A highlight of our Christmas was the opportunity to watch the new Disney Pixar film ‘Soul’. When our children were young, the latest Pixar animation was a guaranteed summer holiday highlight. Now we are all adults, I wondered whether a new Pixar film would have the same magic. I needn’t have worried. ‘Soul’ is at least as much for adults as for children, not least because of its magical exploration of the profoundest of psychological and spiritual questions such as ‘How have I become the person that I am?‘ and ‘How to live?’ Do we have to find a purpose or a calling to unlock life in all its fullness? Or should our attention be focussed more on attentiveness in the present moment, on making connections between the everyday reality we experience and the sacred space that underpins and surrounds it?
A key motif in ‘Soul’ is a falling leaf, which nestles in Joe, the main character’s, hand at a crucial moment, helping him to see the world and his life through a very different lens. I was put in mind of William Blake’s famous lines;
‘To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower.
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour’
Can we really see the whole world in a grain of sand, or in a falling leaf? It’s not only poets and film makers who encourage us that it might be possible. Adam Frank is a Professor of Astrophysics and he writes;
‘Through the lens of science we can see how even the smallest thing can be a gateway to an experience of the extraordinary, if only we can practice noticing. We walk past a thousand, thousand natural miracles every day, from the sun climbing in the sky to the arc of birds seen out of our windows. Those miracles are there waiting for us to see them, to notice them and, most importantly, to find our delight in theirs’.
As we enter more weeks of lockdown, it may be that some of us have more time and space to ‘practice noticing’, to develop our awareness of the sacred web that holds and connects us to the divine, and to find a deep joy in that sense of connectedness.
What better season for such a spiritual discipline than Epiphanytide, as our scriptures and tradition help us focus on the God who reveals himself to us in and through our earthly reality; a man in need of healing; a wedding in need of wine…?
In both of those gospel stories human needs are met and an epiphany brings transformation. Just as it did for Joe. Just as it can for all who are practised in noticing.