roots and feel that we have been flung off to the side of an accelerating carousel.
We may be trying to live in a way that is true to an omnipresent Greater Being and believe that–just as the ocean is equally wet in every drop–we also are, in our very essence, one with this centerless whole.
Perhaps we aspire to develop our capacities for love and compassion, and to learn to be open, tolerant, and to feel joy for the gift of life. But somehow that isn’t so easy. When we feel depressed, under attack, misunderstood, or simply lost—as if our individual being has been carelessly flung into the lost-and-found–how can we generate feelings of love and compassion? As social structures crumble and beacons of moral integrity disintegrate around us, sometimes it’s all we can do to make it to the next rest stop. How can compassion towards fellow beings take root in our consciousness when the messages buzzing around us, like plagues of locusts, warn of enemies at the gate and aliens in our communities, while the rich and powerful move us around like pawns on a chess board?
When panicked solutions–themselves a major source of the problems they claim they will now solve–are automatically deployed, who has time to plot a change of course?
Where can we find a steady fulcrum on which to anchor our lives? Family, friends, helping someone else, a few hours playing a video game, faith in a higher power to whom we devote our gratitude and our hope for a better tomorrow: by such means we seek to provide a path of sanity for ourselves and to repair the fabric of our communities.
But it can feel as if such gestures of integration are being invested in a disintegrating landscape—like a tree spreading its roots on a hillside that is itself sliding into the sea.
What are we to do? Is there a path of hope that can also offer hope for our world—and for this grand experiment of Nature called the human race? It seems an important question to ask. Perhaps by daring to ask how we can reinvigorate the love that each of us has probably at one time felt for our world, we can rekindle the caring that a Greater Being has seeded in our individual being.
Among the many metaphors for the nature of such a Greater Being (sometimes called God, sometimes Original Nature, sometimes held up as an ineffable presence that permeates everything) is “primal light”—a luminosity that is present alike in darkness and in sunlight, in matter and in consciousness. Mirroring this ancient spiritual vision of light–enlightenment, luminosity, illumination– modern physics has begun to fathom a level of reality at which there is nothing but light, winking in and out of existence, transcending time and space, and only knowable as a luminescent presence shining at the heart of everything.
Yet here we are, perched on a rock that is spinning in space, immersed in daily lives whose pleasures are tied to limitations which seem to guarantee that we will always have to struggle and that our glimpses of an inner light will be rare and fleeting.
Perhaps that’s the place to look: at the frustrations, limitations, and darkness that we experience here and now. Perhaps that’s where we can find the light that can never be extinguished because it is the light from which all that we know and all that we don’t know is woven.
If you would like to explore in a more poetic way this theme of the presence of primal light in daily life, you may want to check out: