We are knee deep in a river, searching for water. We are part of an invisible river, but we are so distracted by outer things and what we imagine they could mean to us that we lose contact with the source of our own being.
Kabir Edmund Helminski, Living Presence (1992), p. 25
When I read these words this morning I was reminded of a rather embarrassing moment from years past.
The US clay court tennis championship came to Charleston (SC) while I was living there, and an acquaintance worked for a sponsoring bank. I told him that I’d be one grateful puppy if he could get me in for just one day of matches. I knew I’d never be able to afford a ticket.
A couple of days later he dropped off two VIP passes, good for the entire event! I called my good buddy Russell and told him I’d struck paydirt, and asked him if he’d like to rub shoulders with the Face Cards on the tennis circuit!
Russ and I walked through the main gate with our passes hanging around our necks like medals, and began wandering around the place. Matches hadn’t started yet, and we were hungry. We knew we had full access to the hospitality tent where everything was “complimentary,” and so when we came to a big tent with people wandering in and out with sandwiches, we figured we found the promised land. Several banquet tables were were spread with a selection of deli meats, breads, and condiments. Folks were building sandwiches, and so we jumped in.
Russ and I were standing with our plates, stuffing our faces, commenting on the wonder of it all when he saw a friend approaching.
“What are you doing here?”
“Just here to see some good tennis?” (Isn’t that rather obvious?)
“No, I mean, what are you doing HERE?”
“You’re wearing a VIP pass. This is the lunch tent for the workers. I’m working this event. What are you doing HERE?”
I don’t remember how he actually handled that question. I DO remember feeling stupid. And I do remember that when we finally found the hospitality tent, the most pedestrian food item available was a nice chilled shrimp cocktail with a zesty, low-country red sauce.
Helminski is Sufi, but you’ll find the same sentiment expressed by the mystics in all the great religious traditions of the world. We are standing in the River, dying of thirst. Life-giving Water is right in front of us, but we slurp down the sugar-laced coke. And we suffer…