One of the best things about my job is that it often lets me sit around tables with really interesting people. A few weeks ago, I got to stay up late at a cafe in Vegas’ Container Park talking about reforming higher education and revitalizing downtowns with two filmmakers/dreamers/idealists — one man who recently gave the commencement speech at the University of Iowa and the other who happened to grow up on the beach where I got married last fall.
Yesterday, I sat with a group of women around the attic table in the old house where I work. We are planning a literary celebration for a new Free Little Library and a visit by two cyclist-poets. As we tossed out ideas for literary-based games, one of us suggested flipping through a dictionary, closing your eyes, and landing on a word – it would be like receiving a fortune. The English PhD-theatre gal at the table lit up with a smile as she remembered the practice of people randomly choosing verses from the Bible — “Bibliiomancy!” she declared. How delightful to work somewhere where people pull veritable Scrabble words out of thin air and then give you the definition. (We moved from this to “cenotaph,” a word I’d encountered the night before while reading Kavalier and Clay, but none of us could exactly put our finger on the definition of that one.)
And so tonight, sitting in my little yoga/reading/writing nook, a fan turned on full blast, a glass of rose sweating on the little table that holds a plant and my miniature Buddha statue, I open a copy of the Bhagavad Gita and flip. The pages whir past. My finger hovers and then presses down … here.
Just at this point, the reluctant warrior Arjuna has asked Lord Krishna to “give me some further examples of your glorious manifestations.” In the next stanzas, Krishna will name the highest mountain and the fleetest horse, the sound of Om and the thunderbolt. He is also death, the destroyer of all things.
But first he says: “All right, Arjuna: I will tell you a few of my manifestations. The most glorious ones; for infinite are the forms in which I appear. I am the Self, Arjuna, seated in the heart of all beings; I am the beginning and the life spam of beings, and their end as well.” [My emphasis.]
At this, I cried. Just as I cried earlier tonight while watching this documentary about a boy who made an arcade out of his father’s East LA garage. And yesterday while listening to two artists talk about their Overpass Light Brigade, a movement that started out of clever desperation and has grown as a joyfully and yet resolute mode of expression. Tears for the power of the Self to speak, to survive, to move forward against great odds.
After my moment with Krishna, I went to bathroom to wash my sweaty face. Often these days, I just see age when I look in the mirror – tired, dark circles, an unfamiliar person. But meeting the image of my face dripping with cold water, I looked into my blue eyes and saw some approximation of what Chris sees when he looks in them — infinite love, amazing power. The warrior and the god. Grace and tenacity. All of that just from some casual bibliomancy.
This summer evening may I suggest you pick up a book, choose a verse, and bow deeply to your SELF.
p.s. Check out these WACKY charts of the Bhagavad Gita: http://manimandala.com/bhagavad-gita/bhagavad-gita-chapter-02/