In Jim Jarmusch’s movie Dead Man, the native American character Nobody or “He Who Talk Loud, Say Nothing,” quotes from William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence in a moving scene:
Every night and every morn,
Some to misery are born.
Every morn and every night,
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
And some are born to endless night.
Watching the movie as a nineteen year old I misheard one of the lines as “Some are born to sweet the light,” and took it as a kind of marching order to figure out how to do so. When I finally looked up the original poem, I decided to stick with my misreading.
Some are born to sweet the light.
That is, to sharpen focus on hose aspects of life that make it worth living, how to reveal those places where heaven seems to touch earth. To maintain the capacity for this awareness regardless of external circumstance. How to make a practice of recognizing the sacred in such a way that others could see it more clearly manifest.
Raised in a Pentecostal context this line of thinking led toward transcendent or powerful manifestations and dramatic spiritual experiences.
The older I get the more drawn I am to subtle awareness, the little drops of the sacred that open out into some kind of vast expanse, that both remain in their simplicity and at the same time upend the very idea of the mundane.
As much as storms rage in our nation in our world both literally and metaphorically, some of us are born to sweet the light.
Some days that means a simple noticing: noticing the work and complexity and layers of development that led to the car that helps me drive my son to school. It means noticing the sun and the rain and the process of photosynthesis and the life principle at work in biological processes that created the arugula at the end of my fork.
To notice that, in some sense, we’re all on life support. The trees are helping me breathe. The sun gives life. The force of gravity is holding things in place. There’s a heartbeat I did nothing to generate, and a thousand other forces at work maintaining life.
Regardless of the challenges in the news, both real and overdramatized, there are a thousand counterbalancing acts of simple generosity and kindness.
Regardless of the ongoing dramas of life the ego wants to get sucked into, the mystic feels a call to pursue the inner witness. To find that inner calm untouched by time as a direct experience. To realize the divine essence beneath the illusion and distortion and grasping. To be both fully in the world but not of it.
This usually requires a degree of inner work to let go of some of the baggage that makes us more prone to seek out things to be worried about or shocked by or offended by – to let go of what usually preoccupies us, and feel that peaceful nature beneath the surface winds.
Through this we can learn to live in deep time and not invest so much emotion into the fear-mongering and catastrophes of the weekly news cycles, though of course if we become aware of a problem and can take action to alleviate suffering, we should do so.
There’s a call to find simple practices to bring that reality about within our very selves. It requires returning to the original silence. Strangely the mystics (and Genesis) say that’s where the light comes from anyway. But we’ve got to stay attuned to that subtler call.
Some are born to sweet the light.
Thomas Keating and Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee on oneness and being rooted in the sacred
Richard Rohr on Living In Deep Time
Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man