The Thin Times
If you look on the internet, you will discover many articles about “thin” places or experiences. The common characteristic of both is the element of surprise. In the midst of walking, or feeling, or doing something, suddenly, the reality of the moment collapses, only to expand to a sense of being that is linear, unquantifiable, ineffable. And really any time and any place can become a burning bush, a voice in the clouds, a dazzling ray of sun. The thin time or place allows us to know the world of both spirit and matter as a sacred whole. In the season of All Saints and Souls, we connect the communion of those who have lived amongst us with this present community of faith and practice. It is a season meant to offer us the opportunity to see time as a tapestry being constantly woven with threads of our lives. We are invited to open ourselves to seeing and thinking beyond the limitation of our knowledge.
In speaking about faith as trust in the intrinsic goodness of creation, Marcus Borg wrote that it was through “mystical” experiences that he discovered the God that permeates reality with grace and compassion and wonder. (Awe and Wonder, p.26) These thin times grant us similar moments of possibility, moments when we remember that we are not alone, that our consciousness is bigger than our brains, and that we are intimately connected to a work in progress.
I was visiting an elderly friend this week. She felt distressed that she has memory issues. As the conversation went along, this became apparent as she kept forgetting who I was and saying how familiar I looked. She was embarrassed by these lapses. I told her that she was living in the thin time when past and future had less value than the present moment. She was delighted by a cheeky blue jay that kept coming to her window to eat bird seed and peek at her. I asked her if it was important to her which bird came. “Well, no” she replied. I said that it was the appearance of the bird that mattered most of all. She concurred. I told her that there exist whole schools of spiritual discipline that attempt to teach people to live in the moment and that now she was perfecting that way of being. It seemed to comfort her that it was natural and acceptable not to have to remember but to be content with the moment.
In the back of my head I was hearing, “Consider the lilies.” At this season of the thin time, perhaps we can practice letting go of our needs for control. We cannot initiate a mystical experience, but we can monitor our way of being in the world. We can develop the spiritual discipline of awareness, of being fully present both in our soul and in our body. My parents ashes were interred in our memorial garden. Now I know that those ashes have long since dissipated into the earth, but it still gives me a sense of peace to sit in the garden and remember those two loving people. I try to remember to make “Thank you for life” the first thing I say in the morning. I work at paying attention to my surroundings rather than the voices in my head, clamouring for attention and worry.
Mostly we rush about, but if we can intentionally get out of our heads and move into observer status, we might just discover an amazing world inviting our wonder. We might also reflect that being in the world, we can never leave it. We are, at the least, a part of its history, but maybe our energy, our souls, if you like, are part of this incredible package of stunning reality. Maybe we could trust Jesus when he says that we will be together always. Maybe we can trust the power of transformation to mold us into the forms we need.
In this thin time, let us open ourselves to moving beyond fear to trust, beyond cynicism to the wonder of childhood. Let us cease evaluating and categorizing for a time and just breathe with the world. Maybe we could just let the ancestors drift past us knowing that we belong to them as much as we belong to the dreams of our children. And the earth awaits our awareness that we are part of the planet. Not a dream, but the reality of life constantly living and recreating itself. We shall not die but live in the twinkling moment of revelation, in the heart and mind and body of God.