Friday, May 16, 2008

The Journey

He was fifty years old, and he still didn't know how his own mind worked, what its deepest desire was. (from The Story of Everything, Chapter 19)

I came to the science-religion dialogue as a scholar in neither science nor religion. My professional work was in psychology, and there I wrote books about the course of life, about memory for life events, and about the impact of lives on future generations. Somewhere along the line I left "scientific" psychology to record the tales of life's journey. They called it "narrative" psychology.

As I was finishing the last of those books, a story came to me. It came in several pieces over the course of several weeks. A title came, a character, a personification, a plot. The Story of Everything. When I told it to my wife, I wept.

I had no idea why the story moved me as it did, but I knew I had to write it. It took five years. I had a lot of science to learn and a genre to figure out, and besides, other things were going on in my life. At first I thought I was writing a children's story but then I realized it was a parable.

Only now do I realize why I was so moved. This was the tale of my journey. The events weren't autobiographical, but the energy surely was:

Story. Adam had no idea how often the word entered his mind and how seldom it escaped. He didn’t know how many beginnings and middles and endings were trapped inside of him, or how they kept lining up, now this way, now that. He didn't realize that, at his core, Matter was a story, not a science. Life was a story, too, not "biology." It was narrative, all of it, but Adam didn't know it. He was fifty years old, and he still didn't know how his own mind worked, what its deepest desire was.

Later, Adam was enlightened:

One morning at dawn, a low shaft of sunlight streaked through the valley where Adam was staying and outlined every flower, rock, and pebble. It was a solitary ray, and it lasted no more than a minute. But in that minute there awoke in Adam a solitary longing. Why that? he asked. Why now? It made no difference: he might as well have told the sun to go back down. For in that minute Adam learned which way from here. He learned what he had yet to do in life, perhaps what he was born to do. I am to speak a Story, he said, and he knew which story it was.

And yet he could not speak that story. Something had to happen first, and it finally did in a dream:

. . . When the sky began to panic, clouds came in and covered it, clouds so thick and low that he could hardly breathe. It began to rain.

Adam stood in the rain. As it came over him, he felt a cleansing. Something said, I forgive. And something else, I am forgiven.

Adam could not speak his story because it was new and he loved the old, even though it was deeply flawed. He had to forgive the old its sins. He needed forgiveness for abandoning it. Then he could speak "cleanly."

No matter how compelling the New Story, no matter how much the evidence behind it, there is still an Old to leave behind. You may say good-bye to it. You may say good riddance. You may feel regret. You may never look back. You may deny there was a leaving. The kind of departure depends upon the point of departure, on the ties that bound you to the place of origin. They can be complex, and they're all part of the journey, or at least they were of mine. Forgive and be forgiven.

Note: You can read the tales of science-spirit journeys by clicking here. They've been submitted by readers, and most (but not all) are about traveling from Old to New. You're more than welcome to add to the collection.




Sharon Lippincott said...

How delicious that you were able to write this entire parable, and after such a generous span of time, claim it as your own story after all. Wonderful!

There has to be some additional message for the rest of us in this delayed revelation. I'm waiting for that to come clear.

Mark A. Thomas said...

Why shouldn't the primal voice be that of the intelligent inquiring child?