Words and language simply cannot grasp the dynamic movement of this perception. The Buddha, upon his enlightenment, realized that this experience, or whatever had happened to him, could not be taught because it is alive and personal. Imagine trying to describe the beauty of the Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis, to someone who was blind from birth. And which artist can truly convey the "meaning" of his work by explaining it in intellectual terms or plain language? The work may have an entirely different meaning from one person to the next, based on life experience. A human corpse in a morgue says nothing about the life that once roamed the streets, indulged in relationships and impacted society. In like manner, a work of art cannot simply be explained. It is something that must be entered into, embraced and experienced totally with our entire being, in relation to our personal experiences. A work of art goes past its own form, goes past the mind, the reasonable and the logical; a work of art transcends the mundane to enrapture us and carry us into a realm grounded in our fundamental experience as human beings. And in experiencing the work of art, we behold a beauty or a truth in ourselves that has been illuminated for us with the help of the artist. That is the gift of the artist. Likewise, this perception is Jesus' message.
Words simply fail to capture it; however, when we try to use words to describe the experience, we reach for the metaphor for reasons explained earlier. Metaphors and parables are the most illustrative and illuminating language we have at our disposal. A metaphor is the best tool available, a poet's paramount opportunity to captivate audiences and invite them into an experience that illuminates his poems. The poem, like any work of art, is beautiful only because we connect with it, we can relate to it on a very personal and profound level. It strikes a chord within us, an experience that reveals something about the harmony or wonder or horror or sublime nature of life, of our existence. The poet captures our imagination through the rhythm of words. It is perhaps not surprising that we often use terms associated with sound or music to demonstrate how we are affected by beautiful art. The Lebanese poet, Khalil Gibran said that we live to discover beauty and that all else is a form of waiting. We are constantly in search of beauty, which is a form of resonance. We see structures or events in nature and call them beautiful. We experience them as a synchronicity, events occurring in tandem, together in a moment of symmetry that connects with our experience of life. Somehow, through this resonance, this vibration, this synchronicity, we are aligned and integrated with that primordial flow of life. We become a part of this current and are carried by it, not by our own effort. We go past the dualities in life and our judgments and prejudices drop off; we feel refreshed and energized.
This perception or experience requires something from within each one of us that no one else can give us. It requires an impulse, an awakening of something within us. We cannot buy or obtain this understanding or experience. No amount of effort can bring it forth. No man or woman, no institution, no one in society can give us this understanding, not even Jesus. We must open the door. This understanding has to awaken and radiate from within our unique life in the same way that genuine love awakens. It cannot be forced upon anyone. To illustrate this topic further, I would like to share a rather simplistic but effective example.
At one time or another, most of us have attended school as children. Imagine that a teacher assigns for homework a math problem to be solved. The student goes home and spends perhaps a little bit of time looking at the problem and trying to solve it. After spending only a few minutes on the problem, the student gives up and decides that there are other, more important activities she would rather be doing. The next day, the student goes to class. The teacher proceeds to work out the problem on the chalkboard. The student can see and hear how the teacher arrived at the solution; however the student has not become intimately involved with it. It has not entered her heart. Her mind can comprehend how the teacher came to the solution but it is still outside the realm of her experience. She has to be guided and cannot complete the journey on her own. In a way, she simply has to have orthodox faith that the solution is available and reachable.
Now on the other hand, imagine if this student had gone home and spent an hour or more in an attempt to solve the problem. After many frustrating hours and countless distractions or temptations to give up, there comes an instance of absolute clarity, of lucidity. The student has an epiphany and lo and behold, the student proceeds to solve the problem. She breaks through the surface of the problem; she removes its world mask and becomes intimate with the problem and solution. It is now within her realm of experience. She has slain the dragon. She knows everything there is to know about the problem and can explain the solution to others from any conceivable angle, because she has meditated upon it and dwelt upon it for hours. She sees the problem and the solution as one process. No teacher or master of mathematics can give her that experience. It is something that must awaken in the student. She had to suffer, to endure the pain of the unshackling of her understanding, to "do the work." This epiphany, this breakthrough, represents a shift in consciousness. The solution has become real and realized. That, which was once abstract on paper, has come to life; the "Word was made flesh." Importantly enough, this experience is almost always preceded by some amount of perplexity, frustration and suffering. In his book, The Prophet, Gibran writes: "Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding." As we shall see in subsequent paragraphs, psychological suffering and sorrow often adorn the road to heaven, especially in the Christian paradigm.
A reading of the Message through metaphors reveals an experience that has an everlasting and profound effect that theology cannot provide. Theology can be described as a system of ideas built upon the concretization of the first impulse of wonder or vision that spawned the mystery of the religion. And unfortunately, theology, or its interpretation thereof, has led us to this ephemeral world that we live in today, a world devoid of awareness of our own mystery, of the sense of being. Theology, for some in the old days, used to be a jumping off point to that place where it could not admittedly go, into mystery. In its proper context, theology can function properly for humanity. Our western spirit, tethered to a theology that is several thousand years old, has now been raped by science. As a result, our religion has become impractical and impotent in today’s world. And we know too much to turn back. Science and theology have grown consistently apart but science and personal or mystical experience are quickly converging. In fact, science is luminous to the experience; they reflect each other. The latest discoveries in science or physics are very much aligned with the experience of the sage. Now there are clues in theology that reveal this experience; but these dimly lit clues are like fingerprints left on a smoking gun. Whether or not the four Gospels were originally written or altered by someone who was seeking to create an ideology, an authority, or a theology, we can still find life, mystery and metaphor in them that are applicable in today's world. They were born out of that authentic and creative impulse.