Tuesday, November 19, 2013

From Stardust

“Everything is determined by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust - we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.”
(Albert Einstein, German-born theoretical physicist)

            Music is universal. The idea that the cosmos is a “giant symphony of sound, with each entity represented by a unique underlying numeric property or unique sound” pre-dates modern scientific interpretations. Everything is nothing more than a harmonic expression. The greater universe “is a musical instrument and everything in it is vibrating in tune with the larger things that contain it.”  Some believe that God dwells in this harmony. For centuries, man has tapped into this hidden reality, using music as a tool of science, entertainment, and in particular, healing. 
            Human beings have used varying types of “music therapy since the earliest recorded history.”  Music and related stimuli have been used “for the purposes of altering behaviour and enhancing the everyday existence of people with various types of emotional disturbance." Egyptian priests chanted conjurations that “supposedly influenced women’s fertility.” The Greeks, the Hebrews, even North American aboriginals “treated physical and mental illness with the playing of music.” The Greeks (Zenocrates) were “the first to use music therapy as a regular practice,” harnessing “harp music to ease the outbursts of people with mental illnesses.”
            We have always assumed that music acts like a trigger to an assigned set of  memories, but now a study of brain scans has pinpointed where this process occurs in grey matter. This area of the brain called “the medial pre-frontal cortex” is located “just behind the forehead.”  It acts to stimulate retention and recall specific events. It is a conduit of memory. Music acts like “a soundtrack for a mental movie that starts playing in our head." Once recognized, it “calls back memories of a particular person or place, and you might all of a sudden see that person's face in your mind's eye."
            Performing or listening to music can “enhance some kinds of higher brain function,” but it “has to be the right kind of music.” There is a “causal link between music and spatial reasoning." This theory, known as the Mozart Effect, demonstrates just how the power of music appears to heighten brain operations. Researchers hypothesized that listening to the music of Mozart for 10 minutes would prime “some of the same neural circuits that the brain employs for complex visual-spatial tasks.” One study group heard a Mozart sonata while another was exposed to meditation tapes or complete silence for the duration. The Mozart group “scored approximately 9 points higher in IQ tests of abstract spatial reasoning” than subjects exposed something else. Listening to other types of music did “not enhance [a] subjects' spatial test scores.” The effect is “short-lived” lasting only 15 minutes at the most.
             Music can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, assist in relaxation, alleviate depression, and help store and recall information. It has been shown to aid Alzheimer’s patients “with memory and function.” In a study, nursing home patients were given personalized playlists on iPods and other digital devices. Exposure to each subject’s musical favourites tapped into deep memories, those not lost to dementia. Results found that residents came “back to life,  enabling them to feel like themselves again, to converse, socialize and stay present.” Music assisted in “face-name recognition” and was shown to stimulate certain parts of the brain.  
            In another study, music was shown to influence mood. When “major keys and rapid tempos” were played, happiness resulted. When “minor keys and slow tempos” were played, subjects experienced sadness. The combination of “rapid tempos together with dissonance” were found to cause fear. Music has been shown “to produce significant emotional responses,” as well as to “localize and quantify these responses within the brain.” Although it can be demonstrated that music causes emotional responses, until recently no one has been able to explain just why.

“The relationship between mathematics and music (vibrations / sound waves) is well known, and in hindsight it is obvious that mathematics, maths physics, music (sound waves) and musical instruments exist because matter is a wave structure of Space. This is why all matter vibrates and has a resonant frequency.”
(Dr. Milo Wolff, American mathematical physicist)

