My Christian friends often insisted that the experiences I was having (seeing, hearing, feeling spirits) came from Satan. I am sure that they believed this because they saw in my eyes that I feared everything. I especially feared death.
I believe that this fear developed early on, in 1965, at the age of five. The Vietnam War raged on. Then one day, despite the peace marches that we went on, and the philosophical discussions, and peace symbols that filled our household, my cat, a black and white little rascal named Shoes, died very suddenly.
Mom and Dad picked me up after school one day and announced that we were going on vacation. I was excited, but something felt strange. For one thing, my brother Britt was with them, and he didn't get out of school until much later in the day. I was only in Kindergarten. And, frankly, it was very rare to see my Daddy during the week during daylight hours. He usually got home after I went to bed at night. So, something just felt strange. And, anyway, "What about Shoes? Who's going to feed Shoes?" I asked.
There was stony silence in the car.
"Uh, Summy...Britt...Shoes died today," my Mom said gently.
"You mean, we're never going to see him again?" we asked.
My Mom hardly knew how to respond. If she could have, she would have brought Shoes back to life to spare her children this challenge of change.
After the expected wailing in the back seat from Britt and me, my Dad commenced to the difficult task of making sense out of death, as he drove our old black Volvo towards Palm Springs.
"You see...Shoes' spirit still exists. Life doesn't really ever end," he said.
I didn't get it, but I was intrigued.
"Life continues forever," he said matter-of-factly, but with feigned enthusiasm that he exerted in an effort to uplift our spirits.
"You mean...like infinity?" Britt questioned. Britt was only eight years old, going on about seventy.
"Yes!" Daddy responded with true enthusiasm now, "Like infinity!"
"That's like this," Britt said, drawing a sideways number eight in the air with his finger.
"Yeah," I joined in the infinity finger dance. We giggled. Then I paused.
"Daddy? What's infinity?" I asked, in sudden revelation that I hadn't the foggiest idea what infinity was.
"Infinity?" Daddy gulped, and Mom giggled.
"Tell them," Mom taunted with a grin.
"Well...it's like...if you take two mirrors, and point them at each other. One mirror reflects the other mirror, and the other mirror reflects the other mirror reflecting it. And so on."
"Okay..." he tried again, "Imagine walking up to a brick wall."
We closed our eyes and imagined.
"Now, you are standing right up close to it, right?"
"Right," I said, already somewhat bored with this game.
"What is on the other side of the wall?" Daddy asked.
We responded, using our imagination, "Trees. Grass. A dog. A house."
"Okay. Good," Daddy said, "Now, imagine that you have climbed the wall, and you find grass on the other side. Walk across the grass a long, long way."
"Yeah?" we questioned.
"Now you come to another wall," he said, "Stand right up close to it again. What is on the other side of that wall?" he asked.
I was beginning to understand where he was going with all of this.
"Do you see?" he said, "There will always be something on the other side of the wall. There is always something else! That's infinity."
It was conversations like this that primed my psyche for my life as a mystic. It was this kind of questioning that opened me up to possibilities, and the belief that there was truth in all, not just some, perspectives in the universe. It was also this kind of questioning that led to more questioning in my mind about life after death, such as, where do we go when we die? What then? These thoughts consumed me everyday for decades.
"The possibilities are endless," Dr. Peebles assures us, "There are as many possibilities as there are stars in the heavens."
Sometimes it is difficult to keep the faith and belief that there is more, that the possibilities are endless. Sometimes it is hard to believe that our guides are with us, working hard behind the scenes to support and uplift us. Sometimes it is difficult to maintain the awareness that Shoes is alive and well on the other side (or reincarnated as my kitty, Franny, perhaps). Spirituality requires faith, a belief in the invisible, the unknown, and some days are more difficult than others. Some days it feels like you are on a rudderless ship, yet must maintain the faith, hope, and belief that the rudder (which is God's love) is there all the same.
But, in truth, life is not just about waiting on God and Spirit to make changes in our lives. It's about us being proactive in our lives. We've got to drive the ship, so to speak, by putting God's love and truth into motion.
You don't have to believe in the teachings of the Bible for obvious truth of 1 Corinthians 13 to speak to your heart. To me, this explains the meaning of life:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
In other words, if we stand face to face and really see each other's hearts, we will realize that we are made of exactly the same stuff, and our purpose is the same: to give and receive love. To love and be loved is what every single one of us, no matter what we do for a living, no matter what God we worship, no matter how we live our lives, no matter the color of our skin, no matter our social status; we are all seeking the same thing. "For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face."
Take the opportunity today to put love into motion. Be a steward of God's love. Give someone a hand up. When you feel moved to give someone something, either time, a gift, a smile or a compliment, don't hold back; put it into motion. But, remember: come from a pure heart, and expect nothing in return. Love given is the reward in and of itself. "If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing." By giving to and treating others as you would like to be given to and treated, you just may be the proof in someone else's life that God really loves them, unconditionally. Just when they are feeling down and out, like they are falling into a black hole, your smile, your gift could be just the hand up that they need to keep them going, to keep them knowing that God loves them.
We are in this dance of life together. The greatest gift that you can give to the world is your gift of love. Pray for your evil ex-spouse to come to their senses and bury the hatchet. Pray for the person who just cut you off in traffic that they may come to understand their insensitive behavior and be more careful in the future. Pray for your parent who does not understand you and judges your lifestyle that they may one day open their mind and heart to other possibilities. Pray for global awareness of love to grow within every human heart.
The possibilities are endless. When it comes to love, there are as many possibilities as there are stars in the heavens.
P.S. I love you, Shoes.