Mystery Solved

SmokeI couldn’t put words to the vision, perhaps because the vision itself wasn’t clear. Looking across the Godfrey’s living room while  babysitting, I vaguely sensed a phantom group of sophisticated people gathered in a dimly lit, smoke-filled living room much like this one. People lounged on sofa and chairs, some sitting on the floor. They sipped martinis or gin and tonic, discussed philosophy, and ascended to levels of vision inaccessible to mere mortals. These beings were in touch with another realm, larger than life. In touch with the gods? This vision stirred a nameless yearning for something mysterious and transcendent.

Though I seldom thought of it until several years ago when I began writing about those years, that vision has stuck with me for many decades, remaining clear and compelling, an enduring enigma. Over a few years, I’ve written about it from at least a dozen different slants, chipping away, bit by bit, seeking to discern what I was yearning for. Words like transcendence, intellectual and vision came to mind. Those people seemed privy to divine secrets that I wanted to know too.

I came to see this quest for understanding as my metaphor of what may well be mankind’s eternal quest, the force driving most religions. But the mystery remained locked. I continued to hold it gently in the back of my mind.

Last week I found a fascinating thought in Paul Watzlawick’s classic, How Real Is Real? Mankind craves universal unity. I felt a buzz of recognition when I read that thought, and I reread it several times over the next few days, seeking to fully understand its appeal. This seemed deeper than casual allusions to world peace or fear-mongering talk about sinister cabals.

Finally the dots connected: those phantom people in the smoky room were at one with at one with Source.

As I realized this, several related pieces fell into place. They saw order. Of course! I’ve mentioned before that Story is the operating system of the human brain. We crave unity. We also crave order, logic, understanding. We want to make sense of life.

But wait. I discovered another channel in this scene, one I’d been unaware of. At least to my young mind, these people had broken through the shackles of convention and societal expectations. They were free. They were bold. They were unafraid. They were happy with who they were, and for at least that moment, that was enough.

Bottom line, they were immersed in universal LOVE.

Well, what do you know – universal love is something I know a bit about, and it doesn’t take a cocktail party to find. After all the books, the rituals, the prayers, the seeking, it’s just … there. My mystery is solved, and through the magic of story and the magic of words – my words, Watzlawick’s words, and many others – the yearning has come full circle. How delightfully ironic that once I saw, I already knew.

Perhaps my life would be equally rich if I’d never unlocked this nagging mystery, but the fact that it stayed freshly in mind for well over fifty years, begging to be solved, says something. I’m convinced I would never have unraveled it if I had not discovered various forms of life writing. I’ve journaled about it, scribbled random thoughts,  written essays and stories. My writing process chipped away at the shell, thinning it to the point that Watzlawick’s words could rupture that final protective membrane.

What will I do with this insight now? Maybe nothing. Or maybe I’ll include it in another memoir or work it into a novel. For now it’s on my scrap pile awaiting further disposition. Or not. Perhaps solving it is enough.

Write now: write in whatever form you choose about a compelling vision, memory or thought that’s puzzled you for years. Keep writing about it off and on until its message becomes clear.


suzicate said...

It's interesting how things that once mesmerized you become an understanding and a memory surfaces. Sounds like this one never vanished but stubbornly hung about until you "got it".

Cate Russell-Cole said...

I wasn't sure if this was a ghost story or a creative vision... Probably the latter, but it's interesting timing. I was watching a TED Talks video on the words they put in dictionaries. The speaker was asking, what words are real. The answer was, when a word is used it becomes real. Maybe this adds a slant to your vision, who knows? The scene sure sounds real to me.

Sharon said...

Cate, this is definitely not a ghost story, but what an intriguing idea. Perhaps it was a creative vision, but not one that was summoned, at least to begin with. The vision itself could be spun six ways to Sunday in either fiction or memoir. I shall always treasure that vision.

Grieving Patrick said...

Just ordered your book and finding this blog for the first time. I appreciate how STORY is the operating system of the brain. I'm offering grief retreats and see as a hospice chaplain turned writer we all need to TELL our story to shake off life's trauma's and to integrate it into new meaning. Yesterday I was reading a reflection on Intimacy by the Dali Lama. He shared that due to the practice of COMPASSION he never feels alone since he's vulnerable and present with all he encounters. I've been writing about a childhood memory this past month and find that I have a new found compassion for how vulnerable I am as a human being. Without telling and re-telling the story of this childhood memory I felt embarrassed or even repulsed by my own humanity.

Sharon said...

Patrick, welcome. I hope you find the book helpful. Bravo for your work with Hospice and the grief retreats. Thank you for that profound thought from the Dali Lama. kind of thoughts? Meanwhile, as you work through that old memory, try taking many perspectives, and ask yourself that key question; IS THIS TRUE?