Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Soul Loss

The Hmong believe in the power of shamans to heal their emotional and physical wounds. Often an illness is the result of “soul loss.” The shaman must enter a trance in order to travel through the spirit world and call the soul back.

When I returned from visiting my family in Pennsylvania this Christmas, I felt out of sorts. One morning I was struck by the sense that some young part of me had not returned at all. I realized I had to call her back: Come here! We live in Minnesota now!

In therapy, much of the work I do is to locate parts of me that I’ve rejected or exiled and coax them back. I experience this as inviting some separate being into my own body and holding it there in love. More and more, these parts of myself come to me as images so clear and crisp and potent that they must arrive from some other “place,” not from what I normally experience as consciousness. When I interact with these images, I experience healing at a level much deeper than words alone.

How similar we all are; we just use different words to explain our experiences, both common and divine.

Thursday, October 10, 2019


I want to talk about bioluminescence, the ability of lightning bugs and foxfire and medusas to make their own unearthly light.

In the photos, medusas float lazily under their pulsing umbrellas, transparent, shimmering, glowing white against the dark watery sky. I wanted to comment on this ethereal beauty, speculate about why God created things---creatures, sunsets, paintings--we perceive as beautiful. Why God gave us this capacity to respond with pleasure and appreciation to certain arrangements of light and color and sound.

I suppose it’s adaptive, as the evolutionary biologists would say. It draws us toward things—mates, for example—that would not otherwise compel us. But why sunsets? Crater lakes? Jellyfish?

For me, beauty is a reflection of God: a piece of music so precisely exquisite it makes me want to cry, the quiet of a still wilderness lake. Somehow my senses sharpen and the world looks painfully, breathtakingly sharp, as if it’s designed for beauty. Our real eyes--our soul eyes—are attuned to this level of beauty. I hunger for it. It makes me believe again in a possible god, the possible good will of the universe.

Sometimes fact punctures fantasy. One scolding observer tells me that in the typical images of medusae in their white filmy garments, they’re not bioluminescing at all, merely reflecting the flash of the camera. In fact, Aqueforia misteriosa does not, on its own, luminesce. Only when the scientist pokes at it does it activate its green-light-producing organelles, and those few only at the very edges of its pulsing umbrella.

Still. I’m a sucker for beauty--as are most of the biologists I know. They too are prone to experience rapture in the natural world, to rhapsodize about intricacy and beauty in a way that points toward God, not away. To your face they will pooh-pooh the notion of “intelligent design””—they see natural selection as an impersonal mechanism. But deep down they’re enthralled by the intelligence of the natural order, its transcendent motive or organizing principle—they just call it evolution.

Featured Post

Forging the Second Self: A memoir in progress.

Forging the Second Self: Post-Teaching, Post-Mothering, Post-Midlife: Who Will I Be Now? Part I.: Who Am I Now? When I see myself a...