Magical & Miraculous

What does a miracle mean to you? A miracle is a point of wonder. Something that stops us in our tracks. You’re just going along with your life, walking the path ahead of you and all of a sudden, you look to your left and there’s a sheer cliff face that you never even realised was there. Beyond it, a valley of flowers, a sky full of stars, a horizon full of promise. Is that moment the miracle? No, the moment is the surprise, the full stop. The miracle is what comes beyond that. When you get past the shock, you realise how much larger the universe is than what you thought. A window opens in your mind and all kinds of things flood in – light, insight, air, insects, other people, feelings & things. You will probably not be prepared for most of it. It doesn’t stop being a miracle because it started with a shock or because it’s uncomfortable till you adjust to it. A miracle is what pulls you out of your smallness & forces you to be part of something bigger – the universe.

We assume that knowing how something works makes it non miraculous. Being able to see & speak to someone across the world seemed miraculous to humanity a half century ago. Does knowing about the internet make you less human, less like the generations that came before you, when you are further along the path that they’ve carried you on, upto this moment? And so, does it make it any less miraculous? The miracle is the journey, our connectedness with each other, across time & geography. To a person without sight, being able to discern colour must feel like a miracle. Miraculous is the knowledge of a richer world. To a person without a language, articulation & poetry feel like a miracle. Miraculous is a deeper identity. To a small child, everything adults say & do seems miraculous. A miracle is a bigger universe. I don’t believe in ignorance being bliss. How can I when every drop of knowledge opens up a more infinite happiness?

My window is my pointer to the miraculous every day. I face east & it is always a wonder to see the sunlight creeping over the building tops, more magnificent than the urban conceits of architected skylines. The sun rises without my assistance. It doesn’t not care where I see it from or what identities I surround myself with. And that is not devastating. It’s liberating. But yes, heat & blinding light can distract me from the miracle that sunlight is. It takes monsoon & days of grey skies to remind me. But that is a miracle too. The wild miraculous that is served up in my window pots every day. I know what The Little Prince means when the book talks about that one special rose. My plants won’t win any botanical awards. I don’t even know their taxonomy or names. But I’ve seen them grow from cuttings, saplings, even seeds, transform daily into shoots, leaves, buds & sometimes, flowers. The miraculous is slow & easy. This is what kept me going through the devastating lockdowns that ravaged all hope in the face of death, hospital bills & financial worry. I was deposited in the desolation of despair. But the sun still shone every day. And flowers grew. Once, twice, even on the stems of plants that I had assumed long dead but kept watering in some kind of compulsive routine. The miraculous has nothing to do with logic or knowledge of how things work. The miracle is that they do, that’s all.

In the film Bruce Almighty, a benevolent looking Morgan Freeman (as God) tells Jim Carrey that walking on water is a magic trick but a miracle is something else. I think about that often. Too often, I think we seek out magic tricks, knowing all along that it’s smoke and mirrors, illusions, games of the mind. Who is tricking us? Not the magicians, the charlatans, the louts, the marketers, the illusionists. It’s us, choosing to sit inside a box of mirrors, an echo chamber. And when the miraculous does break through, we’re are so trapped in that illusion that we project (more illusion) outward, trying to diminish the miracle that we just saw. But shining a torchlight up into the sky does nothing but illuminate the dust next to us. Turning a mirror to the sun only sets things on fire. The miraculous is never diminished. All that diminishes is our view of it. We just closed our eyes. The universe isn’t going anywhere though. The miracles still are.

We cling to stories that are but illusions. What is truer than the complete randomness of life, the infinitely greater possibilities than any human mind has been able to conceive? Remember the cliff face I talked about? Every shock is just that. Even the pandemic, with all its devastation & terror. I turned 30 thinking I’d lived out a life I’d planned for 50 years. And then a relationship happened, abuse, violence, trauma. But also a book, a new career, the stage, many new kinds of relationships. Then I hit 40, grateful for these adventures but also (frankly) bored, assuming I’d seen everything there was to see. Six months later, the pandemic came to our shores. And I was forced to face the larger universe within myself. Where earlier, I’d sought answers, validation, strength, inspiration in things outside me like career, friendships, romantic relationships & possessions, I found myself having to look into what I’d assumed was an empty cavern. It wasn’t. It was stuffed to the brim with things I hadn’t wanted to face. Traumas yes, but also insights that felt too scary to acknowledge and lessons that I’d assumed were not cool enough to learn.

I’m still plunging the depths. Maybe I will be doing this for the rest of my life. But two years have passed and I’m still alive. I was exposed to the deadly virus and I lived to tell the tale. I breathe. I breathe, I still breathe. What a miracle that is! Outside the same window, there are cars & scooters & autos going by, people on their way to work or play or to meet other people with joy. It wasn’t so long ago that this was an empty road, punctuated only by ambulance sirens. Survival is a shock. There will be miracles in where life takes me from here but the miraculous is that there is life. Some day, there will not be but for two years I’ve looked out at death and said “Not today”. And I looked within and found only the miraculous.

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