I often live inside a seemingly real daydream, where everything is solid and separate and easily distinguishable. In this fantasy, there’s me and the rest of the unconnected universe, all maneuvering in meticulous ways to stay safe and separate. It’s a life of separation and positioning and constant concern for my individual welfare. However, sometimes it does seem obvious to me that this notion of solidity and separation is truly just a dream, a way of looking at life that’s no more real than a fanciful fable. At those times, life presents itself as what it truly is – a nonstop dance where nothing is separate or solid, and everything is interlaced in endlessly supportive ways. The dream of solidity easily disintegrates, and reality is revealed as a totally mysterious but unified and helpful adventure. Today, I’m again setting off, with anticipation and appreciation, on another path in this wondrous, interwoven forest called life.
I have often been needlessly restricted by the concept of ‘form’ – the idea that everything, including me, has a specific material form within which it exists, and beyond which it cannot venture. According to this belief, everything – me, my wife, my desk, my computer, the trees outside, all the stars in the sky – have separate forms which isolate them from each other. Reality, in this view, is a disconnected miscellany of unrelated material ‘things’ – and it’s the view I’ve spent most of my 80 years accepting. Now, however, in the clearness of brand-new old age, I have sometimes been able to see beyond this circumscribed life of forms, and recognize a universe of absolute unity – a universe of no boundaries, and thus no separate forms, and thus no disconnection whatsoever, a universe like a single endless ocean flowing with inseparable togetherness. True, there seem to be distinct and separate forms everywhere – me, you, them, yesterday, tomorrow – but those forms are no more real then the seemingly separate waves in an ocean. All waves are one with the ocean, and all the separate forms we seem to see are one with the single, boundless, and magnificent universe. Like an ocean, all of reality – including us and our troubles – is truly formless, and therefore truly free-flowing – and utterly free.
about Bill M., 87, Blessings, CT, USA
He loves telling Doris at McQuades
about the formations he sees in life.
While she’s preparing
unsalted turkey slices for him,
he praises the peaceful configuration
of meats and cheeses in the case,
and the way the patterns
on the store’s floor
flow together so smoothly.
When she says,
“Anything else for you, Bill?”
he says the way her words
are positioned when she speaks
is beyond beautiful.
As he says goodbye to Doris,
he guesses the moments of her life
are aligned as flawlessly
as the stars
above his shipshape town
In the summer, when I hear birds calling back and forth across the yard, I sometimes make believe they’re calling me. “Hello, Ham,” I hear them saying, “pay attention to what’s happening. Don’t miss this amazing day.” There are other calls that seem to come to me: the call of trees around our house as they wave in the wind and want me to watch them carefully; the call of the pendulum clock on the wall in our living room as it ticks and tells me to make the most of all the moments; the call of a clementine on the counter to come and enjoy its juiciness. As a teenager, I was encouraged to listen for the call to the ministry from a God who seemed to reside somewhere in the sky, but since then I’ve found another God, the One that lives in all of us, including birds and trees and clocks and clementines, the One that loves to let me know about the beauty of each newborn moment, the One that calls to me to see the sacredness of everything. Those are the calls I’m listening for on these effusive and satisfying senior days.
I sometimes worry about someday being alone, an old man who has lost his loving partner and is, both mentally and physically, far from friends and family. Right now, at 80, I have both my devoted wife and loving family very close by, but I am occasionally uneasy about the aloneness the future might bring.
This morning, however, as sometimes happens, I see once again, very clearly, that I can’t possibly ever be alone. In fact, nothing can ever be alone, because everything – every person, place, thing, event, situation – is not alone, but all-one. The universe – all of reality – is a single, intermingled, effortlessly flowing force, and I am as much a part of that force as a passing breeze is part of the unending wind of the heavens. When I imagine a slight waft of wind worrying about being alone someday, I see how silly it is for me to think I can ever be anything but an inseparable part of the all-one reality of the universe. I am as inseparable from boundless reality as a ray of light is inseparable from the sun. Whether I’m sitting in our cozy home with Delycia and not far from my affectionate friends and family, as I am now, or lying in a bed in a nursing home sometime in the future, seemingly far from faithful friendship and love, I will never be alone, but will always be all-one, an indissoluble element in the vast and everlastingly peaceful mystery called the universe. I will probably smile a lot because the universe is always smiling, and I’ll probably feel as safe as a star among the measureless, ‘all-one’ family of stars in the sky.
