I live in Chicago where we have endured a particularly lengthy and brutal winter. Weeks and weeks of bitter cold and grey, unremitting winds that freeze the tears on your face. Today was the first real break. It would still feel cool to my southern family, maybe even to me in in October after a comparably long summer, but today it was heavenly. Walking from my work, which is in the Loop, the center of downtown Chicago, to the train for my evening commute back to Wheaton, I was awash in what can only be described as ecstasy.
Every building stood forth against the pale sky in formidable pride and I reveled in the subtle varieties and the flow of styles as I moved westwards. Young women chatted loudly on the cell phones and I beamed at the sense of love and friendship they were sharing across the invisible distances. The business men seemed more at ease, slightly but noticeably less tense without their shoulders unconsciously tensing upwards to protect their necks. I saw a man shaped like a fallen cupcake locking up a McDonald’s and thought, ‘yeah, that looks right’. Best of all, on one corner stood a beggar with a large sign, ‘Hungry and homeless’, and behind him on his crate stood an exuberant young woman who massaged his shoulder through his coat. He looked slightly bewildered, but afterwards he shrugged again and again in genuine satisfaction.
If I were a poet, I’d find a way to capture all this is in verse, with a rhythm of sounds to reflect my pace through the city. If I were an artist, I’d capture some of these moments in colors, shapes, movements or melody. Me, I’m a theosophist, a philosopher and mystic. This ecstasy comes so frequently, and occasionally with such force, I just ride it and let the accompanying humility and gratitude protect me from being overtaken with inspired madness. Still, sometimes I end up laughing out loud, or just grin bigger than my muscles allow. And later, I reflect, dwell, question, probe for meaning, significance, compare my experiences to others, look for ways to guide others here.
Even as I write this, I’m lingering in the afterglow. Every song that comes up on my iPod threatens to destroy me with bliss. There is simply too much beauty in the world, and my instinct is to strip naked and dance, to cradle the faces of strangers in my hands and affirm their divine source, the glorious uniqueness of their being, to loudly exclaim the inexplicable, overabundant, undeniable and overwhelming suchness’of every spatial, temporal and conceptual moment of existence. But I’m on a crowded train and that might end with me in a police station. Alas.
Do some of us have a predisposition to ecstasy? Am I genetically prone to rapture? Is there an evolutionary purpose to such feelings? Is there a place for the modern mystic? How would society respond if I did act out the above inclinations, but was still able to rationally defend my actions, even eloquently convey their context? Why don’t I act them out? Are you ever embarrassed by your own joy? Why? Why is it easier to share pain than bliss?
Do you know that I truly, deeply love you?