            Dancing and music antedated language. In antiquity, sound and healing were considered a “sacred science.” It was believed that music had a fundamental effect on both the mind and the body. These ideas “diverged during the later half of the 18th century.” Medicine was then associated with healing while music was deemed an entertainment vehicle. Music is part of every human culture. It always has been. It was not until after the second World War that the health benefits of music crept into the medical mindset. In recent years, “music medicine” has received even greater attention and increasing scientific consideration.
            There are physical effects from music. “Simulation of chemicals in the brain” and “changes in cell structure” demonstrate how music performs on a molecular level. It also affects changes in blood flow and heart rate. Music can increase “the reaction time of muscle tissue.” Music has a psychological effect. It can calm or agitate the body and the mind. Music soothes and disturbs. It eases one’s ability to visualize and acts to divert attention away from negative environmental factors. Music influences the brain. There is a solid association between “the parts of the brain that process music and the memory centres.” Music stimulates “the reward centres that process pleasure.” The brain seems “hard-wired” for music.  Parts of the brain even seem able to differentiate between  various styles of music. Regions of the brain are enhanced while listening. The limbic system of the brain is aroused by certain feelings derived from a specific piece of music.
            Music has a distinct effect on more spiritual aspects as well. As with meditation, it can create a point of focus for one’s mind. Music “aligns energy fields, when coupled with intention, vibration and resonance flow.” It can access internal sources renewing vitality and balance. Music can inspire, rejuvenate and assist with mental clarity. Music can activate creativity. Music can transform, impacting both behaviour and attitude. Psychoacoustics is “the study of how humans perceive sound and how we listen” to sound. There are “psychological responses to music” as well as various “physiological impacts on the human nervous system.” The brain “synthesizes music unlike any other ‘input’ and uses all of its parts to create pleasure or pain from the sounds and frequencies we hear.” These sounds can course into the brain as music and assist in the development and/or healing of body, mind and soul.

“So I say thank you for the music
The songs I'm singing
Thanks for all the joy they're bringing
Who can live without it
I ask in all honesty
What would life be?
Without a song or a dance what are we?
So I say thank you for the music
For giving it to me”
(Thank You for the Music, ABBA 1977)

            If there is one gift that my parents gave to me outside of their unconditional love, it is my appreciation of music. My earliest memories are of sitting with my father in our basement listening to old LPs of Charlie Pride and Johnny Cash. Some of my first cognitive experiences involve my Mom singing along to John Denver on the living room stereo while she baked lemon cupcakes with icing sugar sprinkles in our kitchen. From childhood to my current state of adulthood, this life has been one grand mosaic of Country, Gospel, Standards and Show tunes. Even modern rock and alternative music have permeated my consciousness. From the Mamas and the Papas to The Sound of Music; from Mozart to Nine Inch Nails; from Amy Grant to Courtney Love; song and lyric have transcended mere melody and lingered throughout my days. Like a faithful friend, music has always served me well. It has been a constant opiate and soothed my weary soul. Music is a part of me.
            When my Mother died, I quickly realized how ingrained her memory was with the music I have embraced as my own. Like an image symphony, my life sounds in kind. When she developed breast cancer the year before her fatal heart attack, I began to create compilation CDs for her to listen to as she recovered from her ordeal. I hoped that by using music I could bring some order to the chaos she was going through and that it would offer her strength and fortitude, easing her fear and the pain she battled throughout her last days. After her death, it is these compilations which inspired me to start blogging, using the very same music and lyrics to help me get through, and as an expression of both my grief and any solace found.
            It is often strange listening to my music so far removed from that place and time. With less than a drumbeat, I am instantly transported back. Flashes of the past call out for me to listen. A simple song I have heard a hundred times can still force a journey, whether I want it to or not. Even the most obscure tune, one I have not experienced for decades, captures my senses and I relive through memory that which I knew before. Like a prelude, all those glimpses come together and carry me away. They are a tapestry of the words and melodies which have engrained themselves so deeply into my being and sang softly throughout all of my learning. Almost each one somehow connects to a moment or a feeling or a memory of something or someone. Songs of comfort from the stardust, those little stars, they twinkle so.
            Every day, I am reminded how much music can give to the soul. How the lessons of life are reflected in so many of the songs I have cherished and held onto over the years.  There is a power to music which theories and speculation cannot define. Each song is a source of borrowed knowledge and a piece of the universe that cannot fade or die; like little bits of the cosmos, they glimmer in the dust. It seems to me that God appears ironic making music so enchanting and wonderful. It holds “the beauty of loneliness of pain: of strength and freedom. The beauty of disappointment and never-satisfied love. The cruel beauty of nature and everlasting beauty of monotony.” (Benjamin Britten) Even the most heart-wrenching emotion can hold great hope. The simplest things always seem to hold the greatest meaning. After all, it's not a song unless it touches you. It's not a song until it breaks you. We must understand that life is our song. We must learn to receive it and we must learn to give it back. In the long run. when everything has been said and done, unless it got through to you, it's not your song.

