A few weeks ago, I tossed off a little phrase in an email in one of these missives. I said, “Don’t forget. You are a fucking cathedral.”
It resonated. For some of you, it resonated down in your bones. Scores of you wrote me in triumph or glee, crowing, “YES!!! Yes I goddamn fucking AM! Thank you for the reminder!” You could feel it inside yourself, the soaring vastness, the timeless bigness of you.
But some of you weren’t quite sure what I meant. And then I realized that I didn’t know how to explain it to you, which made me wonder if even I knew what I meant. But then I realized– I damn well did.
I mean that you are big enough to handle everything your life brings to you.
Life will bring you beauty and joy. Sorrow and disappointment. Injustice and delight and peaches and rain and crayons.
And you are big enough for all of it.
We are taught, too often, to be small and pinched versions of ourselves. Moderate your opinions. Don’t make waves. Don’t be inconsiderate. Don’t make anyone feel bad.
But in order to handle the magnificent and glorious and messy and chaotic wonder that is real life, we will need to grow absolutely enormous.
We will need to let our hearts soar to the heavens. We will need to put down deep roots into the earth. We will need to take breaths into lungs as big as forests.
Luckily, you can do this. You can contain magnitudes. You are vast.
Cathedrals are a funny metaphor, because they can just as easily be seen as symbols of oppression, too, as cold aged craggy hunks of a crumbling system. And yet what always strikes me about them is how timeless they feel. I’ve felt that timelessness in a Shinto gate– the very simplest of cathedrals– and in a crazy turreted stone beast in Europe. I’ve felt it in a grove of trees and in a circle of women.
Life is a mystery, darlings, at least to me. When people explain how they’ve got it all figured out– it’s just hard work, see, or it’s your vibration– I find them hard to believe. Who can look at the wild wooly wonder of life and try to reduce it to a set of rules?? What folly!
And yet unless you live in a mystic’s cave, there are all these very real life humdrum things to be attended to. Life keeps tumbling on, needy and clamoring and whispering. We can stand there for a while with our heads tipped back, staring at the glorious sky, but after a while somebody’s going to get hungry and cranky. Quite probably us.
So we don’t have to be just one thing. We can be mystics and mothers and bosses. Dreamers and negotiators and revolutionaries. Maybe not all at once. But there is room inside you for all those things.
Sometimes we are brave, and sometimes scared. Aspects of us are wise, and other aspects are a tired toddler. Parts of us are brave and kind, and parts of us are clutchy and desperate.
So we make plans, or we scrap them and start from scratch. We gaze at the sky in wonder, or we shake our fist in determination. We plunge deep into the icy silence of truth, or we light a match and watch it burn everything away.
And then, even after all that, there are probably more dishes that need to be done.
So then that’s what we do.
We wash the dishes. We chop wood. We carry water. We take deep breaths. We send money to refugees and hungry kids. We tell the bully to stand down, especially the bully inside ourselves. We kiss the people in front of us, even if the only way we can kiss them is by waving and blowing from a safe distance. It’s the dance of the EFBA.
It’s an odd dance, this shuffle between mortal and divine, between the sacred and the ridiculous. It’s a good game. All in good fun, deadly serious. It’s a riot, a lark, a dream, a calling.
We don’t know what we’re doing here, not really.
But I know that you are big enough to contain all of it.
Because you are a fucking cathedral.