‘Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows’ (detail) – Adeline Hébert-Stevens (Stained glass in Church of Passy, France)
First, you have to dig. You have to dig beneath every thing that qualifies you. You have to find that pure ‘I am’ hidden under all that this ‘I am’ is or can be. You have to find the raw substance of that which you are referring to when you say simply ‘I am’. What is this pure, unqualified ‘I am’? Over the years, piles over piles of experiences, beliefs, conditioning, have acquired substance and have overwhelmed this simple experience of ‘I am’. This substance has mutated into an apparent self, and ‘I am’ has been buried under it, and made into a collection of ‘I am this’, ‘and this’, ‘and this’, ‘and also this’. So that we can never ever truthfully feel ‘I am’ anymore. It is gone. ‘I am’ is gone with the wind of endless qualifications.
So we have now to resurrect that ‘I am’. To un-qualify it. To strip it bare of its qualities, of its acquired competences and idiosyncrasies. We have to purify the wine of our self, distil it to its essence. An essence that was never lost but only diluted, made secondary and unimportant, when it is in fact the only thing there is. This essence is simply the realisation of an emptiness that is the core of our being, that we never had the guts to look at, or enquire into, but which a simple question and a good-will to find out, could simply reveal with a dumbfounding ease and precision. This is the bare I am, this emptiness. This void at the core of ourself. This unnameable. Indescribable. Here. Now. Filling the whole space. Rendered obvious. Unmissable. Would it not take your breath away, to stumble upon it? To be dazed by it? To have that unfathomable suddenly fathomed? Made substance? Rendered a living thing? Known as your very self?
Are you not tired of it all? To have put your precious being into these unbearable parentheses? (I am) a man. (I am) stupid. (I am) hopeless. (I am) never going to make it. (I am) fearful. Forty three. Intelligent. And this. And that. Or not. Or maybe. Endless approximations. Continuous evasions. Running away into objectivity. Swapping identities. Diving into restlessness. And finally missing the point.
Are you not tired of it all? Of all that you have done, been, acquired, achieved, failed, wronged. Think of the thousand and thousand thoughts, movements, activities, feelings, encounters, sounds, visions that you supposedly have in the course of a day, let alone a year, or a lifetime. Do you really think that you have been the doer of them all, the actor in charge, a self in your own right? That they are your belongings? Your identity? Can you say that they have happened in a dimension other than the consciousness with which you are experiencing them? Are they not all immaterial? Haven’t they slipped out of your fingers by now? Things that you could never be. Things that you could never have. Things that you could never do.
Where are all your doings now? In what dimension of your self? And for what purpose? For what benefit? When they have been done, travailed? Did they really happen to you? Did they shape you in any way? Did they define who you truly are? Did you ever own them? Who are you when all these have been recognised to be not truly yours? Where do all your precious achievements go? Did anything really happen to you, in final analysis? Who are you really?
See how quickly you will become sick and tired to qualify your self. See how it will all appear to be meaningless. How quickly you will realise the unsubstantial nature of happenings, identities, age, gender, qualities, experiences, possessions, and contemplate the essential nature of your self as pure being or ‘I am’, which these never ending qualifications have numbed and veiled. See how ‘I am’ will acquire infinite proportions. See how you would never want to get away from it, or forget it, or bury it — and actually never could. See the peace growing out of it. Feel your eternal essence. And the pervasive nature of ‘I am’ — your self — made now world, qualities, doings, experiences, but never defined by them. See how proud you would be of your one and only (un)qualified and (un)acquired qualification: Being. The glory of ‘I Am’.
Text and photo by Alain Joly
Stained glass by Adeline Hébert-Stevens (1917-1999)
Adeline Hébert-Stevens (1917-1999) was a French stained-glass master, painter, and ceramist who worked at the workshop of the glazier Jean Hébert-Stevens in Paris. The small family enterprise created in 1924 was specialised in stained glass windows intended for religious and secular buildings, and occasionally for artists such as Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall. She created one stained glass for the church of Notre-Dame-de-Toute-Grâce in Passy, France. The church is celebrated for its decoration, contributed by some of the best-known artists of the twentieth century.
– Church of Notre-Dame de Toute Grâce (Wikipedia)
– Other ‘Reveries’ from the blog…
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