A Mystical Search for the Meaning of Crayons and White Paste
~ the first day of the first grade at age fifty-six ~
Jul 12, 2011
I don’t really remember the first grade. I don’t think I remember my first day. I do remember the first day of attendance at many different schools as I grew up. Not the specifics; just the general nervousness of walking down a hallway toward a home room that was filled with kids I didn’t know, who would probably persecute me because I was new, nerdy and shy.
I didn’t like school, and retreated at the end of the school day as fast as I could, back to the bunker of my room, where I read books and escaped into the worlds of Rafael Sabatini and Howard Pyle; Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson; and hundreds of other authors over the years. The ladies at the old Portland Public Library were probably fascinated by me, or at least amused, since I took out books by the grocery bag.
Books were my real school; the school I loved and the school that gave me a love of learning. I still read extensively, at age fifty-six, although now I read nonfiction books on spirituality and mysticism instead of stories of Adventure.
Of course, mysticism is the biggest Adventure of them all. Which brings me to the title of this essay. I believe that I’m back in school; back in the first grade, feeling like I am seated at a narrow little writing desk, staring at an array of crayons and paper and jars of white paste.
Yet this time, I’m enjoying the first day of the first grade, at the age of fifty-six. I’m excited to be staring at jars of white paste – the kind that doesn’t smell good, and tastes even worse. I’m delighted to be picking up a box of crayons and thrilled that perhaps I’ll be able to write my name.
I’m inspired and enthusiastic that Life, and especially a Mystical and Intuitive Life, feels exactly like the first day of the first grade. At least to me. I’m excited that there’s so much to learn! I want to scribble wildly on spiritual construction paper with crayons that have such interesting names, like Atomic Tangerine and Jazzberry Jam.
For me, life has been a long process of finding out who I am and what I love. I feel rather like a man who was covered in honey and rolled in flour, across the years of my life, collecting bits and baubles and dabs of dirt all the while, and then dumped in the desert completely naked with the decree to “figure it all out” in my own good time.
Washing all of that off is a very arduous and confusing process. It takes a long time just to see the actual skin of one’s elbow, and murmur, “Oh! That’s what my elbow looks like. Hmmm.”
With so much detritus sticking to my body, it’s been very easy to become distracted by dozens of conflicting desires. What do I really want in life? Yes, love, but “What kind of love are we talking about?” A new car; that doggy in the window or money? – to paraphrase Paul Sorvino’s character in the movie, “Oh, God!”.
I do like shiny new cars. Especially Jaguars, and vehicles of that fancy class. Sigh. Oh to be James Bond (without the girls or the license to kill). But I’m not Bond. I’m just Brown. An ordinary name indeed.
Still, even though we may have ordinary names, or feel entirely humdrum in every respect, I’m now convinced that we’re each extraordinary. After washing off a tiny bit of flour and glop, I gazed at myself in some surprise and discovered that God lives inside me and in fact is me, for God is all there is, according to the tenets of New Thought. I like that idea very much, although I have to admit that I find it hard to wrap my head around the fact that God is also the glop.
But... if everything is energy, which is neither created nor destroyed, but simply converted, I suppose there could be something to the idea that God is everything, even smelly unmentionable bits of stuff. It is indeed mind-stretching, especially for a first grader.
I'm not sure that I agree with everything that New Thought teaches, but to consider the idea that God is All of me, and I am part of God (yes, the merest bud or twig) is a momentous epiphany. To sense the brilliant light and heat of God streaming from my Golden Core, pushing its way past the layers of accumulated barnacles and seaweed clogging my pores, is a breathtaking discovery. To feel that every person in the universe is the same; a different bud or twig, but all part of the same God who lives inside each of us, creates a feeling in me that life is huge, with quite literally no horizons, and no real boundaries between people.
I feel exactly like a person who has climbed up the wall of a secret garden and gazed at the beauty inside, before falling back to the ground outside. I keep climbing back up the wall, and breathing in the lovely air, and have done so for years. I’ve managed to clamber over, and lie back amongst the daffodils, drinking in the scent of the lilac branches overhead.
I’ve never found anything more entrancing than God’s mystical realm of love.
Thus, at the age of fifty-six, I have excitedly decided that I’m privileged, yes, privileged, to have entered the first grade. My first day, sitting in front of crayons and jars of white paste, has been a long first day. For all I know, it might actually last a thousand years. I don’t mind, because the new-fangled crayons actually have the scent of Daffodils and Lilacs, and remind me that part of me – the most important part – has always lived in the secret garden.
It will take me many grades to get there, but one day, I’ll be able to stay in the garden all the time, with all the other graduates from the Gardening School of Mystical Love.
What a lovely thought.
Peter Falkenberg Brown is passionate about writing, publishing, public speaking and film. He hopes that someday he can live up to his favorite motto: “Expressing God’s kind and compassionate love in all directions, every second of every day, creates an infinitely expanding sphere of heart.”
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