Letter from the Editor: Approaching Life as Something Enchanting…
With past reviews, I would sometimes ask before going to sleep for inspiration regarding what I should write in this letter, as if I could expect divine intervention in some dramatic form. I hoped that a dream might tell me something or that I would wake up with a phrase in my head a week or so before Cygnus went to print that would offer a clue to a topic worth covering.
Well, let me just say that this doesn’t work. I would also suggest that it must very rarely happen for anyone. Sorry to make it sound unromantic, but it’s more a matter of sitting in front of a blank screen and doing it. Tapping the keys on the laptop. When one sentence is finished you write another one, and so on. Things rarely happen like they do in the stories and I think Saul’s experience on the road to Damascus was exceptional. I believe we are better off paying attention to the host of smaller moments and not getting distracted by big dramas. But that doesn’t make it any the less “divine intervention”. It’s listening to the still small voice instead of the earthquake.
In the eastern religions the unfolding of psychic powers or unusual activities during a diligent meditation practice is treated as something to be noticed and then put behind you. These abilities are known as siddhis, and we are urged by the texts and the great teachers not to be distracted by them. I used to think that this was a bit of a grumpy attitude, an austere purist’s stance. Surely we would want to make the most of a supernatural ability, or revel in it as solid evidence that all our spiritual longing had an objective justification.
Experience however tells us that those teachers were probably right. A moment, perhaps, when we hear a voice in our ear, see someone who shouldn’t be there or experience a jaw-dropping coincidence – these can be distracting, or we can analyse them in endless circles and get intoxicated by them. Instead it’s those small things that can’t be proven, which in the end make us feel more confident on the path. For example, the vague feeling of a presence that isn’t based on the traditional senses, a visualization becoming strangely crystalline on the twentieth repetition or just the feeling that people like you, that you have many more allies than you thought you had and you hear kind and wonderful things being said about you.
It’s a huge act of faith, a multifaceted enterprise, keeping on the spiritual path. But consider these things: Is your life more fulfilling for it all? Are you glad you did it? Are you firmly resolved to continue? I think most of us would answer yes to all these questions. It might sound like heresy but I am not sure I can actually say I am happier. I still have the same neuroses, the same anger and anxiety. On the other hand I feel wiser and capable of more. In the end, it’s just right…
One of my favourite books [from the Summer 2018 Cygnus Review] is The Enchanted Life by Sharon Blackie and it sums everything up for me. If you can, approach life as something enchanted, full of joy, beauty and meaning. If you find it less easy, just walk the walk until it works, keep remembering, and before you know it, everything will start to glow and life will feel ok, not a burden. It doesn’t matter what you believe or what proof you have – everything seems to make sense when it’s been enchanted.
Adam Gordon is the Editor of the Cygnus Review. This letter was published in the Summer 2018 Cygnus Review.