Excerpt: “The Smallest Vessel”

Image credit: Neal Herbert, National Park Service, USA

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From the chapter entitled “Connecting with the Infinite”

I started to write this particular piece (which appears at the end of the book) as a response to the notion I kept hearing in the media about how important “family values” are; my feeling as I sat down and started writing was that thinking about family values was thinking too small—the smallest human “container” was the community, the clan, something larger than just one household in our stereotypical modern family.

But as I wrote it (or it wrote itself—yet another example of the mysterious process of creation), it grew to challenge an even larger story of Modern Mind: that we are small, insignificant beings spinning off on a lifeless rock into a meaningless cosmos. As you’ll see, it turns out to be a very, very different story.

This is one of my favorite pieces in the book. I hope you enjoy it and share it with others.

—David

 

The Smallest Vessel.

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What is the smallest vessel that can hold a human being?
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.Certainly it is more than the skin and bones that contain
.        the pulsing of the individual life within;
.        one human cannot forever stand alone and separate.
.        Even the wise woman who lives in the forest
.                        apart from others
.                serves as the wise woman for those others.
.The smallest vessel that can hold a human being must include
.        at least one other human being.

.But two humans cannot forever stand alone and separate.
.        They need young ones
.                to raise and teach,
.                to help with the daily chores,
.        and, finally, to take charge
.                and carry on
.                        as the elders grow old, their bodies dying,
.                        releasing their starlight
.                        and becoming stardust once again.
.The smallest vessel that can hold a human being must include
.        at least the family.

.But the family cannot forever stand alone and separate.
.        It needs others to help in the gathering of food,
.                the building of shelter,
.                        and in caring for those who are sick or hurt,
.                just as it helps others in their own time of need.
.        The family needs others to bind together with
.                        in times of catastrophe,
.                                of want, and of war,
.                as well as to rejoice with
.                        in times of plenty, and of peace.
.        It needs others to share in the knowledge of Earth’s gifts
.                and to learn the ways of the wise old ones.
.The smallest vessel that can hold a human being must include
.        at least the clan.

.But the clan cannot long survive alone.
.        It needs oxygen to breathe, food to eat,
.                and waters to quench its thirst.
.        It needs medicines to heal those who are sick.
.        It needs insects to pollinate and clean
.                        the forests, savannas, deserts, and prairies.
.        It needs jaguars, hawks, turtles, sparrows,
.                        trees, flowers, vines,
.                and all manner of animals and plants
.                        both seen and unseen
.                to teach the wordless songs of the Infinite.
.The smallest vessel that can hold a human being must include
.        at least the whole of the Web of Life.

.But the Web of Life cannot long survive alone.
.        It needs a Mother,
.                willing to share her flesh:
.                        air,
.                        water,
.                        the makings of soil,
.                        and the mixing together of life-giving elements,
.        so that the Web of Life might form itself
.                out of her own body.
.The smallest vessel that can hold a human being must include
.        at least Earth herself.

.But Earth cannot long survive alone.
.        She needs a star to draw light from
.                to warm her creations,
.                to cause the winds to blow,
.                        the clouds to form, and the rains to fall.
.        She needs a Moon
.                to steady her
.        as she dances spinning through the seasons
.                and to cause her oceans to pulse
.                        with life-giving tides.
.        She needs planets, comets, asteroids,
.                to pull and push, and sometimes collide with her
.                and stir the cauldron of creativity.
.The smallest vessel that can hold a human being must include
.        at least the Sun and his children.

.But the Sun and his children
.        cannot have come into being alone.
.        They need a galaxy of stars,
.                forming, living, dying, exploding,
.                        creating the elements for life.
.        They need a billion seeds,
.                a billion possibilities,
.                        and the death of the Grandmother Star
.                        to bring forth that one precise possibility
.                        that allowed our Sun to be born
.                                and his children to emerge.
.The smallest vessel that can hold a human being must include
.        at least the galaxy.

.But the galaxy cannot have come into being alone.
.        It needs forces, particles, and fire,
.                        spinning forth
.                from the first callings of the Infinite,
.                forming into billions of colossal galactic clouds
.        spiraling out into the primordial cosmos.
.The smallest vessel that can hold a human being must include
.        at least the Universe.

.But the Universe cannot have come into being alone.
.        It needs an Unfathomable Mystery,

.                a time of no time,

.                        a place of no place,

.                                a Beginning of All Beginnings,

.                so that the Infinite can then call forth the Universe,
.                        and the Universe can then explode into being.

.Therefore . . .

.The smallest vessel that can hold a human being,
.        that can hold you yourself—hold all beings—must include
.        the whole of the Infinite . . .

.                at the very least.

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