Return to Surrender

There are certain moments, or chains of moments, that seem to come in waves – moments in which you stop and notice other moments that ordinarily would have passed into the oblivion of normalcy without another thought.  But somehow, by some miraculous recognition, these moments push us above the surface where we open our eyes and realize we’re breathing just long enough to appreciate it before we sink back down into the murky water of human existence.

Some call it coincidence.  Some call it synchronicity.  What we call it ultimately doesn’t matter, as long as we can take something from it, be it wonder, or a sense of humor, or inspiration.

The other day I was eating lunch in an Italian restaurant – well, mostly sitting with my mouth open faced with a couple violently making out just outside the window – when the ballad “Torna a Surriento” began to play.  I found myself humming along, and suddenly realized that it was Elvis Presley’s “Surrender.”  I remarked with surprise to my companion that I’d never heard this song before, although it clearly predated the version I knew by several decades.

That same evening I decided to keep the tv on as company while I puttered around the house, and not a half hour later, my ears perked up to the strains of… “Torna a Surriento.”

As it turns out, this this was just one of a string of strange familiarities lately.  They all seemed to start at one moment a few weeks ago…

August 24, to be exact, I was sitting in my cubicle at work thinking about tattoos.  (No, this is not part of my job description, sadly.)  I don’t have any tattoos, but I go through periodic phases of consideration.  Unfortunately, the tattoo I most often wish I had isn’t really practicable, so I inevitably turn to the temporary satisfaction of henna or a ballpoint pen.  And thus, only so often during the year, I walk around with an extra bounce in my step thanks to masses of unfurling flowers drawn onto the bottoms of my feet.  (There’s something about the thought of walking on flower petals wherever you go that makes it hard to be glum.)

Now, I was at work perusing the internet for new flower designs, when I came across this hypnotically beautiful image:

The caption tells me it is a mandala designed by a patient of Carl Gustav Jung, and an illustration in the text The Secret of the Golden Flower.

Shortly after viewing the flower, I experience a rather profound epiphany regarding my name, and subsequently decide to start this blog.

Not long after, I assembled a post all about a stroke of luck after a long string of failures, my grandmother, and the magic of the eggshell.  At work the following day, my coworker happens to stop by to tell me a funny story about that old wonder that you can’t break an egg by applying pressure to it vertically, because of the structure of the shell.  I cocked an eyebrow at the odds, but I should have known – jamais deux sans trois. That same afternoon, I sit down to leaf through a new book I purchased about the illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen, and I open to a chapter entitled “Egg of the Universe.”

The chapter contained a discussion prompted by the following illustration of the cosmic architecture, as revealed to the mystic Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179):

(If the universe really is egg-shaped, I suppose we can only hope that when it finally stops expanding, the backlash of contractions will only be applied vertically.)

I fell rather in love with this depiction of the cosmos, and I spent a good deal of time looking at the illustration before delving into the text.  I’ll admit that one of my first impressions was akin to the feeling one has when looking at a Georgia O’Keeffe print.  But I started looking at it more systematically and thinking about the layers of the cosmos, and it seemed to me a very poetic reflection of how I myself envision the universe.

On the outside warbles the never-ending expanse of space filled with exploding gases and flaming stars that we can really only experience by the grace of light and the magic of inertia.  Our sun blazes like a tiger lily, the red-faced south wind breathes fire from the right, and our dazzling night sky crowns the ever-changing moon in all its phases.  And encircled by it all, our clouds, and winds, and atmosphere, and waters above and waters below, and the tiny complication that is earth.

[As a side note, I interpreted that interim ring of chunks with fiery tails like meteors to be the asteroid belt.  If you look at the smaller sun-shapes as the other planets in our solar system, the placement halfway between them is even just about right.  I was delighted to read Hildegard’s own description of that region as “full of sounds, storms, and the sharpest stones large and small.”  This description of the asteroid belt (if we suspend disbelief for a moment) would predate the first recorded suspicions of its existence by at least 600 years!]

Drawn by the connection of egg-related references that had been following me about that day, I sat down to read the chapter, and nearly wept at how familiar and welcoming it felt, describing ways I feel about the universe and its sacred significance, my fixation on the dynamics of microcosm/macrocosm, and my longing for the marriage between science and spirituality.  Eager to find additional sources for similar views, I flip to the end notes and start making a list of references to look up.  I almost drop my pen when I realize what I am writing:

C.G. Jung, The Secret of the Golden Flower.

That was only a few days ago.  I have already ordered my copy of The Secret of the Golden Flower, and it shipped yesterday.  In anticipation, I searched for it on [forgive me] Wikipedia, and I found this quote: “If the practitioner sees the Mandala, that means he/she sees part of the “Original Essence”, and he/she is entering the beginning level of the immortal essence.”  Sounds nice, no?

This brings us to tonight.  Tonight my loving one (with whom I had not discussed the Golden Flower phenomenon) came home with especial exuberance, saying, “I have to show you something!”  Inspired by a science podcast he had listened to earlier that day, he had been prompted to look up “cymatics.”  He sat me down in front of his computer and pulled up a video of a cymatic experiment in which grains of sand were poured on top of a metal plate balanced on top of a speaker.  The sand responded to each note played through the speaker by spontaneously shifting into symmetrical, increasingly intricate formations:

The resulting shapes, according to the caption of the video, might easily be called MANDALAS.

Perhaps this feeling was best described by one Hildegard of Bingen, when she wrote about an egg-shaped vision of the universe, and said:

O Spirit, you are the mighty way in which every thing that is in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness.

What a lovely way to feel.



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