It is hard to leave the familiar and present ways to return to the ancient ones, for appearances are delicious and the invisible is unbelievable.
– attributed to Hermes Trismegistus in The Message Rediscovered, by Louis Cattiaux
Much of what we encounter on a daily basis in the hyper-digitalized realms of our culture is little more than illusion and simulation of meaning. We are fat with idiocy having been fed on a prosaic puppet show that pretends to greater depth than it can ever possibly hold within the flimsy languor of image and imitation. Those aware of more subtle sensibilities know that there are immediacies that far outstrip anything which can be read or digitally digested. These immediacies must be approached within the humble confines of the everyday however, and are often overstepped by those eager for the promise of some more grandiose entrance into mystery.
I was driving back from Atlanta on the afternoon of December 31st, and decided to stop in at the Chapel of Our Mother of Many Names in Conyers, Georgia. This farm house chapel was the site of a series of Marian apparitions during the 1990’s, and has since become a beautiful and contemplative shrine complex dedicated to the Virgin Mary in all her forms. It seemed a good way to end the year, to sit for awhile in the farm house chapel and reflect on things under the auspices of the ever watchful ‘Mother of God.’
As I walked up to the chapel door I was greeted by the face of a small boy in the window, smiling mischievously as he watched me undo the laces of my shoes and take them off before entering. When I went inside he had already run to the opposite end of the room, where three women and a dog were in various states of prayer and impatience. The woman with the dog (a small poodle) was sitting up front near the fire place shrine which forms the focal point for the main room in the chapel. She was writing a prayer petition on a piece of paper, and the dog was shifting nervously on a chair next to her. The small boy was running around and his mother sat impatiently in the back of the chapel waving at him to stop and whispering commands for him to quiet down while checking messages on her cell phone. His grandmother was sitting in the middle of the room, shushing him in between prayers, occasionally raising her voice in an attempt to stop his eager grinning charge.
I sat down a few rows behind the grandmother as the woman with the poodle went to kneel on the cushioned prayer kneeler beside the fire place shrine. As she bent her head in prayer the dog got up on the cushion with her, and the boy sensing that his grandmother had grown distracted in her own prayers started getting more active, at times almost knocking over some of the icons that surrounded the room.
The gold that lies dormant in the mud is just as pure as that which gleams in the sun.
– from The Message Rediscovered, by Louis Cattiaux
All the while I sat there overwhelmed by the mixing of sacred and profane. It’s a folk chapel to begin with, as you can imagine a Marian chapel in a farm house in Georgia is not exactly common fare, and this really brought out the full depth of the entire thing, the reality of it. I looked up at the crucified figure of Christ hanging on the fireplace mantel, and realized…this figure represents someone who went straight into the heart of being. He would have felt quite at home with these people who easily mixed the everyday with the depths of their devotion.
When they left I continued to sit there in contemplative reverie, and soon more people started to come in and seat themselves around the room, a few minutes later a few more arrived, and they all started pulling out rosaries. An older man asked if it was time yet, and I realized that it was 3pm, and that there was a sign outside which I had noticed when I took off my shoes that mentioned that there was a loosely organized prayer vigil every day to pray for world peace.
While the room was not filled the few that were there were intense in their anticipation and I realized that I had inadvertently joined the gathering. Not wanting to begin leaving and break up the movement of the meeting, I got swept up in a multi-lingual prayer offering with a scattered group of pious people praying for peace and for the world to be brought into harmony. The various Rosary prayers were said in different languages, call and response, if it was a call in Spanish people responded in English and Spanish, if it was in English vice versa. There was a man from Africa there who lead some of the English Rosaries in a strong and passionate voice, a Spanish speaking woman whose lilting tones sang the Rosaries as much as spoke them, and the older man who had asked the time trembled with passion as he recited the verses when it came to him to lead the group.
I had tears realizing that this group of people had no leader really, just intention, and that the unity of such a diverse gathering was held together through nothing more than their faith and singular purpose. How different this simple, unadorned meeting was from the forced facade that attends most of the contrivances that pass for ‘conciousness culture’ in the digital realm or the mock reverence of most religious observance. Here people met in unity, without question, with nothing more than the purpose of prayer.
After about an hour of intense devotion the meeting ended, everyone put their rosaries away, had a final moment of quiet reflection and left the chapel. Some stayed behind to clean the grounds around the farm house, others began attending to the various outdoor shrines, but most got into their cars and drove away without anything more said.
When they are offered pure water they reply: “Give us back the poison we are used to.”
– from The Message Rediscovered, by Louis Cattiaux
Thinking beyond the digital illusion, such subtle immediacies provide the basis for true change in the conflicted contemporary world. These everyday encounters are more meaningful and moving than anything that we can gather from the branded rhetoric of digital ideologues and mediated messengers of mediocrity. It is enough to wait and watch to experience things that go far deeper than any exotic extreme we might pursue in the hope of enlightenment or ecstasy. Stepping away from the simulation we find that the mysteries surrounding us provide all the depth that we would otherwise seek outside of what is right in front of us in every moment and in every meaningful meeting of strangers.
Researcher, editorial director and multi-platform creative, David Metcalfe currently acts as a contributing editor for Reality Sandwich, The Revealer, and The Daily Grail.His writing is featured in The Immanence of Myth (Weaponized 2011), Chromatic: The Crossroads of Color & Music (Alarm Press, 2011) and Exploring the Edge Realms of Consciousness (North Atlantic/Evolver Editions 2012).Current collaborations include a lecture series featuring the material aspects of exceptional experiences at the Observatory Room in Brooklyn, New York with photographer Shannon Taggart, and an ongoing project studying Santa Muerte (Saint Death) with Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut, Chair of Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.http://liminal-analytics.org