Early Christian grave marker
Metropolitan Museum, New York
It's the evening for me now.
I have spent the day deeply, profitably, and satisfyingly divided between the Presence of the Perfection and the manifestation of my own decidedly and amusingly imperfect Being.
I have made a deal with this devil which seems to work out well for both of us, even though half of me is going to hell most of the time.
It's good to see this; God wants me to remember that half of me wants to go to hell so that I will keep at least 51% of me on this (the Heavenly) side of that deal. Otherwise, once I die, a great unpleasantness will ensue.
I have had occasion today to notice the ubiquity of gratitude that permeates Being when one remembers the extraordinary things that take place in life. They seem so small; yet everything of God is in them.
I remember, for example, being about eight years old and walking down the small lane, lined with ditches, that lay between two streets on the way to my house at Pikartenkamp 18 in Hamburg, Germany.
Every day these ditches lay on either side of me, and in the spring and summer there were frogs in them.
This is not all of it, not by half; the walk between the S-Bahn and my house was a brief trip to a rather magical kingdom.
It was 1963; you could still smell the war somewhere in the trees, even though it had been over for about 19 years. Eurasian magpies haunted the train station; I was pretty certain, at the age of eight, that they represented magical beings of some kind—not quite sure which ones, but definitely magical.
There was a Baba Yaga house on the way home nestled under a massive, improbably dark and mossy thatched roof of greenish straw; and that roof was itself dominated by an even more massive grove of pine trees, which hung their branches over it like the dark hands of fate.
Collectively, the whole thing looked like a witch's hut to me; again, I'm pretty sure it was one, and it inspired fear in such a way that I would run by it on my way home, sensing a malignancy that, while almost certainly imaginary, provided the excitement necessary to propel me towards home just a little bit faster.
Later, I would come to the ditch, which had a few standard and relatively unimportant wetland plants growing in it. It was the frogs that were special; I was fascinated by them — as I have been ever since I was a tiny child, perhaps three years old, when my mother reports that I sat still by a pond for an extraordinarily long amount of time (impossibly long, according to her, for a three-year-old) until I actually caught a frog — a feat she was certain would be impossible for me.
I guess I really liked frogs.
In any event, remembering those things today; while passing by a house with coaxial cable coiled up on its side like a starving snake; watching birds dart into trees overhead; it occurred to me that everything is indeed perfect, and that the presence of God animates us not only within being, but animates all things.
I could taste the way that it stretches from 1963 to 2015; I could taste the way that everything lives in me as it lives in all people, and that there is a poetry not just of substance, but of spirit, that carries us forward into the dawn of each new day.
Gratitude penetrates every one of these events; and perhaps it's possible to live with the devil and deal with him, while also letting go of everything he represents, and even appreciating the fact that he helps me to remember God.
This, anyway, is what I think to myself tonight on the night of December 16, in regard to the passage of this day.
It's all part of returning to the Glory, which is always here when I look for it.
Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.