maciel
Recently, I read a review of The Infiltrator, a movie starring Bryan Cranston about Robert Mazur, an undercover FBI agent whose work led to the arrest of Pablo Escobar, the notorious Medellin cartel boss.

One sentence stood out — not for its meaning but for its violent imagery, the way it grabbed my attention against my will and forced me into hyper-awareness of life on the edge:

“Even as Mazur gets closer and closer to the final big bust, there is still the possibility that everything could blow up in an instant — Escobar money manager Javier Ospina, for one, doesn’t trust the newcomer [Mazur] from the first moment he sees him, and his skepticism hangs in the air like the blade of a guillotine.”

We all live under the sword of Damocles; no one leaves this world alive. Perhaps this is what makes movies like The Infiltrator so compelling — they play into our awareness of just how temporary life is. And while most of us don’t push the inevitability of our end to such extremes, we secretly long for the intensity of living each day as though it were our last.

This is the essence of the Earth experience, is it not? Life here is a curious mixture of pleasure and pain, of opportunity and loss, of feast and famine. But we do our best to ignore the danger, treating death and misfortune as though they were a bad uncle who shows up from time to time unannounced, disrupting the normalcy of our lives.

For those on the spiritual path, normalcy is the enemy. We go out of our way to skirt the edges of the known, to push the boundaries of our assumptions, to juggle razor-sharp swords (either literally or metaphorically) as a way to focus ourselves in the sacred but elusive present moment. We seek to shatter the numbness of our complacency by inventing ways to WAKE UP, either by putting our bodies or our sanity at risk. Whether it’s facing our fears on the battlefield or in the shadowy recesses of our own mind, we’re the ones who go looking for the danger. We run towards the gunfire, not away from it.

Jesus said that the birds and foxes have their nests and burrows, but that the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. The world, for all of its terrible beauty, is not our home. It’s not dualism to say we don’t belong here, that nature is an obstacle to be overcome. On the contrary, it’s an acknowledgement that the reality of oneness is beyond nature’s capacity to reveal.

It’s not that we can’t find peace in waking up to the immediacy of our environment, it’s that our environment is much larger and deeper than our senses can register. Besides, it’s our mind that has led us to the top of the food chain, not our woefully inferior animal bodies or (compared to the rest of the animal kingdom) their mediocre senses. And it’s within the mind that we find the hidden portals to the greater reality we seek. What our bodies lack in strength and acuity, our mind more than makes up for in its ability to peer behind the veil of matter.

So, we gladly give up our supposed place in nature to find that which lies beyond it. Physical comfort and, indeed, life itself cannot compete with our desire to know the truth. We would reach for that apple even if the bough it hung from stretched out over the deepest abyss. We would risk it all for that knowledge. We must lose what we call “our life” in order to transcend its limitations, to see what the eyes cannot see, to hear what the ears cannot hear, to know what the senses are incapable of perceiving.

Nature is but a dark filter that reveals only the slightest hints of the reality that underlies it. To see truth, we must remove that filter and, perhaps for the first time, come face to face with the Real.

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Michael Maciel
Michael Maciel is the author of the website The Mystical Christ (mysticalchrist.org) and two books on contemporary Christian mysticism--The Five Vows and World Priest. Michael lives and writes in Redwood City, California. Contact Michael at michaelmaciel@me.com.

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