When I saw this piece of art by Motohiko Odani, I was reminded in the most beautifully aching way of the highest of highs and the holiest of all human connections. The aboveness that the experience of making love can be when two people are bonded spiritually as well as physically and approach each other with no reservations
It wasn’t Odani’s intent, and you may see something totally different, but his sculpture is remarkably similar to an image that’s been in my head for over three decades. In my vision, two lovers become one and their merged soul temporarily leaves the body for a higher realm. For all the times I’ve made love, I’ve felt this type of out of body experience twice. It’s difficult to explain what that meant to me without sounding like some half-baked utopian mystic, but I suppose it’s the same for people who’ve had near-death experiences that left them convinced that heaven exists. Whether or not the soul actually leaves the body — whether or not there really is such a thing as a soul or heaven — aren’t debatable questions anymore. Even if it was proven that we only imagined such things, there would be the wondrous and inexplicable ability of our brains to carry ourselves out of ourselves . . . to reach the highest of highs we can conceive of and make them as real to us as the earth under our feet.
To have such high experiences is to know potential, not just for own selves, but for all that extends into the world. And these other-realm experiences aren’t limited to transcendental love or white tunnel visions. I knew them as a child, when my dreams were at their most vivid, and as a teen when my thoughts soared beyond the limitations of reality.
Despite the difficulties I’ve known in life, I’ve also known some absolutely perfect moments. Brilliant times of clarity, small miracles, intense connections, and feelings of love so deep that everything else in the universe just felt petty and meaningless. These are the times that truly matter to me today as I sit under a red umbrella on a beautiful Tucson afternoon and while that may sound tritely sweet, it’s really not. There’s a certain melancholia that lies between the spaces of what is and what could be — of knowing how much potential there is in the world and seeing so little of it realized (or even acknowledged) — and in understanding that the gap between reality and possibility is unlikely to ever be bridged, not in this lifetime and possibly never.
Even a handful of sacred experiences can make so much feel profane . . . like almost everything else in the world, from the burying of live infant girls to the popularity of Fifty Shades of Gray. Genocide, racism, oppression, violence . . . the shallowness of entertainment, religious and social brainwashing, the seediness of politics . . . there’s so much that’s truly, objectively, irrationally wrong in our world, and all these wrongs are connected in a way that the good is not. The good is quite separate — a minority that stands on the sidelines because what’s in the thick middle is just too much. Besides that, good has been consistently scolded for its desire to see more of itself in the world’s reflection.
You can’t change the world. Life isn’t fair. It’s always been this way. No one ever said it’d be easy. It is what it is. Focus on your own life. It’s not your problem. Don’t worry about things you can’t control.
There are people who can wear blinders, purposely and even blissfully. I’ve never been one of them. Sometimes, I wish I could be. Sometimes, I wish I could read the news, watch television, or listen to cultural conversations without thinking about how corrupt and unthinking this beautiful, short thing called life can be made. I can’t be casual about the wrongs in life — I’ve never worked up the apathy and level of self-centeredness needed to not be moved or provoked by what’s going on around me — so instead I try to balance the contents of my own mind.
I carry the habit I’ve had since childhood, and think of all that could be and not just what is. It’s a mental exercise, a soulful wandering and a never ending lucid daydream, but it keeps me in a space of possibility rather than despair.
Sitting under a red umbrella on a sunny Tucson day, I think about how love really can transcend, if we allow for that possibility.
I think about my friend Pat, who died on the 19th of May, with no fear, no regrets, and total acceptance. I think about her poetry and all the phrases I remember even though it’s been years since I read her work.
I think about the many talented people I know — painters, musicians, writers — who can’t catch a break in a climate of Snooki, Real Housewives, Glenn Beck and Joel Osteen but who create anyway because it’s who they are, regardless of whether they’re spending their days behind a cash register or in a factory.
I think about the aboveness of art and how almost all of us have artistic ability, whether we spend it on paper, on careers, or on raising children. I think about the gifts we have, both those we realize and those that pass by unnoticed, and I wonder what the world would be like if everyone was able to reach their highest potential.
I make a margarita and open a new page on my MacBook, a new chapter of my second book. For a moment, I wonder if it will be worth putting out there. Then I smile and start tapping love into the keys.