Spoilers for The X-files episode “Beyond The Sea”, season 1 episode 13

I loved The X-Files as a kid, even if I was a bit late to the party (the first season aired in 1993 when I was five years old). I remember the feeling it gave me: that the world was much weirder and more mysterious than I imagined. It made me into one of the kids in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, discovering a magical world in the back of a wardrobe — maybe, I thought, if I was just willing to look, life would show itself to be something beyond rational thought.

Some twenty-five years later I now have a…

Edward Hopper, ‘Night Shadows’ (1921)

I was in the second hour of wandering around my Brooklyn neighborhood on a glorious Saturday when I got an innocent text from my wife: “Want to pick up a pizza on your way back?” I responded immediately in the affirmative, relishing an opportunity to eat one of my favorite foods and take a break from the routine of cooking during quarantine. I knew just the place: a somewhat expensive coal-oven spot I could call and stop by in about twenty minutes on my way back to our apartment. Perfect!

Then something mysterious happened. As I read the pizza order…

Spoilers for the film ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ throughout.

Certain movies stick in our memory, speaking to us long after their credits roll. One of these, for me, is director Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood from 2020, a fictionalized version of the encounter between an angry, embittered investigative journalist named Lloyd Vogel (played impeccably by Matthew Rhys) and the unlikely children’s TV superstar Fred Rogers (played with mystery and nuance by Tom Hanks). There are at least three things about this movie that are worth writing about: the first is that A Beautiful Day tells…

Life could be so simple: we could feel connected to each other, acting from a place of love for one another, in solidarity with all human beings (and other animals, too!). It could be this way, but in practice, does it happen? Perhaps only when we’re not aware of it happening.

When we’re aware and feeling self-conscious, we feel disconnected. We feel alone and afraid, like the world is out to get us. And if the world doesn’t want us, then we don’t want it: we fight back, sometimes by trying to make ourselves submit. It’s very hard.

What can…

Trying to grasp the slippery nature of spiritual effort

Leonora Carrington, ‘Labyrinth’ (1991)

Typically, to get what we want, we have to identify what it is we want, and then, even if it is very difficult, we can figure out a way to get it. We simply have to do the correct series of things. Sounds easy enough. But do spiritual pursuits work the same way? I don’t think so. …

‘Convergence,’ Jackson Pollock (1952)

On one hand, we have
the pleaser mugging for the crowd,
whose hollow life is emptied out
by the absence of your laughter loud.

On the other hand, we have
the nihilistic Shiva god,
destroyer of securities,
whose nuclear laugh engulfs the awed.

And we can’t forget the mother,
prematurely reborn,
who rises like the beating sun
to rejoin the murmuring forlorn.

Lastly, of course, the lover,
forever loving incomplete,
bowing low to kiss the feet,
and breathing space for sound’s retreat.

Four voices with four voices each —
sixteen lonely calls.

Who speaks the words that we did speak?
What room will fit both great and small?
Tell me how far I’ve strayed from You,
And which moment gives back all:

This one.

It’s never what we think!

Robert Matta, ‘To Give Painless Light’ (1955)

This is an article about the preliminary steps of a spiritual journey. We may wish to skip the basics, but if we are serious about self-inquiry we should proceed carefully, considering deeply (and skeptically) what a “spiritual” endeavor is really all about. Patience and forgiveness are crucial, both with ourselves (as we need to follow our hearts) and with others who have gone before us (who we need as guides).

Our own journey will be unique — no two people are the same — but, ultimately, we may find that the path is not about “us” at all; it is…

‘Giant Peacock Moth’ by Van Gogh, 1889

A boy once went in search of himself,
digging through crevices of mice-infested apartments
where he conjured paranoid success fantasies
to make himself feel worthy.

But mostly, of course, he searched in others’ eyes,
wishing secret violence against loved one’s psyches,
aching to induce a nod or grin, grimace or kiss
so that they might do his existential work.

But do not regret that misguided treasure hunt!
For as his lazy, hungry, empty self came into focus,
the boy saw that he was not special the way he thought,
but altogether things are stranger than thought can think.

He thought he had to fight for the stage,
asserting: “It is up to me
to sing the world’s best melody!”

But in the shock of love, loss, and age,
he sings: “I find again that I’m the song,
as my notes cohere, both right and wrong.”

‘Bat Before the Moon,’ Biho Takashi (1910)

The question that spirituality asks is a deep and strange one: “Who am I?” Most of the time we don’t even consider this question worthy of asking because it’s so obvious to us: I’m me. We are satisfied, generally, with worldly answers, which demonstrate certain roles: I’m a woman, man, student, lawyer, friend, poet, etc.

But, occasionally, we get a glimpse into the importance of this question and our uncertainty as to its real answer: who am I really? We notice ourselves doing something we never expected. We crack open an old diary and hardly recognize the writer. We catch…

‘Free Curve to the Point — Accompanying Sound of Geometric Curves’ by Kandinsky, 1925

In college, I took private lessons with a great jazz pianist. Often our lessons would unintentionally turn toward the philosophical, and one day he made a comment which I pondered for years. We were discussing theology, and he said that he was an atheist, because if God is everything, as those who believe in God claim, then God is nothing, because something which is everything has nothing outside of itself from which it can stand apart. In other words, he said that the concept of God itself makes no sense because, in order for any thing to exist (to stand…

Ross J. Edwards

Brooklyn-based musician, administrator, seeker; pursuing a master's in philosophy at New School in NY.

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