… “when the soul of the commonest object … seems to us radiant.” — James Joyce
I went to the Scrap Exchange yesterday, a place where the potential for epiphany is available by the bin. Cast-offs and discards come in all shapes and sizes: fabric in loose swaths and by the bolt; pieces of metal and plastic, sorted by prior use or present shape; greetings cards, calendars, posters and photographs; buttons, baubles and beads; stuff already made into art and awaiting artistic intervention.
I went looking for fabric, but got caught up in a realm of sheer possibility: what I could make with this, oh, and this, and this!
Reeling myself in, I did find what I went looking for, beautiful colors in already measured sweeps of fabric, perfect for my purposes …
… but there’s one small roll of cloth I may have to hang onto; the one that’s deep blue, printed with stars, reminding me of William Butler Yeats’ poem:
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
Not-yet-used fabric is enticing, even to me, a person whose sewing and craft-work has been of the sporadic persuasion. It is beautiful as it is, and there is a not-yet-ness about it that draws me in, almost as if the material were inviting me to participate in its becoming.
Becoming is happening all the time, to us and to everything in the world around us. Every moment is a mixture of entropy and renewal, decay and recreation. Some moments are marked by deliberate participation: we intentionally set our consciousness on a moment in the story, to give it its full due. I can feel Jesus doing this, in a story the church has chosen for Epiphany, a season of revelation and recognition of Jesus’ nature and identity.
Jesus’ cousin, John, is baptizing Jewish people who want to mark their desire for transformation. Jesus comes to John, and asks for baptism. John is astonished, believing that Jesus is the last person in the world who needs to be transformed; after all, by John’s understanding, Jesus is the Transformer.
But Jesus says, “Let’s do it right.” I can feel the moment choosing him as much as he was choosing the moment.
It is as an aware young carpenter that Jesus walks into the water. He knows what it is to heft wood into his hands, imagine it hewn and constructed into something true and strong. He has felt that moment when the becoming of the object and his own seeking intentions combine to produce a common thing, whose inner beauty is revealed, radiant.
And in this moment, in the water, taken into John’s hands, drawn under the waves, does Jesus feel himself as that which is becoming, or the one that is creating?
Perhaps both. Perhaps potential and intention meet in that moment, uniting in re-creation.
As Jesus rises from the water, steadied by his cousin’s hand, the skies open up, and Love showers down, like light, like flying birds, like a voice ringing out, “This, this is my Beloved!”
In that moment, every common thing radiates light: the soul of every drop of water, every tumbling stone, every person on the riverside glowing with their truest essence, in the light of love.
It happens. And it fades. But you know as well as I that even the fading doesn’t take away from the truth that epiphanies happen. The moments come — and sometimes we attend them and sometimes they are lost on us, passing by like a greeting unheard or a smile unseen. But the moments do come.
And when we stop for that moment, to see, the soul of the commonest object can suddenly gleam into focus, where a moment before it was hidden in potential, like a bowl in a block of wood. Belovedness, in the potential. Belovedness, in the moment. Belovedness, in the becoming.
It’s all here. It’s all around me. Give me eyes to see, this day, the soul in each thing, each person. Radiant.