The Spirit in Things
Phyllis Hoge Thompson
Around the age of seven I decided that what I wanted to be when I grew up was a saint. That didn’t work out. I gave it my best shot at the time, but I lacked staying power.
Later, when I was eleven, for several months I thought I’d like to be a nun, imagining that what the job required was good works, a predisposition to meditativeness, and a willingness to be isolated from the real world. I was wrong, of course. It was just as well that that didn’t work out either. I probably had what my loved father called “the necessary sap,” but I wasn’t a Roman Catholic, and, more important, I lacked vocation.
I did, however, sense a spirit in things, in literal, tangible things, as well as in places, in houses, in people, trees, mountains, animals, even in china, tables, vases, and especially in paintings. When I felt its presence in the sky, in the stars, I called this spirit God. Even in the worst of times I have never lost this feeling of Something Other. Moreover, those early personality traits, obscurely religious, persisted, and to this day I describe myself, roughly speaking, as a religious person. I believe everything that lives is holy, and that everything lives.
Consciousness of the spiritual, of God—whatever that name means—is at the heart of who I am. Yet I appear to myself, and probably to those know me, as an ordinary, daily sort of person, as mundane, as worldly, as anyone else, living a life made up of bills, telephone calls, computers, car-washes, work, food, laundry, and so on, yet in every particular my life is aware of a spirit in things. But hardly ever do I so much as mention what I believe.
To me it seems very likely that the same is true for a great number of people, very likely whispering “Thank you” or “I need help” or “Please”—prayers, to whatever is out there listening, holding the world together, binding the stars. As a consequence of this obscure sense of spirit, my life seems rich to me.
I seldom speak of this. I certainly do not mention God’s name,whatever that may be, except in the context of mild swearing. But the sense of a spirit in things is what keeps me alive. I suspect such a recognition is common. I suspect many do not speak of what they deeply recognize as faith.
I believe that many lives as ordinary as my own are founded in a sense of the spirit. I believe that faith, consciousness of the unseen Other, works constantly in ordinary lives in a wonderful and mysterious way. Even though no one but the one who knows such faith may feel its power, I believe that in those who are silent, faith may be profound and strong, may be the very force which brings about miracles of light.
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