Although my eye feels better, my body has not been filled with light lately. An emotional healing process and all the pressures of daily modern life had taken their toll. As I set off on my walk, with Spiritualized’s muted, beautiful, new album on my headphones, it started to rain. I was planning a six-mile walk, and this was no way to begin. But I pulled up my hoodie, kept my had down, and after a few short minutes, the skies began to clear just enough, and I could see streaks of sun behind the grey clouds. I actually took my headphones off so I could hear the birds singing. Sometimes one walk can change everything. I am reminded this morning of a brochure I picked up in he lobby of the Adventist hospital where my son was born almost eight years ago. It was called “Walking: The Miracle Medicine.” It advocated walking as the best form of exercise, as well as a vegetarian diet, and abstaining from smoking, alcohol, and caffeine. There was a religious message as well, and although I do remember the word “God” used a few times, I can’t say the message was overly preachy. This small tract basically advocated living a pure life, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. I don’t know where that little pamphlet is today (I managed to keep it for at least a few years) but I am always reminded of its message whenever I go for a walk. Walking isn’t just good for the body. It’s good for the spirit. On a walk, you can let you mind off its leash. I started a book today called Eat Sleep Sit by Kaoru Nonomura. It’s about the author’s yearlong experience training as a Zen Buddhist monk at Japan’s most rigorous Zen temple, Eiheiji. founded by Dogen in the 13th century. His experience begins with a walk to the temple gates. After a meal and a night’s sleep, “I turned and looked back. Yes-that was where I’d stood so long the previous day…In the end I’d shed my sandals and crossed the threshold. The place was the same as yesterday, but I myself was changed. During the single night I’d spent behind that door, everything that had made me me had disappeared.” The person that leaves the house in the morning with raindrops falling on her head is not the same person that returns to the house two hours later with sunshine on her face. Likewise, the person that goes to sleep at night is not the same person that wakes up in the morning . This process continues our entire life. In fact, it is our entire life. Thankfully.
Normally, I would be hesitant to begin a post with a quote from the Bible. As a recovering Catholic, I shy away from anything that suggests preachiness. But here is a beautiful image that I saw in my eye surgeon’s office yesterday. It’s calligraphy by an artist named Michael Noyes. Although the translation of this verse that I prefer comes from the NRSV (“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”), I can still relate. In my case, I suffered an injury to my left eye that I have been dealing with for months now, but has hopefully been healed by a procedure I had done last Thursday. I can tell you from experience that Matthew 6:23 is also true: “But if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” The exclamation point says it all. Of course, Jesus isn’t just speaking about bodily health here; he is talking about spiritual health. But when you are in pain, be it physical or spiritual, then not only yourself, but the whole world, can seem full of nothing but darkness. I woke this morning, pain-free, and hearing the birds outside my window. This, after spending the last five days recuperating at home, mostly in my darkened bedroom, listening to music, wearing dark glasses, and occasionally pleasantly numb from pain medication. As I predicted in my last post, Spiritualized was streaming almost nonstop through my headphones. That, and Jason Pierce’s earlier group, Spacemen 3. (Funny that one of Spacemen 3’s albums I had on constant repeat was called Forged Prescriptions) I also had what I can only describe as various totems and charms scattered around my bed. The hard wooden mala beads bought from a Zen Buddhist monastery in upstate New York. The yellow Livestrong bracelet. The copper statue of the Buddha from Thailand. The plastic Kung Fu Panda Happy Meal toy my kids bought for me at a yard sale a few years ago that says “Skadoosh” when you pull on his arm. The get-well card from my pen pal in Portland, Oregon. The Oxford Bible. Maybe all of these things healed me. Maybe none of them did. Maybe it was my surgeon’s tools and his calm, sure hands. The truth is, I’m not sure if I’m really healed at all. Not the all-the-way, without-a-doubt kind of healed anyway. Jason Pierce sings a lot about Jesus in his music. In fact one reviewer classified his music into three types: Love songs, drug songs, God songs. Healing can happen in many ways, an even though today is a rainy day, my whole body is full of light.
I could be paraphrasing, but I believe it was David Byrne who said that writing about music was like dancing about architecture. Five years ago, this blog started out essentially being about walks in the woods, skinny-dipping, and homespun Zen wisdom. Funny to be where I am now. Most of my posts couldn’t have been possible without modern technology. A far cry from Henry Thoreau’s books, journals, pencils, wood-shingled cabin and flute. So much of what I write about, I assume that people already know. Sometimes it seems like a binary echo chamber in here, this virtual cabin in the woods. Later this week, I’ll be laid up in bed, recovering from some minor surgery. Not exactly a near-death experience like Jason Pierce of Spiritualized had, but I’m sure there will be a fair amount of suffering all the same. It almost seems silly to post links to this, one of my favorite bands of all time, when you can just Google them or look it up on Wikipedia. Instead, I’ll just give you a link to a story on Pierce’s illness , the band’s webpage, and Pitchfork’s review of Pierce’s newest album. Most of what Pierce and his band mates have done over the years is stellar. My personal recommendations would be to start with their transcendent Royal Albert Hall recordings, and then maybe check out the slyly named Complete Works Volume 1. What does Spiritualized sound like? Hope plus death plus drugs plus transcendence plus heaven plus drone, all backed by a 40-member gospel choir. As I’m recovering from my procedure, I’ll be channeling Pierce’s soaring, spiritual music through my ear buds, and it will be miles better than any drug the doctor can prescribe. Why don’t you smile, now?