Historical Building

Certain ways my mind speaks to my soul, if I am willing to look and listen. At least, that is my crude re-statement of a chapter I read today from Richard Geldard’s The Spiritual Teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I’m rather a devotee of Geldard and all his writings, but this is the one volume that I enjoy reading the most. Why? Because after going through Emerson’s essays for a couple of years, perhaps the greatest American writer, I could never get a good understanding of his message to a spiritual America.

I would rather read Emerson directly, and I have, being advised by others that he is worth the effort to comprehend. He is just a little too gone for me to get down to the meaning of his words. I have no less respect for Emerson as a writer and great thinker, but needed a guru, a guide, to help me understand the essence of his philosophical thinking. Geldard gets me there, and so I read him hard copy and Kindle once or twice a year just so I can revisit and relearn what I so easily forget.

Our mind, Emerson might say, because of its astounding capacity to reason, has qualities about it that are unequaled in the universe. My thinking processes are more magnificent than star dust, swirling galaxies, and black holes. In an instant my mind can tie together events, memories, impressions, and feelings, with places, times, events,and people, and make some cohesive sense out of this plethora of information.

I can recall a conversation I had fifty years ago with a friend from childhood and weigh what he told me back then with the experiences of this day, and pass some sort of judgment on the conversation, or simply laugh at what we had to say to one another so long ago, while I relive the delight of the experience so many years on into the future.

Before the twentieth century rolled around and wars of worldwide proportion popped up, a spell of time existed that was filled with wonderful writers, painters, musicians, and philosophers. Somehow the culture sped up and forgot the beauty that had been abruptly passed over. My mind and thoughts still linger in that earlier century–the nineteenth– because I find in it a more organic, wholesome, gestalt view of creation, and of my place in the universe.

When I read from the transcendentalists, romanticists, and idealists, I feel as if I am connecting with the minds and hearts of people who were not so divided, confused, and despairing. Maybe the common culture of that day still carried with it less of science and more of intuition. I prefer an intuitive understanding of the universe, over one of pure science, just because I feel as if my own life is more than a calculation or a predictable table of formulae. I want the intuitive part of me to not be discounted, but nourished, which seems to be nearly an impossible struggle in this era of technological control and regulation.

Emerson is saying in what I have been reading today that my own personal history can tell me something about the nature of my soul and its place in the universe. He goes on to say that if I am not an astute and willing listener to the activities going on about me, that I will entirely miss the message, the conversation my soul is having with the greater one soul that rules over all. (You could call this thing God and Emerson would be okay with that).

So today I am participating in a physical study of my own personal history, as I sit inside the cottage beside my house that is currently undergoing an extensive restructuring and remodeling. The outbuilding was nearly collapsed when we bought this property forty years ago, but rather than tear it down we fixed it up with what little money we had, and when that rework of the building proved to be insufficient, we remodeled it once again.

I think altogether we might have fixed it up five times. Now the carpenters are peeling off all the old repairs and fixings, revealing the work I had done on the structure for more than half a life time. I cannot easily recount all the work I did on the building, nor why I did it, but can only say that now, in this later stage of life, I see all of my folly and all of my shortcomings representationally shown to me in the form of old bricks lumber, concrete, sheet rock, nails, and layers of paint.

If ever I should die and be shown a backward glance of what my life on earth was like, I think the showing will be somewhat like a slide show presentation of the iterations of this building. I see in it my own history. I see what I was feeling and thinking so many years ago when I added certain features to the structure. There it is before me, a visible history of my life that I can now see, but could not before, thanks to my latest round of reading Geldard.

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