My good friend E came from Hawaii to attend her orientation at John Hopkins. She has been admitted to a PhD program recently and when the news came early this year that she will be in town for a few days, I was overjoyed. When we parted back in 2011 from Kona, I was still in my early thirties embarking on a brave journey of publishing a book or joining a convent in the deep mountains. Five years later, I am neither a published author or a nun living a consecrated life. I picked her up at BWI with a baby in the back seat. We both had tears in our eyes just as we did when we parted five years ago at the Big island airport.
It was as if we were never apart. There was no need to catch up on anything because it didn’t matter what we went through or what we’ve become. From the first day we met, we were just us, our true selves. We were who we were, who we have been, who we were going to be. The essence of oneself cannot change. And as long as we remain true to ourselves, maintaining the true identity that can only be found in the union with God, we are never far away from each other. In spiritual life, one is always connected to one another, always fusing into the One, the Almighty God. During the five years we were apart, E and I have discovered, that we have actually grown closer to each other because we faithfully worked on achieving and maintaining our truest rather than compromising and coping with the world. No wonder we share the same quality of bipolar disorder. Going against the way of the world would give you bipolar and so much worse.
Richard Rohr writes in his daily meditation that the false self exists in the world of perception while the true self lives in God’s Eternal Now. The false self is a social construct, fragile and insecure because it depends on what you want yourself to be and what you want others to think you are. The true self, however, is untouchable and “it takes no offense” (1 Corinthians 13:5). There is no need to defend one’s ego when you live out of the place of the true self because your identity is so secure and embalmed in God’s will and God’s love. It is the Virgin point, as Merton puts it, le Point Vierge. The sacred and innocent place that no one can ever harm or hurt.
At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is so to speak His name written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our sonship. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billion points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely.
– Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, p. 158
Le Point Vierge is the untouched land, the Garden of Eden, where one walks with God face to face. It is in everybody and each of us carries a patch of this Garden in our hearts and souls. Friendships made in this pure truth is protected by God’s love and will, untouched by the temptations of the world, taking no offense, but simply and purely enjoying each other’s companion.
I tried my best to conjure up these thoughts as I woke up to my mundane Monday routines. My deep sense of wellbeing and contentment from the previous day spent with E was suddenly replaced with deep longing for a soulful connection as my reality spread loneliness and emptiness in my heart. In this town where I am stranger to almost everybody, it is easy to feel lonely and disconnected. It is easy to forget that everyone carries a point of pure truth that belongs entirely to God. On that plane of conscious living where we are mindful of our connectedness and oneness in God, separation dissolves, wars come to an end, peace reigns, and love dominates. It is here, this point of pure truth that we let love win.
I learned for the first time that Baltimore Washington international airport was located on Friendship road. I am not making this up. I was always the one being dropped off at the airport, not the one available to pick someone up. I was never capable of picking up anybody simply because I was always leaving having nothing to do with stability in my life. Picking up E at the airport was, in its own way, an achievement for me, a milestone that I must celebrate. Five years have passed since E and I parted, and here I was, still living here, without the anxiety about staying in one place too long and without the burden of plotting out my next move. Although my future is still unknown as it is for everyone, I have no fear of living the here-and-now while my previous memories pursue me like a chronic addiction. It used to sadden me so when I think about how separated I was from the past, from my old attachments. I was so lament for passing events, passing things and passing people. The brief nature of all things in life made me cling to them even more. With thirty-six years under my belt, I now know that there really is such a place called happily ever after. I now know that we are never apart from the loved ones in spirit because our souls are stronger than our bodies. Soulful relationships with dear friends and family will continue to carry us through until we are fully united with God. How fitting to be reminded of all these things at the airport on friendship road where all the partings and reunions were happening ceaselessly.
Perhaps I will see E again soon enough. She said she will be back next Summer because her John Hopkins program requires her to attend the workshop during the summer. Perhaps I won’t be here to greet her because I have moved away. No one knows what the future holds for us, but this I know for sure. No matter what happens to us from here on, the most important thing is that we have met at one point in our lives. In our purest truth, we were not afraid to reveal our poverty which the world termed “bipolar disorder”. It was in our shared suffering from this illness that we experienced God’s glory. It was through this affliction that we gained the gift from God, this everlasting friendship that defies the limitations of being in a human form. So although I may feel as if I am fighting alone in the midst of this phony passing world, I must remember that I am not alone as long as I stay true to myself, my family, friends, and most of all to my one true God.