Detail from Joachim’s Dream, by Giotto , c. 1305

It was as if an angel lifted me up to get an aerial view. There was a vaguely Italian tinge to the dream. It might have been Naples in its sorry state after WWII. There was no visual image, for it seems angels see only into our hearts, don’t enter the clutter of landscapes. I was shown a vision of what it is to be human, from their ultra-human perspective. There were no memes, no biblical imagery, none of what echoes inside and outside our heads. We have gotten so used to this dimension called Cyberspace, it’s hard to envisage another invisible realm. In Italy, at the dawn of the 14th century, it would have been otherwise.

And as I write, I’m aware of using a form of English, with such-and-such grammar and vocabulary, which leaves scant breathing-space for transcendent thought.

The angels have no language, only zephyrs from the movement of their soft wings, which speak to us in a manner which I’ve many times called “Whisperings“. The movement sets up eddies, that is an unpredictable turbulence, as described by James Gleick in his 1987 book Chaos. Thus on page 122 he writes:

What is turbulence then? It is a mess of disorder at all scales, small eddies within large ones….When flow is smooth … small disturbances die out. But past the onset of turbulence, disturbances grow catastrophically. This onset—this transition—became a critical mystery in science. The channel below a rock in a stream becomes a whirling vortex that grows, splits off and spins downstream. A plume of cigarette smoke rises smoothly from an ashtray, accelerating until it passes a critical velocity and splinters into wild eddies.

Such perturbations are real, in the sense of obeying formulae recognized by science. They are a fundamental part of the All. But so was the wordless message I received, with no images, no reason, no detail; leaving me to try and interpret an angel-view. It revealed nothing but human need, irrespective of circumstance and catastrophe.

I wrote a post years ago based on Maslow’s hierarchy of need. In those days I seem to have been preoccupied with the notion of “spirituality”: wondering whether it was truly a “thing”. I was new to the Blogosphere, saw it as a global chatroom rather than a showcase, and acquired a bunch of new-agey contacts ready-made from an old friend.

My angel of this morning has no interest in Maslow’s distinctions. The starting-point is our existence as temporary beings, swinging on a hammock between birth and death. How can death be an enemy? The angel is serene. I try to capture its meaning, but the whispers have little to say, only momentary fragments: an oven, symbolizing need for food and settled accommodation. A water tap, representing a stable location supported by infrastructure. Desire: for somewhere to move about, meet others, find expression through exchange, friendship, sharing, carnal contact. Angels don’t need any of this, that’s what makes them impartial messengers. They know we are upset by suffering, sometimes others’ more than our own. Such is the power of imagination to cause what are now known as “mental health problems”.

As this whispering was transmitted wordlessly, how shall I translate to English, preferably in a single word? Equanimity.

PS Just as it was ready to publish, I nearly lost it. A scary moment, but found I could retrieve it from Drafts. In human life, equanimity is fragile. A line from Apollinaire pops up in my head:

La vie est variable, aussi bien que L'Euripe

5 thoughts on “Equanimity”

  1. From my last post to RELIGION AND PSYCHOLOGY:
    The journey of the second half of life is a journey of return. The accomplishments of the first half of life are complete. Now what has been divided will be united; what has been lost will be recovered; what has been forgotten will be remembered; what is in error will be annihilated.


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