“And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart
High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that we're apart
You wandered down the lane and far away
Leaving me a song that will not die
Love is now the stardust of yesterday
The music of the years gone by”
(Stardust, Nat King Cole 1957)




Lemon Cupcakes with Icing Sugar Sprinkles
(Originally Posted Friday, May 28, 2010)


It’s Not a Song, Amy Grant
Straight Ahead 1984




Monday, November 11, 2013

Great Escape

“All life is only a set of pictures in the brain, among which there is no difference betwixt those born of real things and those born of inward dreamings, and (there is) no cause to value one above the other.” (H.P. Lovecraft, American Science Fiction author)

            It is somewhat in fashion among the scientific community to think of dreams as nothing more than meaningless and random images. These images appear to be activated by the physiological processes which occur as we sleep. Areas of the brain, sleep stages and neurotransmitters, in combination with varying patterns of sleep depending on age, all seem to influence the dream state. Dreaming is traditionally associated with REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, also known as paradoxical sleep. It is hypothesized that REM sleep occurs so that “the brain can continually develop and [thus] promotes further learning, memory and motivation.” This stage of sleep also involves “muscle paralysis and cortical activation.” Most significantly, it frequently involves dreaming.
            We all dream. Some dreams we recall very clearly and some leave mere traces; they linger in the subtle refuge between sleep and aware. Some dreams are so powerful they remain with us all our lives. The memory of them becomes entangled with who we are and how we see the world. Other dreams are like reflections, we view them once, perhaps again, but only in passing. Some dreams we never recall. They are lost to our psyche; dangled in the darkness, but gone forever when we awake.
            Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939) maintained that "the dream fundamentally acts as the guardian of sleep." He argued that when we sleep we are "attempting to disconnect from our reality by extinguishing all external stimuli." We draw the curtains, turn out the lights and repel all sight and sound. We, in essence, are attempting to escape this reality in exchange for another. It appears as if we sleep to dream in some altered state.
            Freud believed that "dreams are not comparable to the spontaneous sounds made by a musical instrument struck, rather by some external force than by the hand of a performer." Dreams, he concluded, were not absurd or without meaning, nor did he imply that one part of us sleeps as another begins to awaken. Dreams are a "completely valid psychological phenomenon, specifically the fulfillment of wishes; they can be classified in the continuity of comprehensible waking mental states; they are constructed through highly complicated intellectual activity." He also argued that "those wishes are the result of repressed or frustrated sexual desires" and that "anxiety surrounding these desires turns some dreams into nightmares."

“Properly speaking, the unconscious is the real psychic; its inner nature is just as unknown to us as the reality of the external world, and it is just as imperfectly reported to us through the data of consciousness as is the external world through the indications of our sensory organs.” (The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud 1899)

             When I was 7 years old, I had a terrifying nightmare. It frightened me so much that I ran to my parents' bed and slept at their feet the entire night. Although the vision itself was horrifying, the emotional state I experienced after it is what, almost literally, scared the shit out of me. In it, my sister and I answered the door to our home and were greeted by the milkman. Instantly, he grabbed my sister and ran towards his waiting truck. I ran behind them, all the time screaming for help and from fear. He got in that truck and sped away with her. I woke up, but the fear remained. For all its might, for all the terror its memory holds, this form of dream was not real. The next morning, my sister was fine and no similar events had been reported in the neighbourhood. It was just a scary, silly dream. It was a nightmare that scarred me, one I succinctly remember and could never forget. For me, it defines fear. I have carried it with me ever since.
            When I was 23, I dreamt that Jesus came to me during my sleep. He took great care to show me I had nothing to fear and invited me on a journey about the stars and the earth. We flew about heaven and flew above the planet and even glimpsed into the fire of the pit far below. I remember the feeling of flight and the peace and serenity I experienced on this journey. In my work, I have often referred to this state comparatively. This dream revealed joy to me, a sense of speed. It was just a fancy, silly dream. I have carried it with me ever since.
            Some dreams are mere dreams. Perhaps they are an expression of deep-seeded issues that materialize in the sleeping mind. Perhaps they are only expressions of our conscious mind, and once freed, they manifest and take form. Quite often, a dream is just that, a dream. In my experience, there is something else beyond dreaming. A creation from an outer force that takes you to an outer place. In our altered state, we migrate from the unreal constructions of a resting mind. These dreams are not dreams. They are real. They occur. Some of us just don't recognize them as such.

