This emerald seems to go on forever and around it dances other gems in a swirl of sparkle and color. The gem setter has set one large stone off and set smaller stones around it in a constellation of beauty, order and light. And of course green is a color we have had burned into our psyches by evolution so that we find food in the same way our ears hear r high pitches because nature has formed humans to be able to sense birdsong as a way to find water.
These images from the Brilliant Exhibition at the museum of fine art seem to convey wealth and status and indeed they do. But if you were to strip away all of that power and prestige, the gem cutter is creating beauty. It simply happens to be beauty worn by a certain kind of person. And if one were to stare long enough at some of these gem settings, one would soon see a certain simplicity and playfulness.
Simplicity and playfulness are cornerstones of the spiritual life. I always find myself suppressing a snicker when we get too complicated about God or God-things as a way to seem impressive. Theologians on there soap boxes ranting and raving about being right; about they, themselves, being right about mystery, is not only embarrassing for its egocentricity and narcissism, but it is sad in its demand for acknowledgment. I find it is best to simply nod a lot, agree with everything, tell them how glad I am that they have so informed me and then find a place in private to bust a gut laughing.
God will not be contained. We work with the knowable of God the way a baby works with a computer by chewing its mouse. Nature seems to be wild, wooly and untamable. Just when you find the 4,567th species of the praying mantis, a new yellow one with purple spots shows up in a London culvert and the “established order” is divinely messed with.
Living our lives in a more lyrical, playful, un-buttoned-down way seems so much more in keeping with the God I experience each morning. The only problem in faith conversations is that too many are too sure of too much. The thing to do is to sit with the God whose love surrounds us like the water in which a fish swims, and to let ourselves feel that wetness. Real simplicity (and simplicity is essential in the spiritual life) is not reduction, it is focus. So take a moment to look at your spiritual life (that life of yours which expands out into the cosmos) and let your eyes wander its contours the way your eye wanders these stones and their facets, aware that if you shift your point of view even slightly, the colors will change and you will see some new thing about God and about you. Epiphany is a time to let the light shine so that contours show up and then shift so that they sparkle a bit.