In the biblical story of Moses and the burning bush, Moses is minding his own business, working for his father-in-law, dontchaknow (tending the flock) and angels set a bush on fire. That is an attention-getter to be certain. Of course, if i saw a burning bush, i’d be dousing it with whatever water was handy, ’cause, well, it’s a bush and it’s on fire.
Moses just says, “What the hell? how come the bush is burning but it isn’t burning up?”
Now, i may doubt Moses’ sanity here, but it’s not like he can call 9-1-1, i suppose, so he approaches the burning bush. Once his attention is focused… God swoops in to chat with Moses… from inside that burning bush. (i recall this story from vacation bible school and over the years have wondered how that went… God shoving the angels in charge of pyrotechnics out of the way… “I got this… vamoose”)
Moses takes off his shoes, cause that’s just how God rolls; he really doesn’t like dirty sandals near his holy ground and what-not, and
God the bush tells Moses that he’s been watching the suffering of the people… and the horrible conditions of slavery. He tells Moses about a plan of egress (hence the name of this particular book of the bible: Exodus). He tells the barefoot Moses that he expects him to face the Pharaoh of Egypt and secure the freedom of the Israelite.
Now, Moses might be talking to a burning bush, but he’s not stupid, so there’s that moment when Moses says to
God the voice in the bush (and i paraphrase):
“So… I’m going to tell the Israelites what you said… and they are going to say, WTF? Says who? Who told you that?”
God the voice in the bush, “What should I say to them?” God the voice in the bush says:
“I AM WHO I AM”
“Tell them I AM sent you”
Then the voice goes on… how the people should pilfer everything that isn’t nailed down… stuff their clothes with gold and silver… make their escape.. yada yada yada… but that’s really insignificant to my post today.
Most of the above text is insignificant, actually… the most important nugget is just this:
Last night, our Open Sangha group had a movie and potluck night. We all brought yummy vegetarian foods (what a spread) and we meditated and then watched the film, I AM. It’s described as “an utterly engaging and entertaining non-fiction film that poses two practical and provocative questions: what’s wrong with our world, and what can we do to make it better? ”
As i watched the film with these people… people with whom i sit weekly… with whom i talk and just am, i was struck by the film’s message of unity and the power of positive thoughts/feelings. Just the act of watching the film together – felt purposeful and positive. It seeks to bridge – to erase the imaginary lines we’ve drawn between each other. As James Baldwin said, “There is nothing in me that is not in everyone else…there is nothing in everyone else that is not within me.”
I AM says god to Moses
I AM says Tom Shadyac in his film
I AM says James Baldwin
I AM says Walt Whitman
I AM say bat
But this I AM is not spoken to the exclusion of YOU ARE… it is rather, i suppose, the ultimate message of “namaste”
I AM … YOU ARE … WE ARE (and i’ll go out on a limb here and say, Yes… that includes the godhead… all of us wonderful… all of us valuable… all of us critical to the survival of all of the rest).
i find this settling, somehow. i am. i am. i am.
i find that it also fills me with a sense of responsibility.
In everyday life, i often quote “Uncle Walt” (Whitman… no relation to me) and his “i contain multitudes” from Song of Myself. Today, i search it out and read it again… marveling at how it resonates with me and i sample from it here (Because it is the longest poem EVER ):
I celebrate myself;
And what I assume you shall assume;
For every atom belonging to me, as good belongs to you.
The atmosphere is not a perfume—it has no taste of the distillation—it is odorless;
It is for my mouth forever—I am in love with it;
I will go to the bank by the wood, and become undisguised and naked;
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.
In all people I see myself—none more, and not one a barleycorn less;
And the good or bad I say of myself, I say of them.
And I know I am solid and sound;
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow;
All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.
I know I am deathless;
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by the carpenter’s compass;
I know I shall not pass like a child’s carlacue cut with a burnt stick at night.
I exist as I am—that is enough;
If no other in the world be aware, I sit content;
And if each and all be aware, I sit content.
One world is aware, and by far the largest to me, and that is myself;
And whether I come to my own to-day, or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.
Whoever degrades another degrades me;
And whatever is done or said returns at last to me.
Through me the afflatus surging and surging—through me the current and index.
I speak the pass-word primeval—I give the sign of democracy;
By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms.
I believe in the flesh and the appetites;
Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each part and tag of me is a miracle.
Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touch’d from;
The scent of these arm-pits, aroma finer than prayer;
This head more than churches, bibles, and all the creeds.
If I worship one thing more than another, it shall be the spread of my own body, or any part of it.
I dote on myself—there is that lot of me, and all so luscious;
Each moment, and whatever happens, thrills me with joy.
O I am wonderful!
I cannot tell how my ankles bend, nor whence the cause of my faintest wish;
Nor the cause of the friendship I emit, nor the cause of the friendship I take again.
I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d;
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition;
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins;
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God;
Not one is dissatisfied—not one is demented with the mania of owning things;
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago;
Not one is respectable or industrious over the whole earth.
So they show their relations to me, and I accept them;
They bring me tokens of myself—they evince them plainly in their possession.
I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least,
Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.
Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then;
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass;
I find letters from God dropt in the street—and every one is sign’d by God’s name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe’er I go,
Others will punctually come forever and ever.
Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then, I contradict myself;
(I am large—I contain multitudes.)
I bequeathe myself to the dirt, to grow from the grass I love;
If you want me again, look for me under your boot-soles.
You will hardly know who I am, or what I mean;
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first, keep encouraged;
Missing me one place, search another;
I stop somewhere, waiting for you.