The Eternal In-Between: when real life can’t be witnessed in real time

My favorite season is in between seasons. I notice one change at a time.

  • From spring to summer, the greenness of grass and tree spreads like wildfire.
  • From summer to fall, the ground loses heat one degree at a time.
  • From fall to winter, the snow falls but doesn’t stay.
  • From winter to spring, the cold air is punctured by warm scents of earth.

If you look hard for these changes, you won’t tell when they turn. If you go days or weeks without looking, they’ll overwhelm you all at once–a delayed reaction and realization.

I’ve noticed that life, in general, takes place in between. The fragile split second between having and losing . . . The space and silence that hovers between two men who were once friends. These are the transitions that we remember and analyze and deconstruct long after they’re gone.

***

When I was between ages 15 and 18, I became obsessed with something I called “soul meeting point”. I coined the term in my head while reading Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. For years, I would scribble “SMP” or “SOUL” as short-hand in the margins of books or the start of notebook entries. Here are some notebook entries from 2010, when I was 16:

  • Cain was not the first human born, Eve was; she was the first person to come from another person. SOUL? This in connection with meeting points? The role of dividing points in “SOUL”. Separation as necessary for birth.
  • SOUL: The places in between places are events in themselves.
  • SOUL. The way we view a sentence: subject, object, equalizer (meeting point).
  • If we consent to Plato’s division of lower and upper soul, well, that assumes a motion in order to switch from and to the opposite regions. Intermission. They are not actually the soul; they are means to the True soul which is achieved between switches to extremes, to opposite poles of this earth.
  • To see change and yet resist it. To be at the border between being and becoming (and thinking of the “has been”). That is the place of the meeting points.
  • Meeting points are not of one essence or nature, they are collisions between contradictions. To become this physics (also a metaphysiccs) is to become the reality of Soul. Interaction is the blur of shared elements, so who can say whether it is not one single entity?

Life happens at the point of interaction, the point of breaking, the point of energy transferred from one being to another. The place of expansion, of altercation. The moment the on-ramp merges with the freeway.

Is it not reasonable to imagine that these are the circumstances under which the soul takes form and frame?

***

To know that the soul is formed this way, piece by piece and wave after wave, is to slowly discover where your soul found itself.

  • My soul found itself when I locked eyes with a stranger at a large church every week, as if we agreed to see each other as possibilities & to never break the silence.
  • My soul found itself when I saw an old man on the beach in red shorts, looking slowly around himself, as if he lost someone but forgot who it was.
  • My soul found itself when I let two Mormons stop me on campus to converse in frigid weather, their expressions devout but confused, as if they assumed they would find no listening ears.

These defining moments in our lives are countless, and take practice to define. I’m reminded of a passage in John 21:25 –

There are many more things that Jesus did. If all of them were written down, I suppose not even the world itself would have space for the books that would be written.

***

Your life isn’t your graduation, your wedding day, the birth of your child. It’s the silent moments of transformation: your old college flame asks to meet you for coffee . . . your husband of five years flickers an expression you’ve never seen before . . . your child asks a question that indicates he has seen his first glimpse of human suffering.

It’s the sentence that turns your anger to understanding. The moment your memory of a nephew is replaced by the grown boy in front of you.

It’s a place you can’t know or recognize until it has come and gone, because it only hits you in retrospect.

Which is why these moments make us who we are. There’s a small part of you that has managed to string together the conglomerations of experience and circumstances you’ve encountered. And when someone wants to learn who you are, they use that string of your past as a reference point. The future is yet to be seen.

***

Maybe I’m convinced that nothing of consequence can be caught and kept by the naked eye. I want to believe it’s a fair assumption.

William James once claimed that the inner life is fluid, restless. Our experience, he claimed, ultimately “lives in the transitions”.

And how else could these transitions be heightened, than by your awareness of them?

 

 

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