- At the Desert Retreat House-
Every year a National Arts Festival comes to the little desert community where we live. More than 100 artists and craftspeople from all over the country set up booths in a local park where they display their very exquisite creative works - pottery, watercolors, photography, metal design. While I very much enjoy viewing the beautiful works of art on display, the thing I like most about this festival is that it gives me an opportunity to personally talk with the various artists about their creations.
A few days ago I attended the festival and spent some time with a sculptor who works with clay and concrete, asking him how he comes up with ideas about what he wants to create in is art. He told me that when he begins to create a piece he has no pre-conceived ideas as to what he wants to do with it. He just begins to work and he waits to see what emerges - he waits to see whatever is in the clay that will reveal itself to him. I immediately thought of something Michelangelo once said:
Every block of stone has a statue inside and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it...
I saw an angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.
Interestingly enough this was the sentiment most artists I talked with at the Arts' Festival told me - that they come to the world with an uncluttered mind and wait to see what is revealed to them. They wait until beauty breaks through and then when they see it, they paint it or sculpt it or take a photograph of it.
Something happened to me yesterday that made me immediately recall what those artists had told me about waiting for a beauty that is already there to break through and reveal itself into consciousness.
It was an ordinary day as I drove my car through the neighborhood on my way to do some routine errands. Walking along the side of the road was a man and what appeared to be his older son who maybe was in his 20's, along with their two dogs. The thing is that this "son" was barely shuffling along. He appeared to be suffering from some debilitating disease- his limbs all twisted, his face somewhat distorted.
The young man was leaning hard on his dad for support as they struggled along on their walk, their two dogs leading the way, and as I passed them by they all suddenly stopped and (although I had never seen either of them before) they gave me these enormous ear to ear smiles, enthusiastically waving.
In that one single instant a veil was lifted and the essence of pure love came breaking through to me, gentle beauty, divine revelation. The moment was so tender that I literally had to pull off to the side of the road because I could barely take it all in.
There is a beautiful saying that comes out of the Hindu wisdom tradition:
If you hold up a cloth before me, you will not see me any more,
though I shall be as near to you as before.
So alas, God is nearer to you than anything else,
yet because of the veil of your egoism,
you cannot see him.
People often think that divine revelations are something that happen to great religious figures- the mighty voice of God speaks to Moses on a mountaintop, to Jesus or Muhammed in a desert, to great saints in ecstatic moments of prayer. I actually think that divine revelation comes to each and every one of us in the simplest and most routine moments of our lives if we are aware and open to receive it. In fact I think that every moment of every single day there is a divine revelation for the one who has eyes to see or ears to hear.
Yesterday I was like that sculptor working with his clay and concrete waiting to see what might be revealed - love broke through. It was a holy moment of divine revelation.
I saw an angel in the marble and carved until I set him free