What Then?

What Then? September 6, 2010

What if you slept?

And what if,

In your sleep

You dreamed?

And what if,

In your dream,

You went to Heaven

And there plucked

A strange and

Beautiful flower?

And what if,

When you awoke,

You had the flower

In your hand?

Ah… what then?

—Coleridge

Like sunlight on a spider’s web, this small poem illumines a web of relationships between the inner world of spirit, presence, and dreams and the outer world of roots, wires, and pavement. Coleridge honors a timeless force that helps us withstand the press of existence; a force as compelling as gravity—the transformative force that turns the dream inside into a flower in the world. How does this happen? No one really knows. But he suggests that all realms are real and that part of our job as ethical beings has always been to bring what is inner out. “What then?” he says. What kind of life would be possible? What kind of connection waits between living things? He suggests in very few images that luminescence is a dynamic of life; that everything that lives shines from within and that this luminescence infuses the world with spirit. He suggests that luminescence is how spirit keeps touching us without being visible.

What, then, is our experience with the intuitive sequence of sleeping, dreaming, and bringing something back into the world? It’s all very human. Nothing odd about it. The call is not to isolate and judge the parts, but to understand the mysterious physics of the whole. We are not bereft when sleeping, we are en route. We are not untethered when dreaming, but mining the core. We are not out of order when bringing something back into the life of each other’s days, but breaking ground like a flower. The usefulness of these inward gestures depends on whether we hold them with the humility of not-knowing. Can we become students of this luminescent dynamic of life? Can we become apprentices in the art of going inward and bringing something beautiful and useful back into the world? Can we retrieve and share bits of wisdom from the other side like a beach comber adding his broken shell to the pile?
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