Do you remember when you started to ask the big spiritual questions; the ones which kept you awake at night? For me spiritual growth began in the night light of Saturn. Back in the mid 80’s; or perhaps it was earlier on my first visit to the 🎞 David Dunlap observatory, my childhood friend and I had taken the northbound subway as far as it would go. From there we had to deposit additional tokens to take a bus further north on Yonge street to the Observatory road in Richmond Hill. From there we walked in the dark till we arrived at the main building on the grounds; not bad for two 15 year old boys. The observatory was holding an open house to showcase their telescope while sharing their passion for those who exist high in the shadow of the earth. I don’t remember what we saw, I do remember the excitement as i climbed up a wooden staircase to reach the eyepiece revealing the gifts of the heavens.
A decade later I found myself sitting beside a friendly and well dressed man with a Spanish accent in a classroom at the University of Toronto. He introduced himself as Arthur. The class we shared was Mathematics 101. During the next three or four years I had the good fortune of knowing Arthur and his family of gifted mathematicians, philosophers and a classical musician. During this time I never knew why I was accepted into this generous family, until several years later. My time with Arthur and his family enlarged my capacity of wonderment. I learned about the magic that hides in mathematics; important things like how a tea cup and a doughnut are topologically the same, and all spheres with an atmosphere will always have storms. I also learned to keep nodding my head in the affirmative as symbolic logic was explained to me with much of this knowledge vaporizing shortly afterwards. . I had also attended several piano and organ recitals and the good fortune to witness Arthur’s younger brother’s performance of Claude Debussy’s beautiful 🎞 Clair de Lune.
You taught me the courage of stars before you left How light carries on endlessly, even after death
With shortness of breath You explained the infinite And how rare and beautiful it is to even exist
Years later Arthur announced the Observatory was having an open house and that it would be a good idea for all of us to attend. Arthur, his brothers and I made our way to the observatory. The 74 inch telescope was trained on the planet Saturn. I wasn’t ready for what I was to see. The beauty of this golden planet embraced by several of her rings as seen through the lens was absolutely one of the most soul igniting expressions I have ever seen. This image remains with me to this day.
I became restless after this. I felt as if there was some kind of awakening within me. I was never much of a church person although I did find a kind of reverence sitting in the quiet of older churches. As a young boy my Sunday school lessons I was being taught just could not find a foothold within me. Saturn achieved what the church could not. I knew there had to be a greatness I have never known, to create the expression of what I had witnessed. Where was I to look?
Several more years had passed and I was still captivated by the expression of Saturn. One evening I was driving home on a dark unpaved road, I was asking myself if I should return to the churches of my childhood. I asked what about Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and I no sooner vocalize, “what about shamanism?” I suddenly had to brake hard while swerving to avoid hitting a Raccoon. The thought of causing this animal’s demise felt like an electrical shock throughout my body. I’m thinking why now? I know I’m driving up a dark road and we often see animals who had not been so lucky laying as if they are asleep on the roadways or worse. I guess it was just his lucky night…or was it mine?
I was offered two choices on this night; this being a random act by an animal or this was a deliberate answer to the questions I have been asking. I soon learned we all experience life this way. Random acts or encounters with meaning, such as teacups and doughnuts or being enshrouded by the music of Claude Debussy all of which was the catalyst to my spiritual evolution. We can go through life bouncing from one random act to another or we move with great purpose through interpreting these whispering messages. Just as our grief forever whispers to our hearts, reminding us of our sacredness.
[…] Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.