How lucky can an 80-year-old boy get?!
WORDS LIKE LIGHT
Friday, November 19, 2021
I have always seen limits everywhere. Life, for most of my years, has been chock full of borders and boundaries. There was a start to everything, and a finish, a beginning and an ending. Life, and everything in it, seemed to be easily measurable.
In the last 30+ years, however, I’ve sometimes seen a new kind of reality, one with no limits whatsoever. I’ve occasionally been able to see that all of our measurements, though definitely useful for daily living, are actually artificial limitations that pretend to measure a universe that is entirely immeasurable. I supposedly ‘began’ in 1941, but physicists say that all the atoms in my body actually began billions of years ago when the universe began, and will never come to an end, but will simply continue sweeping through the endless universe. So I have no measurable beginning or end – no boundaries. I seem to be separate from other things and people, but actually, when I think about it, it’s obvious that whatever I am seeing or hearing is actually a part of me – inside me in my sight or hearing – and I, then, am a part of it. And time itself is measureless. Where does ‘now’ actually start, and end? Isn’t every moment actually the present moment? How can we can accurately measure the distances between the past, present, and future, if the only moment that actually exists is the one that is here, right now?
Fortunately, I’m realizing, again this morning, that I am part of a single, boundless, indivisible entity called the universe. It – including me – all flows together as one limitless miracle. Doesn’t that suggest that I should live, yes, by working and organizing and solving, but also by relaxing and letting go and loving the miracle?
A SKY HERSELF
(about Braelynn J., 51, Blessings, CT, USA)
She shoots for the sky every day,
daring to send thoughts
soaring as high as happiness.
Her whole life
seems like a boundless sky to her,
and so she sails rather than works,
ascends rather than toils.
People tell her she always
seems to be smiling,
and she knows that's because
she's a sky herself,
and can a sky
be down and discouraged?
And here are some scenes from our morning walk in Elm Grove Cemetery on the Mystic River …
WORDS LIKE LIGHT
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
In the last few years, I’ve started to understand the astonishing truth that endlessness is endless. Nothing ever ends – not ever. If something seems to end, it is simply because my mind has placed the convenient label called ‘the end’ on it. And of course, it is convenient and necessary to use that label in our daily lives. In order to organize my life, I do need to think in terms of activities starting and stopping, and events as beginning and then ending. However, what I’m seeing more clearly now, in my 79th year, is that these are simply helpful labels, and not anywhere near the truth. In reality, nothing ever starts and nothing ever ends. There is only the unceasing and boundless flow of the endless present moment. If I search for the start of the present moment, I can never find it, nor can I find where it stops. The present has always been here, and it will never end. It extends out beyond any boundaries into limitlessness. And the important things in life – all of them – are also endless. Powers like love and peace and patience know no boundaries. Because they are not made of material stuff, they have no material form that can set limits and be measured. The power of kindness cannot be stopped by some borderline, and the power of acceptance slips past all boundaries into endlessness. And my life itself is not ‘mine’, as though there are specific borders where ‘Hamilton Salsich’ begins and ends. What is called ‘me’ is simply an inseparable, everchanging ripple in the endless ocean called ‘reality’. I am an ever-shifting wave, a current that’s been flowing and wavering and varying forever. Like love and calmness, there’s no end to the life I’m lucky to belong to – and no end anywhere, of anything.
"WHERE ARE THE WORDS YOU WROTE TODAY?"
- asked by a friend
The wind carried some away.
The sunlight slipped some
into its pockets.
Flowers fastened a few
in their hearts.,
and others climbed a stairway to the sky.
Some are as silent as mountains,
some are whispering on distant trails,
and some are just crossing the street
toward your house.