A few weeks ago, Indy and I hopped on a flight to Australia. We dedicated the first half of our trip to exploring the Great Ocean Road on AUS’s south east coastline and the second half to me meeting her brothers and extended family. The last time I was in Australia (almost 5 years ago) I was living out of a backpack with a few friends, hitchhiking everywhere we went. That nomadic, Franciscan, “on the fly” style of traveling has a warm place in my heart and always will. This trip, however, got off to a challenging start.
We had dismal weather and were eating through finances way faster than we expected. I found myself becoming increasingly bull-headed and temperamental, unable to manifest the better angels of my nature no matter how hard I tried. Indy took stock of my emotions and suggested we pray (I’ve found that often times, when I’m being stubborn and unreasonable, the last thing I want is to subordinate myself self to God, like a child whose fallen ill, but refuses medicine due to the taste). We collected ourselves, bowed our heads & prayed for “eyes to see”. With a dawning clarity, we began to see each other & our situation in a new light: the previous self-gratifying desires of my heart dissolved and were rectified anew with a spirit that longed for unity with humanity. The last thing I expected to glean from our road trip around Australia, especially during this season of spiritual deconstruction/reconstruction, was to find my way back into such a deep and loving Presence with my wife-to-be.*
After this decisive moment to choose faith over the tempting illusion of control, the entire rest of our time together unfolded in a way that was perfect. I got to meet Indy’s beautiful family, create genuine friendships with her siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles & grandparents & witness both their contagious humor and sincere love. I remember walking up and down the beach at sunset a couple nights after this divine intervention with tears welling into my eyes, touched by the beauty of the children, the families, the lovers all around me. I asked myself, “how could I not see this before?” I was reminded of Mewithoutyou’s lyrics, “She went to Portugal and Spain, but in her mind the entire time it rained, -a glass can only spill what it contains”. My eyes were finally opened wide enough to see what was in front of me. What was a society of strangers just days before began to resemble a universal family, each person a different note to the same song. Beneath the personas that we equip ourselves with for the public eye (or as Ram Dass refers calls “marketplace interactions”), our true selves all groan & ache for harmony, if only we could hush the chattering & demanding ego.
In Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov”, one of the many passages that I’ve reflected deeply on, is when Father Zosima, the beloved teacher to our protagonist, Alyosha, says on His death bed:
"Love to bow down to the earth and kiss her. Kiss the earth and untiringly, insatiably, love, love all creatures, love all things, seek this ecstasy and this frenzy. Drench the earth with the tears of your joy and love those tears of yours. As for this frenzy, be not ashamed of it, cherish it, for is the gift of God”
We catch fleeting glimpses of the “Kingdom of Heaven” that Jesus talks about all the time. In the sparkle of a child’s eye, in the kindness of a stranger, in the fellowship of the traveller, in the humility of those we admire, in the truth when it is put forth. To pour ourselves all the way out for the sole purpose (or “soul purpose”.. heh) of being filled with and sharing the unconditional love of Christ can bring us, like Alyosha, to our knees with joy. And from our knees we see all else as above us, which leads us to a holy paradox: that when we view ourselves as higher than others, we maintain our connections only with those who we see ourselves in, and when we view ourselves as lower, with humility, we value everyone else for what makes them uniquely different.
*I’ll be honest. I’ve been weary of using such religious language for a while now in any public forum. I crawled out of the cracked shell of my traditional fundamentalism 2 years ago and have been re-evaluating faulty theology and reconstituting my beliefs ever since. My harbored resentment towards fast-food Christianity and American evangelicalism has left me calloused, but this recent flare of light has healed much of that animosity.
Hope you enjoy the photos, and if the words speak to you, feel free to comment below or send me an email.