“Dreaming men are haunted men.” (Stephen Vincent Benet, American Poet)

             Srīnivāsa Aiyangār Rāmānujan (1887 - 1920) was a self-taught Indian mathematician who, with almost no formal training in pure mathematics, made “substantial contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series and continued fractions.” He compiled results that were “both original and highly unconventional,” such as the Rāmānujan prime and the Rāmānujan theta function, and these theories have inspired a vast amount of further research.
            Rāmānujan credited his insight to the family Hindu Goddess, Namagiri of Namakkal. He looked to her for his inspiration, specifically in his work. He claimed to dream of blood drops which symbolized Namagiri's male consort, Narasimha. After each dream, he received "visions of scrolls of complex mathematical content unfolding before his eyes." Rāmānujan left a number of unpublished notebooks filled with theorems that mathematicians have continued to study and apply in modern day. He is widely regarded as “one of the towering geniuses in mathematics.”
            Born in Erode, Tamil Nadu, India into the Brahmin caste, he was a highly devoted and spiritual man. Rāmānujan remarked  that "all religions seemed equally true to him."  He led a life of self-denial and considered himself "rigorously orthodox." At age 32, he died of apparent liver infection. Rāmānujan's theories have found applications in string theory and crystallography, making him light years ahead of his time in these fields. His influence is greater today than was possible during his lifetime. A fervent vegetarian and Hindi, he expressed before his death that “an equation for me has no meaning, unless it represents a thought of God."

“I had a dream last night
That you came to me on silver wings of light
I flew away with you in the painted sky
And I woke up wondering what was real
Is it what you see and touch or what you feel?”
(You’re Still Here, Faith Hill 2002)

            I don't dream much these days. The medication that I take for a chemical imbalance knocks me out for at least 7 hours every night. At first, I embraced no longer being able to escape to somewhere else while I sleep. Finally, my rest was peaceful. These days, I often miss dreaming. I know very well that not every dream merits viewing and not every nightmare is worth the ride, but there’s something powerful and mysterious that I yearn for on occasion. I’ve had flashes from REM sleep, but there is not much detail for me to interpret and little emotional response through which to judge any lingering effect. Jesus doesn't visit anymore and something wicked no longer comes my way.
            In the years since my Mother died, I can only recall one time she entered my dreams. It was anti-climatic at best. I felt cheated when I woke up. In the past, I have asked her to come to me in sleep, but I fear she either cannot or chose not to at that time. I just figure that if she exists in my dreams, then she exists on the Other Side. Dreams might be proof by proxy. Unfortunately, if by chance I do dream, they are barren events with little or no substance. Glimpses, one might say, and without a friendly face.
            In the 18 years since the death of my first partner, I can only recall 7 times that he has visited me. In each dream, he addressed me as if I was awake and he spoke to me in the present tense. He didn't fly around or appear in a watermelon. He always seemed as real as anything I could experience when conscious. In each, I was aware that I was dreaming and so was he. These 7 dreams seem more tangible to me now than anything I can remember having touched or felt in this reality. They are stronger than memory.

"Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination when awake?" (Leonardo Di Vinci, Italian Renaissance polymath)

            As creatures consisting of energy, it is not that far of a stretch to believe our energy can interact with other energies. We can travel elsewhere, we can learn beyond humanity, and we can experience, all from the comfort of our beds. The unconscious mind is fertile for such things. It is plausible that in the altered state of sleeping, we are no longer bound to the physical world. The material plane is now the ethereal plane, and between the two mere dreaming. The mechanism of dream may act as a portal, bringing together that which we seek or taking us to that which seeks us.
            Great men throughout history have been led by their dreams. Jacob, in flight from his brother Esau, climbed his ladder as he slept (Genesis 28:10-19). Alexander the Great was able to save his friend Ptolemaus, after dreaming of a dragon showing him the cure to a poisoned arrow. Srīnivāsa Rāmānujan received some of the most complex mathematical theories in human history from dreams. Whether great revelations or secret messages, those who heed are wise indeed.
            There are, of course, many more silent dreams and unknown travels. Dreams which imparted information, precognition, solution and warning. These dreams are as real as my dreams and your dreams, but we convince ourselves they mean nothing and therefore they hold nothing. We forget they are as real as anything else we think, or feel or believe. As if we take a leave of our earthly senses. We fly to a better place only then to wake and so forget that we ever travelled. We do not recognize them for what they are because we exist as matter on this side of the curtain and cannot comprehend.
            Maybe there is something to the idea that we can access the metaphysical through the process of sleep and dreaming. The wormhole may be in our head, not out in deep space. To dream is to escape. Maybe if we stop heeding the gods that aren't and start listening to those dreams which are, this world would be a better place for lovers and dreamers and me.

