I’m sure by now most of you have heard this song, and some of you are probably sick of it. I used to not listen to the radio much, and I still listen to it minimally, so I have the benefit of not getting tired of songs that are overplayed… mostly.
I had an amazing revelation yesterday. I was listening to this song on the radio, and thinking about it as it relates to the historical city of Pompeii; the song obviously relates to death and dying, the total destruction of the city. And it is romantic. It is so hauntingly beautiful, and it is not the only work of its kind. We often romanticize death, we romanticize people leaving or committing suicide, and dying. I realized yesterday that it is not so much a longing for death that afflicts us but a longing for rebirth. We romanticize death because it is a doorway, it is the next step toward something better. We want to die, and like Don Miguel Ruiz said, we are not afraid of death but we are scared of living.
On some level, I think we know that death is the next step, that part of us has to die. This human life, the world to which we are all so accustomed, the things that we’re all so convinced of… we consider this world, this life of sin and suffering to be inevitable. We believe that the way we live now, the way we exist is inevitable, and in a way we want to die. We want to die, so that we can go on to something else. We know that part of us has to die, that something has to go away.
And the part that is left will be beautiful. That something will survive after death, that some part of us will be reborn into a much better, happier, life… that’s dying and going to Heaven, that’s why we have that dream. We want to die and find peace, to find Heaven, to achieve Nirvana. We want to stop the cycle of death, of living “as if we are dead,” to quote Ruiz. We want it to end.
Regardless of whether Heaven is a literal physical place where the soul goes after the body dies or not, regardless of whether the soul literally transcends suffering and attains Nirvana, these stories, these ideas are present the world over because they represent the innate human desire to get away from all of this. Regardless of the truth, these stories are also potent metaphors.
If you’ve spoken to someone who engages in transcendental meditation or someone who’s taken psychedelic drugs, you may have heard of a feeling of “oneness.” Perhaps for one reason or another you have experienced this for yourself. There is a related but deeper phenomenon known as “ego death” that can be experienced in a variety of ways. “According to Stanislav Grof, ‘Ego death means an irreversible end to one’s philosophical identification with what Alan Watts called skin-encapsulated ego.'”¹
In The Four Agreements, Ruiz talks a great deal about a process that will lead to joy and freedom that he calls the “initiation of the dead.” This, he says, is a spiritual, symbolic death that destroys the wounded mind, destroys the inner judge and victim, destroys what Eckhart Tolle calls the “pain-body.” In this way, we cease associating with the body and the mind’s conception of the “self” and instead begin to see the bigger picture, so to speak. We begin to become aware of the Unity that is.
When we realize our oneness, our connection with all things, with things beyond ourselves, we find that we can love everything and everyone. It is not easy to do, and it takes practice and awareness. But according to Ruiz, this is the state of mind that has been called “Heaven.” This is the kingdom of Heaven that is within man; this is the Heaven that is in our midst (Luke 17:21). This is truly living, being fully alive.
Part of us has to die to get there, but fear not. Once you break through, you will realize that there is no “you,” and that instead, We have been here all along. That is the best way I can put it at this time. I’ll just leave this here:
“Jesus Christ knew he was God. So wake up and find out eventually who you really are. In our culture, of course, they’ll say you’re crazy and you’re blasphemous, and they’ll either put you in jail or in a nut house (which is pretty much the same thing). However if you wake up in India and tell your friends and relations, ‘My goodness, I’ve just discovered that I’m God,’ they’ll laugh and say, ‘Oh, congratulations, at last you found out.'”
— Alan Watts²
Gen 16 describes Abram seeking a child. Sarai, his wife, tells Abram that he must have a child, and she tells him to marry her maid and father a child that way. Abram heeds her words instead of seeking a solution or a sign from God, and lo and behold, the trouble begins. Hagar, the maid, begins to despise Sarai, and the two women just about get into a fight.
Hagar runs off, and “an Angel of the Lord” finds her by a spring (Genesis 16:7). Matthew Henry states that this Angel is “the eternal Word and Son of God,”³ and considering that everything about the Angel is capitalized, that makes as much sense as anything else. Especially when one considers that the Angel blesses her and tells her the things which He will accomplish. I figured just by reading it that the Angel was in some way an extension of God.
Hagar says as much, when she asks, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” (Genesis 16:13) This reminds me of a fun limerick:
“There was a young man who said ‘though
It seems that I know that I know,
What I would like to see
Is the I that sees me
When I know that I know that I know.'”
— Alan Wattsª
A name of the Lord given in Genesis 16:13 is “You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees.” That limerick is lifted from “The Nature of Consciousness,”ª and I highly recommend it. Just from reading a few paragraphs I know I’m going to revisit it soon.
After speaking to the Angel, Hagar returns to the house of Abram, returns to that holy family and the righteous life, after having wandered off. I don’t think I need to explain this one; Matthew Henry does a fine job of that already.
Hagar bears Ishmael, and so ends Genesis 16.
That great illusion and tormentor, time, is pressing on me. My heart and mind are distracted by impending work. I feel as though I have said what I needed to say today, and I shall see you all tomorrow.
God bless, and peace be upon you.