Another excerpt from my manuscript (It’s still not a book until it is published): The Commonzense of Saint James
One of the many symbols for Zen is the Ensō, a Japanese word that means circle. The simple but graceful design of the Ensō represents enlightenment, strength, grace, and void—all words I could easily use to describe the existence of a God according to my beliefs.
When I consider the elegant design of an Ensō, I am drawn to a beginning—a starting point—and to an end, which always leads right back to the beginning. I can imagine God making this beautiful stroke with her fingertip again and again, and with each sweep, a different moment in time is created while the previous moments are washed away.
Each of us shares our existence on one or many of the Ensōs drawn. Likewise, there will be future Ensōs drawn that won’t include our physical presence, but will certainly contain our sprit, just as our presence here, in this moment, carries the spirit of our parents and grandparents and others who have lived before us.
In the Beginning
I freely and publicly admit that I am not smart enough to understand the concept of the Big Bang, although I love the TV show, and I certainly can’t wrap my mind around the concept of life that came into being 13 billion years ago when I have a difficult enough time just remembering how old my children are. I do have the ability to recognize that, like the Ensō, there was a beginning, a point in time when the universe was created. That “the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep” as it states in Genesis, is as plausible a description for me to grasp of the beginning as any could be. I am comfortable in this knowing, and it is where my Judeo-Christian faith (with a Buddhist hue) becomes most apparent and trusting. Like political activist Ivy Baker Priest, I also believe that “the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning.” I truly believe we all have the possibility of many new beginnings if we allow ourselves to accept them as such.
At this moment, more than seven billion souls stand toe to toe on the Ensōs that has been drawn today. Tomorrow, new faces will replace those that have journeyed on. One day, you and I will no longer grace future Ensōs, so it is imperative that we make each day count. As Thich Nhat Hanh implores, “Waking up in the morning, you can recognize ‘I’m alive’ and that there are twenty-four hours for me to live, to learn how to look at living beings with the eyes of compassion. If you are aware that you are alive, that you have twenty-four hours to create new joy, this would be enough to make yourself happy and the people around you happy.”
Each of us should delight in the opportunity to experience the artistry created in each day and to remember that we are all merely part of a simple brush stroke in a much larger, but most amazing, landscape.