"We are such stuff as dreams are made of and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.” (The Tempest, Act 4 Sc. 1,William Shakespeare)





Altered States
(Originally Posted Thursday, April 28, 2011)







Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Like the Wind

“And I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever - the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:15-16, RSV)

            You can tell when someone is a true follower of God. The Spirit within them is almost visible, exuding from their body like an aura would. It is as if the wind has seduced them, taking control and leading the way. I do not mean to contend that this is a literal experience, but I believe it is true. Someone who is filled with the Holy Ghost acts the part. You can sense the Divine within them and their actions are a strong indication that they hold true to what their faith and the indwelling of God leads them to be. Whether a Christian, a Muslim or even a Scientologist, the tenets in which they immerse themselves matter little; it is the outpouring of the Divine within them which defines them. You can sense it in their manner and recognize it in their behaviour. This forbearing and unique character is hard to discover in most religious people, but it is obvious when the positive experience one has with God is legitimate.
            Although I have great issue with many of the teachings of Christianity, the Gospel of Matthew reveals a sure-fire way of recognizing someone who is not what they seem regarding the practice of their faith. Jesus warns us of these “false prophets” (Matthew 7:15-20). The Gospel of Luke reports a similar teaching (Luke 6:43-45). Even Paul, in his letter to the Galatians (5:20-25) points out a sure-fire way to recognize artificial spirituality. People who live lives centered on the Spirit “have crucified their old nature.” They put old ways behind them and walk in the newness of a better day. When we are guided by the Spirit, it flows within us and it flows all around us, just like the wind.
            This indwelling has easily identifiable traits. It produces “fruits of the Spirit” by which we can clearly know whether a person is of God or pseudo in their presentation. It is “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control” which, when revealed and practiced, expose the true presence of God in a life.  In falsehood, these “good fruits” are greatly lacking and expose men for their “evil” ways. We are instructed in Matthew that “By their fruit you will recognize them... every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit... thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” When the wind moves, you cannot always see it, but you know that it is there.

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”
(Isaiah 5:20, NIV)

            Throughout history, the wind has been associated with something Divine. Long before the New Testament, it was imagined as a mystical force. It inspired mythology and influenced the events of history. The wind is invisible yet it is has a physical effect, both elementally and spiritually. You do not see it approach you, but once it makes contact you know what it is. The wind has served to carry the hopes and dreams of mankind in its personification. It whispers. It rages. Every culture, every poet has danced with it, leaned into it and felt its power. It is a friend and a fiend, shaping our ideas of what is and revealing the truth beneath stroked sands. It has been as powerful a force in human nature as it has been as a force of nature, It comes and goes and we know not where it is going to. The wind has many names and many manifestations.
            In Irish folklore, a “fairy wind” is a sudden gust or blast of air thought to have been caused by fairies. It signifies the passing by of a fairy host, thought to both help in farm labour or to bring sudden illness. In Greek mythology, Aeolus was the wind god, who kept all winds in a cave, controlling and manipulating them. The “wind horse” in Tibetan Buddhism represents the human soul, symbolizing well-being or good fortune. Fūjin, the Japanese wind god, is one of the eldest Shinto gods. According to legend, he was present at the creation of the world and first let the winds out of a bag to clear the world of mist. Vāyu is a primary Hindu deity, the Lord of the winds. He was incarnated as a human to teach worthy souls to worship the Supreme God Vishnu and to correct the errors of certain philosophies. In Assyrian and Babylonian mythology, Pazuzu was the king of the demons of the wind, the bearer of storms and drought. The Inuit Indians have an air spirit among the ranks of their divine hierarchy. This air spirit controls the seas, skies and wind. Although considered a kind and beneficial spirit, it strikes wrath against liars, beggars and thieves in the form of illnesses. It is also blamed for bad weather and poor hunting. The wind is often personified as a divine messenger, able to manipulate unseen energy and effect human affairs.
            In the Old Testament, the wind is an important image and symbol. In Hebrew, the wind is known as ru'ach (רוח הקודש), meaning “wind, breathe, mind or spirit.” The wind is usually connected with the appearance of or an action taken by God. God appears to Ezekiel in a “storm wind” (Ezekiel 1:4), then He speaks to Job “from the midst of the storm” (Job 38:1). Whether as a gentle breeze (Job 4:15), or as a mighty wind (Job 8:2), or even as a violent storm (Psalm 55:9), God is the one manipulating and controlling the wind. He is always the source of an action that is taken through ru'ach. Sometimes, God Himself is the wind.
            In the New Testament, wind is the Spirit. The phrase “wind of God” is rendered “spirit of God” from the Greek pneuma.  On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit manifested itself as a “violent rushing wind” (Acts 2:1-2). Jesus claims that this same wind, or Spirit, comes from everyone when they are filled with the Holy Ghost. When possessed by the Spirit, a person feels an amazing love brought from this wind. According to Jesus, this wind “blows wherever it pleases.” We can sense the wind, but “you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.” So too you cannot explain when a person is “born of the Spirit.”  In the Bible, the wind is an analogy of God’s sustaining power. This pneuma is referred to as the Holy Spirit, a personalized force, which is the “vital principal by which the body is animated.” It is the “rational spirit, the power by which the human being feels, thinks, decides.” It is the soul.

