By Matthew Woolford
In the classic kung-fu film, ‘Enter the Dragon’, Bruce Lee told the young student, “Don’t think. FEEEEEEEEL! It’s like a finger pointing away to the moon. Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all of the heavenly glory!”
Despite what has quickly become the debacle of the Great Blackout (February 16), the only thing I hear my neighbours talk about is the moon. It was full, bright, and quintessentially present, appearing to be within an arm’s reach of its cousin Earth.
For one brief, elongated moment, it seemed God removed the celestial veil and gave us all a glimpse of the divine.
My neighbour, a hobbyist astrologer, took out his long-range binoculars and began to study the moon. His cousin joined him and told me afterward that the glare was blinding! My brother Aaron was invited over and was apparently mesmerised as well.
On July 21, 1969, American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. He stepped out of Apollo 11 and onto the moon’s surface, in an area called the ‘Sea of Tranquility’.
Though there were complaints of possible national security lapses during the blackout, for the many who called into the radio stations on the following morning, it was an evening of great and resounding peace.
Of lesser importance, February 16 was the eve of my 36th birthday, and while I do not feel old, I am getting older. Time has been good to me though, for I too am experiencing a great and resounding peace.
This seems to be coming from my climb some way up the mountain of my own life, the journey reciprocating by carving a mountain within me.
This, I believe, was the feeling of the Apostles at the moment of Jesus’ Transfiguration. Mark’s Gospel, Chapter 9:2–4, recounts, “Jesus took with Him Peter, James and John, and led them up a high mountain. There His appearance was changed before their eyes. Even His clothes shone, becoming as white as no bleach of this world could make them. Elijah and Moses appeared to them, the two were talking with Jesus.”
Here, the Spokesman of the Law, Moses, and the Spokesman of the Prophets, Elijah, the Word Himself, and three of the most credible witnesses in salvation history were present.
If God is love, then community is its proof! And any Dominican, lay or friar, could attest to this truth.
The remarkable thing about the Transfiguration, for me, was not that the Apostles saw God in all His splendour, but that they were beginning to realise that God was alive within them as well.
In my favourite novel, Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe wrote, “When we gather together in the moonlit village ground, it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so.”
On the afternoon of the Great Blackout, a passer-by remarked that this was the first time he saw so many of his neighbours. Taking advantage of the opportunity, he bellowed a hearty ‘good afternoon’ to the entire street.
In the prologue to The Different Drum, Dr M Scott Peck, MD shared the parable of ‘The Rabbi’s Gift’:
The Abbot complained to the Rabbi that the spirit had gone out of the people. They then held each other and wept for they knew it was true. In leaving, the Rabbi said, “The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you.” The Abbot shared this with the remaining members of his dying order. As they contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah. And on the off, off chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect. After a while, one young man asked if he may join them. Then another, and another. Within a few years, the monastery had once again become a thriving order.
So many of the solutions we seek are just a pleasant, human experience away. One of the best listeners I know is retired banker Najette Abraham. We chat anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours each week and it is always good, enjoyable, and healthy.
The same could be said for the relationship I have with my physician, Dr Patricia Pierre Le Maitre. These conversations on world politics and women’s rights have probably cured more of my ailments than the prescriptions written.
The next time the moon is out, we should all take the advice of Chinua Achebe and come together, if only because it is good for kinsmen to do so.