This morning as I sat shivering, waiting for my car to warm up, I happened to glance up at my sunroof and notice that it was etched with tiny ice crystals. My eyes followed their delicate pattern for a moment, then refocused higher in the air on the live oak that stood watch over the parking lot.
There among the branches I realized that the same pattern played out in the tree: snowflakes of blue sky formed by the spaces between the leaves. If I looked at the tree through the ice on my roof, I could fit the ice shapes into the tree, as if one had been made by tracing the other.
I thought of the stone in my pocket, and there it was again: the same pattern in the inclusions of a Sweetwater Agate. The small smoky blue stone comes from Wyoming, where manganese oxide forms lacy snowflake-like dendrites inside the rock. Though Sweetwater Agate isn’t generally listed in crystal-healing type books, I’ve always found it to have such a soothing, gentle energy that I keep it in my pocket on stressful days, seeking it out with my hand for reassurance.
Ice, tree, stone; seeing the same phenomenon in all three struck me practically stupid with awe, my numb fingers and overly thin sweater no longer important in the face of Nature’s perfect wisdom. From the seeming disorder of disparate elements, a pattern emerges. From the chaos, stars are born.
I drove to work feeling ridiculously peaceful for a Monday morning, my mind full of the connections among simple things. I thought about how spirituality is in essence the art of connection: we seek out and nurture our link to the Divine, and through it, find our common ground with others, and with all that is.
It has always been my opinion that all paths have validity, but that the spiritual paths that truly foster growth are those that seek to bring us closer to others, not build walls of "us" and "them." The Divine is what permeates and forms the entirety of entirety. Seeking it, we seek union, not division. The closer we come to the sacred, the fewer walls we are able to build. Religions that encourage their practitioners to find and exploit—or persecute--that which is different are, I feel, missing the whole point.
We can and should celebrate what makes us unique as individuals, but it is our shared humanity, our shared pain, our shared capacity for compassion and love, that religion should bring us home to; for those qualities that connect us—delicate branches in ice and stone, not lines drawn with a sword in the sand--are the essence of God.