On Transcendence

On Transcendence

Rev. Aaron Payson

This month’s Touchstone Ministry Them is “Transcendence.” The poet David Wanger describes our theme thusly.

The Silence of the Stars by David Wagoner

When Laurens van der Post one night
In the Kalihari Desert told the Bushmen
He couldn’t hear the stars
Singing, they didn’t believe him.  They looked at him,
Half-smiling. They examined his face
To see whether he was joking
Or deceiving them. Then two of those small men
Who plant nothing, who have almost
Nothing to hunt, who live
On almost nothing, and with no one
But themselves, led him away
From the crackling thorn-scrub fire
And stood with him under the night sky
And listened. One of them whispered,
Do you not hear them now?
And van der Post listened, not wanting
To disbelieve, but had to answer,
No. They walked him slowly
Like a sick man to the small dim
Circle of firelight and told him
They were terribly sorry,
And he felt even sorrier
For himself and blamed his ancestors
For their strange loss of hearing,
Which was his loss now. On some clear nights
When nearby houses have turned off their televisions,
When the traffic dwindles, when through streets
Are between sirens and the jets overhead
Are between crossings, when the wind
Is hanging fire in the fir trees,
And the long-eared owl in the neighboring grove
Between calls is regarding his own darkness,
I look at the stars again as I first did
To school myself in the names of constellations
And remember my first sense of their terrible distance.
I can still hear what I thought
At the edge of silence were the inside jokes
Of my heartbeat, my arterial traffic,
The C above high C of my inner ear, myself
Tunelessly humming, but now I know what they are:
My fair share of the music of the spheres
And clusters of ripening stars,
Of the songs from the throats of the old gods
Still tending even tone-deaf creatures
Through their exiles in the desert.

Source: https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-silence-of-the-stars/

I remember the night I sat with a beloved cousin on his front lawn in old framed aluminum chairs, the ones with fiberglass mesh woven and attached to the frames with rivets.  The house was dark and there wasn’t a street-light for a mile or so down the road.  We leaned back and stared up at the stars waiting to find a fast moving object.

“There!” he whispered, pointing to the east. And I caught my first glimpse of a satellite. Or was it the space-station?. Either one was thrilling to behold. 250 miles above the earth’s surface, moving over 17,000 miles per hour.  There was no discernable sound of the speeding object, just a quiet graceful jaunt across the night sky and gone from our view in a split second or two.  We spotted the milky trail of our universe, and the big dipper ladling the quiet mystery of the stars for all to enjoy.

The experience of this vastness, the sparkle of spent planets and all manner of objects in the night sky is a moment of wonder for me.  In that stillness, that cacophony of quiet, I am able to lose myself in a moment of unitary oneness.  I think we human beings are meant to experience this.  This feeling is not an accident of our physiology, but a biological trait that assists us in understanding our small place in the cosmos.  This kind of transcendence is important for me spiritually.  It is a moment of humility and awe.  A breathless moment of greater belonging.

My prayer for you this month is simple.  May you come to know and appreciate your place in the cosmos.  May you be comforted by your belonging to that which is so much larger than your self.  And may you find in such moments of awareness, joy and peace.

Blessed Be,