In the movie A River Runs Through It Norman McClean writes about his Presbyterian preaching father, “I never knew whether he believed God was a mathematician but he certainly believed God could count and that only by picking up God’s rhythms were we able to regain power and beauty. Unlike many Presbyterians, he often used the word ‘beautiful.’”
It’s New Year’s Eve and I am sitting in a comfortable chair in Starbucks while I wait for a prescription to be filled for a cold that has turned into bronchitis. I am sipping on my usual “Venti chai tea latte, no water, 180 degree” treat. I am not sure what has happened, but a brief five-minute window of beauty has opened up before me. Every where my eyes land I see a visions of beauty playing out:
- The man in a corner reading a book with a soft smile on his face getting pleasure from the words on the page;
- Just outside the window to his left, the vested parking lot attendant is expertly guiding a train of forty carts back into the Fred Meyer store in an act not unlike making a U-turn with a semi-truck;
- A woman walks in to the coffee shop with wide, large brown, penetrating eyes that reveals just a hint of mystery and intrigue behind them. I want to know more.
- Three young men strut by stiff and erect—like roosters—carrying the anger of past abuses and hurts; They belong as much as any.
- A father and son—connected by love and separated by a generation—pass by the young men, the father trying to engage in conversation; the son toying with his smartphone. So lovely, so typical;
- An old man, burdened by years of weight gain, labors toward his car using the grocery cart to keep him stable and upright.
- A middle-aged couple, well-established, stroll up hand in hand as if they were teenage lovers on first date.
- Finally, the shaggy man walks into Starbucks, finds a seat close to me, flashes a warm, welcoming smile, lets out of sigh of relief, as if he has been waiting for this moment all day, winks, and then asks me with his toothless grin, “How are you, man?” I melt. Was I not supposed to be his host, rather than the other way around?
In a magical five-minute window, the day turns to dusk, the blue sky turns to rusty orange, and the year that is past gives way to something new and unknown.
In this sacred window I witness the playing out of our lives, the unfolding dramas. I am invited into a magical rhythm, a heavenly play. On this stage I see in the eyes of the actors and in their distinct gaits, the gifts that we have received and the burdens that we have carried. There is no hierarchy of values, no good and bad. It all (and we all) belong to this divine scene. It is bathed in beauty.
The mystic poet and Sufi Muslim wrote eight centuries ago, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
For five minutes in Starbucks on the last day of 2014, I sat in that field. And then with the ring of the phone, (a friendly prescription reminder), it evaporated like a rainbow. Was I dreaming? Or did I finally wake up–just for a moment!
Happy New Year, my friends!