Friday, August 2, 2013

A Day On The Road

Forgive me, Gentle Readers. I'm headed out of town in less than an hour and won't have time for a new post today. However, I find myself in an exceptionally good mood, and I want to leave you with something, so have an old favorite of mine from the early days of Eternity Road.


As with most wage earners, my early-morning routine is essentially invariant: get up, get clean, feed the livestock, gulp down some coffee, and drive to work. It's so regular that I sometimes wonder if I'm awake when I do it. My conscious record of the day's events doesn't really start until I'm ensconced in my office and pounding away at the keys.

Now and then, I do wake up...if what I'm about to describe isn't in some larger sense a kind of dream.

I'd had an unusually good night's sleep, and woke free from the usual complaints of an aging male body. The morning routine proceeded smoothly, with no hassles. I packed my lunch and other impedimenta, kissed the C.S.O., and got into Chrissy the Chrysler feeling as good and relaxed as a middle-aged man can feel on a Thursday morning. Out of the garage, onto the road, and light the afterburners: the workday looms ahead.

There's a flat, straight stretch of divided highway, starting not far from my house, which is part of my commuting route. Long Island being the traffic nightmare that it is, even at the early hour at which I travel (5:30 AM), that road is usually quite full. Hundreds of cars go clipping along at 65 MPH while their drivers attend to such last-minute needs as shaving, toothbrushing, or checking their investments in the Wall Street Journal.

Not today. By some coincidence, everyone in the area slept late this morning, except for your humble Curmudgeon.

There was no one else on the road. The darkness was a blanket of peace. By another coincidence, the road had been resurfaced only a few days before; the humming of the tires against the asphalt was a perfect, smooth hum, a single low cello note played by a bow of infinite length. I was doing what I was meant to do, in an appliance perfectly mated to its application, under conditions that could not have been better.

I broke free of time.

What meaning has time, when all is exactly as it should be? What function has the time-binding element in human consciousness, when there's nothing to think about, worry over, or work on? At such a moment, those things, seemingly an inseparable component of Man's earthly experience, cease to trouble us. For that brief space, they are not.

Where do they go? No one can say. But go they do.

It didn't last long. How could it? Eventually, I encountered traffic lights, and other drivers, and ultimately, my destination. But it was real: a moment clipped free of the bondage of time and stretched out to eternity.

A moment of bliss on Eternity Road.

If you've ever had such a moment, no doubt its character has posed you some problems in recollection. It's an unnatural state for human consciousness. Our dominant mental mode is time-bound: memory, prognostication, and cause-and-effect reasoning. One cannot apply that mode to an experience that utterly omits the time element from its matrix. Such a moment will remain forever opaque to our understanding.

Yet it was real. It had its own character, distinct from the sequential progression of the instants we experience in normal reality. It left traces in my psyche that I can still feel. In some ineffable sense, I remember it, though describing it seems impossible and I could not recreate it by any purposive means.

Do all persons have such experiences? What do they mean? Is it even fair to ask if they have a meaning?

Under that cloak of timelessness, do we devolve to some lower, animal-like state from which Reason must win free, or do we approach a higher one, in which all things are complete, all knowledge is known, and eternity is revealed as a single event?

Only one thing about it is certain: it is good. That's not a conclusion drawn from any rational evaluative process, but a direct perception of quality, a news flash hot off the nerve wires. In all other ways, it teases at our reason, being the very antithesis of the faculty that strains to encompass it.

It is good, but it is not a good. It cannot be grown, mined, manufactured, or hunted down. It comes on its own schedule, and its own terms.

It's a brief immersion in totality.

M. Scott Peck observed in his book The Road Less Traveled that the experience of reality as a oneness is the goal of all mystical and spiritual yearning. This corresponds exactly to the obliteration of time. But if such an experience is beyond our powers to produce by conscious effort, then what is its genesis? Is it coincidental, a product of the fortuitous collision of just the right temporal elements at just the right moment? Is it entirely subjective, a matter of possessing a particular mental state independent of one's objective circumstances? Or is it a teaser? A foretaste of the totality to come when we have at last shuffled off this mortal coil?

When You and I behind the Veil are past,
Oh, but the long, long while the World shall last,
Which of our Coming and Departure heeds
As the Sea's self should heed a pebble-cast.

A Moment's Halt -- a momentary taste
Of Being, the Well Amid the Waste --
And Lo! -- the phantom Caravan has reach'd
The Nothing it set out from -- Oh, make haste!

From here on out it will be an ordinary Thursday, I'm sure. I have meetings to attend, memos to write, and assorted persons to wheedle and cajole. If I'm lucky, I might even get to write a little code; it's a blessing I don't often have in these latter years. But however the trials and travails of today or tomorrow might eventuate, I have my gift from this morning: one instant of timeless perfection, when all was exactly as it should be. I shall savor that gift for as long as I may.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow.

And may God bless and keep you all.

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