I had driven a few hours. When you are driving hour after hour on the interstate, I am convinced a kind of numbness comes over you. Of course, it is not sufficiently numbing that you lose your senses and crash! There is a funny kind of “interstate numbness” that enables you to be aware enough to drive safely, while at the same time, numb enough to not be crippled by the hours whirring along at seventy miles per hour. Somehow the phrase, “safely dangerous,” comes to mind! I think that was my state of mind.
It was a pretty day. The sun was out and the air was crisp. But inside my car it did not really matter. I know it was not “perfect,” so the windows were up and the temperature regulated. Sometimes I think I am actually missing some of life. Since the weather is not perfect very often---at least where I live---I have a car that can be regulated so that it is nearly perfect. That means I probably live in “my little world” with the illusion that it is more nearly perfect than it really is. Maybe that is a technological form of denial!
Granted I do not desire to go back to the horse and buggy days. I appreciate the Amish and, on occasion, fancy myself living like the Amish. But I know this is a fantasy. My worldview is not Amish. I suppose I could make it if I had to make it. But I don’t want to do it. I’ll leave my horses under the hood of my car and go seventy miles per hour. I know I’ll get there faster. But I suppose the spiritual question is whether I actually get there “better?” And what is “better,” after all?
Maybe it was in these ponderings that I actually saw them. I saw the clouds. This is nothing special, except it means that I came into sufficient consciousness actually to notice. The clouds were special. There were hundreds of them. They were smallish. It was totally different than a cloudless, sunny day or an overcast, totally gray day. They were little, white clouds separated, but still bunched in the sky.
I know they did not just begin to speak to me. I was not that out of it! But I also was sure they began to speak metaphorically. At first, I was just struck by their beauty. In times like these, I realize how unaware I am of the beauty. I am sure I am surrounded by a great deal of beauty, but I also am sure I am not very aware. I want to sharpen my aesthetic sensibilities. I think there is a great deal of spiritual offering in the aesthetic richness all around us.
I was aware of how many clouds there were. Since they were relatively small and the sky was full of clouds as far as eye could see, I knew there were hundreds. Each was its own entity. They were individuals, but they were not alone. Suddenly, it dawned on me the spiritual lesson of individuality-community was being delivered. I have learned this lesson before, but I keep forgetting it.
I appreciated the individuality of each cloud. It had its own shape. That is how I see myself and all the others around me. We are individuals, shaped by the creative hand of the Divinity. Each of us may well be created in the image of God, as Genesis describes it, but we “image” that in our own individuality. But that was only half the clouds’ story. The other half was the community dimension.
Some clouds were only framed by the blue sky. Other clouds were gently touched by neighboring clouds. In some instances there were multiple clouds touching or even interpenetrating each other. This was a communal lesson for me. I marveled that the clouds did not lose their individuality in community. That happens when the sky is totally gray with what seems like one cloud.
Today’s lesson was the importance of individuality in community. It taught me to be the very best I can be as an individual. As a creature of God, it is my responsibility to live up to the image in which I am created. I want to take that seriously and do my best. The good news is there is help. There is communal help.
Spiritually speaking, we are all in this together, just like the individual clouds were all in it together in the sky. Like the clouds, there are times you will touch me. There might be occasion when many in the community will touch me, help me, encourage me, etc. And of course, I will do it for others. I take solace in the fact that I am not alone in this spiritual journey. I value you and all the others. You are the community in which I will find and deepen my individuality in the Spirit.