“It blows and nobody knows where it’s going to
It blows and nobody knows what it’s gonna do
At night you can hear it cry as the teardrops fall
From heaven’s eye and somehow you know it’s true
These tears that fall could be falling for you
Like the wind”
(The Wind, Michael English 1996)

            The wind is necessary for life. Seeds require the wind for their dispersal. The air, using the wind for flow, is cleaned and refreshed by its movement. Hills erode into beaches and new foundations for plant life. The temperature is often determined by the wind. For centuries, the wind has forced its power past blades and into turbines, granting the mighty mill, in one form or another, a sampling of great power. The wind will cool a space or blow your house in. It is fierce yet gentle. It can be your ally or foe. The wind is the very breath of Mother Nature and the conduit of God.
            Wind has no material shape or form. It is invisible; we cannot see the source or the destination of it. It is an unseen force. Nevertheless, its presence is known through natural remnants. We can see what it does. The very things with which it comes into contact prove that is was there. The wind has much cause and effect. Every action which the wind ‘takes’ can be known through its presence. We can feel the wind and sense it. We cannot touch it, but you can tell it is there. We know when the wind is blowing and we know when it is not blowing. Sometimes you can hear the wind, whistling on a summer’s eve, gently caressing a sweat-stained face. Sometimes the wind screams. Loud or soft, wild or soothing, so it is also with the Spirit.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (John 3:8, NIV)

            For many years, I have tried to live the life that I believe God wants me to have. During my tenure, I have experienced moments of such wonder and bliss that I cannot help but to recognize them as contact with something greater than myself. Whether on a hillside, reading scripture, or in a church filled with people, something happened. Even during great grief, when I needed it the most, it came to me. It was almost as if it was already there. I have been possessed a time or two, like a wind it moved through me. For the time it held me captive I was filled by an energy which had no definition. You could not see it or touch it, but I could feel it there, just out of reach. I have believed, in the past, that I had been “visited” by this Spirit. It never remained for very long as suddenly, it was gone just like the wind.
            I have learned to draw a distinction between speaking of the Spirit in terms of the relational rather than the spatial. If God is omnipresent, then He is already near or within me. He is with me now. He always has been. After all, “this is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of his Spirit” (1 John 4:13, NIV). This does not mean that an indwelling of the Holy Spirit is like carrying a lost loved one in your heart. It does not actually fill you like water would fill a glass. If the Spirit dwells in you, then you are of God. It directs you and “the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God.” (Romans 8:10b, NLT). It is through interaction with this presence, and its indwelling, that determines the consequence of such an encounter. It will always remain, but whether you heed this possession is another matter altogether. The way you behave and your actions toward others is key in recognizing who has seen the wind.            
            It is a curious thing to watch fundamentalist Christians call out for the Spirit every weekend when they gather together, just as they did the weekend before. It is strange indeed when they profess to have been filled with It on every occasion. I always thought that I was doing something wrong. I guess I am confused, maybe even jealous, since they claim It is always with them. I suppose for argument's sake that you have to keep begging and crying out if you want It to stay. Then again, it never seems to. Like the wind, it just comes and goes as It pleases. It seems they must constantly raise their hands and raise their voices yet they always seem to rinse and repeat, a constant notion, a repetitive motion, always seeming to have the need to come back for more. Why did it leave them? What happens to It during the rest of the week? Are refills free?
            I have to remind myself that God is not a lovely rush or peaceful breeze. He is a way of being, not a tactile sensing. He is not a feeling. In fact, I thought He was with us always, “even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b, NIV).



The Wind
(Originally Posted Wednesday, September 15, 2010)

Roots of English: An Etymological Dictionary
Eugene J. Cotter, 1998.