Monday, June 30, 2014

The Cultivation of Spirit... Defining Moments

Whenever I say “My body,” I reveal a truth by the logic of my language that is more profound than any mystical analysis of what it means to “be.” The declaration “my body” states implicitly that “I” am not “my body.” This “body” then, a reality occupying time and space, is the identifiable entity through which “I” express my being in the familiar universe, that is, in the world that we are immediately aware of.

The awareness of this came forcefully to me about eighteen years ago. I was serving at the time as pastor of an ecumenical congregation in a suburban community. The twenty one year old daughter of an Indian family that worshipped at this church met a most horrific death. Indira was on her way to pick up her graduation gown. She was the first in her family to graduate from a four-year college. On her way across a busy intersection she was run over by an eighteen-wheeler; the life crushed from her body.

I spent much time preparing a message of comfort for her funeral. What does one say to bring meaning and solace to loved ones suffering these crushing emotions? How does one help to alleviate the sense of loss precipitated by such a tragedy? The honest spiritual guide finds the usual formulations strangely empty in circumstances such as these.

As my custom was, I went to the church early on the afternoon of the funeral. I was standing over the casket viewing that lifeless form, when it occurred to me that most of what I had prepared to say to family and friends and others who would come, would not make any essential difference in terms of placing this event in a meaningful place in our lives. In this very real existential dilemma, all my prognostications and quasi-comforting thoughts were really based on the usual fears and unresolved anxieties about the death. Nothing reinforces our sense of assumed mortality more than the apparent finality of dying. Enter the big unknown. Unwelcome the “End’.

That afternoon as I stared at the lifeless form laying in that casket, something occurred to me that one might assume I should have been fully cognizant of. This body was not her. It was, pure and simply, what all our bodies are, the agency through which we express our selves in time and space. I say again, we are not our bodies.

Death is what happens when as a result of some biological tragedy, our bodies are no longer able to function as the agencies of our activity in the temporal realm. What does this mean? This means that we, essentially, are eternal. We do not cease to be. Our existence continues beyond the abilities of our bodies to define our presence in the familiar universe of our being. We are, potentially, forever.

Excerpt From: Roy Alexander Graham. “Of Scattered Seed and Broken Souls.” 

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