Today, I was in one of my favourite locations when in London: the Magic Café in Fulham. And, as usual there was a latte not far from my hand on the table, my head was down and my nose was close to a book and I was in my element, reading a deep and intriguing book. I have to admit that I can be so absorbed in a book, so engrossed in it that I do believe that if the four horsemen of the Apocalypse galloped by I wouldn’t notice.
There is a game we should play,
And it goes like this:
Nothing distracts me when I’m transfixed by a book, well, almost nothing. Having been reading for some time, I noticed a slight but distinct temperature drop in the café, and it caused me to look up, momentarily. My grandmother, if she were physically present, would say an angel had entered the room.
It was if the café had suddenly been filled, instantly, with six people sitting at two or three tables. Ofcourse, they had been there for some time, but I had been oblivious to their coming and going.
I do like ‘people watching’, and so changing glasses (I wear varifocal but do like reading-only glasses for serious reading) I sat back in the chair, sipped my coffee, and slowly (but hopefully, not to obviously) looked around.
We hold hands and look into each other’s eyes
And scan each other’s faces.
Trying to be ‘invisible’, I noticed the people around me. Ah, there was the journal woman, so-called (be me) as she is constantly writing in her note pad. Perhaps, she’s writing about the peculiar man in the corner who always seems to be reading and making notes in his books (and, that would be me). Someone, a younger person, was at the counter, ordering a take-away coffee but indulging in general chit-chat at a rather loud volume. Wearing dusty overalls it was likely he was redecorating or rebuilding one of the large, expensive houses in the area. And, there were two others I had seen on only a few occasions. My mind wondered as to who they were, what their occupation might be, and how they found this delightful café? And two others, older women, seated very close to me, were obviously old friends, reminiscing about the good old days.
And, then I say,
“Now tell me a difference you see between us.”
I picked up the coffee cup again, leaned back even more, and continued to look around. Compared to when I came into the café, I marvelled at the people now here, the differences in age, gender, look, accents, and even languages. Truly I am blessed to be living in a ‘kaleidoscope country’, as John Bercow the Speaker of the House of Commons described it some years ago. So many people, so many differences, and yet paradoxically we have that in common.
And you might respond,
“Hafiz, your nose is ten times bigger than mine”.
Then I would say,
“Yes, my dear, almost ten times”.
So, what is the difference between us? In all the variations of humanity, a small microscopic proportion represented here in this café, what is the difference between us? Do we have the same chemical composition? The same energy? The same aspirations? Oh, yes!
And, what about the coffee cup I’m holding? It, too, is composed of atoms, and at a deeper level quanta material that is similar to out elemental make-up. In one sense little difference there? You would expect me to say that as an animist. Oh, yes!
But let’s keep playing.
Let’s go deeper.
Go deeper still.
For if we do,
Our spirits will embrace
There is a story I was told many years ago, when I was a wee lad, about Indra’s web or Indra’s net. It is a much-loved story, a metaphorical one, about interconnectedness and interbeing all of things.
The story says that in the realm of the god Indra there is a vast net that stretches infinitely in all directions. At each intersection of the net or web (think of a spider’s web) there is a single brilliant, perfect jewel. And, each of these jewels on the web also reflects every other jewel, infinite in number. And, each of the reflected images of the jewels bears the image of all the other jewels — infinity to infinity. Whatever affects one jewel effects them all.
The metaphorical story illustrates the interpenetration of all phenomena. Everything contains everything else. And yet, each individual thing is not hindered by or confused with all the other individual things. Harmonious interconnectedness. A wonderful story.
Our union will be so glorious
That [maybe] even God
Will not be able to tell us apart.
We are more alike to our neighbour than different, more alike to everything around us, than different or separate. We’re connected. In another story-metaphor told by the Christ we’re told that, ‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Ah. Connectedness.
Suddenly, respect for others, even those who ‘violently’ disagree with me, seems easier. We’re connected, we’re the same. Appreciation for nature all around me – whether in rural or urban environments – seems altogether more necessary because of that real and energetic connectedness. We’re the same. It was for that reason many years ago that Brother Francis could sing to Brother Sun and Sister Moon.
Connectedness. Interbeing. Something which those ancient cultures of Hebrews, Christians, Pagans, Druids and others of yesteryear took for granted, and from which we can learn.
There is a wonderful game
We should play with everyone
And it goes like this…
And, so having finished the latte there is only one thing to do. To order another coffee, to find my place in that book and resume reading, and, before I do that, to look around at the wonderful people around me and nature that abounds both outside and inside the café, and to wonder. In that respect, won’t you join me in this ancient game?
[The indented paragraphs above come from one of the poems of Hafiz, Persian mystic, AD1315-1390]