Mystics like to talk about Absolute Reality – the ultimate changeless Reality that exists beneath our relative, conditioned opinions or perceptions. One of the best descriptions of the Absolute comes from Rumi, who wrote “Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing there is a field; I’ll meet you there; when the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about…”
The Absolute is the source of all things. Absolute reality contains relative reality, the place where we abide in consciousness much of the time. We often confuse the relative with the Absolute. We use a yellow hi-lighter to underline select passages in an Infinite book and then confuse the hi-lighted fragments with the Whole story. This limits our experience of the Infinite Divine.
I know, it’s confusing – a little abstract for the human mind. So let me tell you about a Goat named Blondie who enlightened me. This Holy Goat went beyond the poets and theologians. She clarified the nature of existence in a single stark moment.
First, some history: When I was in my twenties, I lived in Manhattan. My apartment was on the upper West Side. I went to the opera or theater almost every week. The Museum of Natural History was across the street and the Metropolitan Museum of Art was a short walk across Central Park. Everything I wanted to do was immediately available.
Fast forward twenty years, and I live in Santa Paula California, population small. In Santa Paula, you cannot get sushi at 2:00 am. Occasionally a Cowboy will amble down Main Street on a horse. This has a nice Bonanza-esque quality to it but I miss the culture of Manhattan. I complained about it for years. My mantra was “There is no Opera in Santa Paula. Santa Paula is too small.” That was my reality.
Then, my husband and I rescued a Goat.
Each Christmas Eve in my church, before lighting candles and singing Silent Night,
we invite a Farm Animal Parade into the sanctuary. The animals stand on the stage for the last 10 minutes of the service – braying, honking, pooping, and sometimes cooperating. The congregation loves it.
One year we were short a goat. We learned of a petting zoo about to turn an elderly goat into a tamale. So we swooped in and rescued Blondie, a big skinny, affectionate girl who followed me around the petting zoo yard and then willingly clambered into the back of my SUV.
We took her to our home. There she butted our dog Stella, bleated her objections every time we abandoned her in the backyard, and developed an explosive case of diarrhea from eating weeds.
But when Christmas Eve arrived, Blondie held it together. She was ready for her close-up. She went out there a youngster, ate a few ornaments, and came back a star.
Do you know what happens when celebrities rise to stardom too quickly? The glitterati go wild. They can’t handle the pressure. Blondie was no exception. After the service, we brought her home with us to rest in our backyard. Two days later, Blondie decided to paint the town. She butted a hole in our rickety wooden fence and went on a wild tear through Santa Paula.
I saw the goat-sized hole in the fence and panicked. How could I be so careless as to lose an entire goat? “Hugh,” I yelled “Blondie’s gone!”
My husband and I assembled some make-shift goat seeking paraphernalia (mostly carrots) and wandered the streets of our town plaintively bellowing “Blondie….. Blondie…….”
In that moment, I understood the nature of the Absolute and the relative with painful clarity.
The Santa Paula that had once seemed too tiny to tolerate suddenly became immense beyond measure. I thought of hundreds of tasty backyards where our Goat could graze. The enticing pleasures of our miniscule town loomed large in my imagination and I thought, “I’ll never find her in a place this big.” In that moment, Blondie was a mere speck in the vastness known as Santa Paula.
Years later, I contemplate how the size of Santa Paula flipped on me. I was “absolutely” sure Santa Paula was too small. But the size of Santa Paula changed when my perspective changed. I wonder “What other proclamations do I make and claim as Absolute Truth? Where do I allow my relative opinions to masquerade as Reality?”
Everything in life is more than we think. When we tell ourselves “work is drudgery, our relationships are hell, or the customer service rep is a few fries shy of a Happy Meal;” when we proclaim “I am alone, I’m under-appreciated, or I can’t write myself out of a paper bag;” perhaps these “truths” are worthy of closer scrutiny. Perhaps our loaded, lauded opinions about everything are only as solid as the size of Santa Paula.
Our poignant, busy human self limits expansive life through anxious relative opinions. As we let go of what we think we know, we float on a wave of divine uncertainty. It feels precarious at first, but ultimately, our willingness allows us to be simultaneously empty of conditioned reality and full of grace-beyond-our-knowing. This is a good place to be for it opens us up to possibilities that always exist beyond our perceptions.
And here’s some more good news: The Absolute stands waiting for our willingness to receive it. Infinite possibilities sit by the phone, waiting for us to call.
One way to receive the Absolute is to play with the opposition of your position. Just as small Santa Paula suddenly became large, “My work is drudgery,” can become “my work is joyful.” “I am under-appreciated” can become “I grow in value as I start to appreciate everything.” We shift our thinking and start living as if the Truth is true. The evidence around us miraculously “changes” to support our belief and action. How is this possible? “We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.”
I got all this from a Goat.
You may be wondering what became of Blondie.
When she went missing, I prayed my butt off. I remembered that the Absolute holds all things. I affirmed that nothing is ever lost in the Infinite, for the Infinite encompasses everything. I said, “God, help me find Blondie. I want her back, safely, now – for she is our beloved Holy Goat.”
The minute I said “Amen,” my husband yelled, “Bon, I found her.” Blondie had set up an impromptu Petting Zoo in a neighbor’s yard. In her own way, she had discovered Rumi’s field. I know she was happy to be there, perhaps even enlightened – for she was surrounded by children and was living the good life on love and celery.
Later we moved Blondie to a farm in Ojai. There she played with other goats and undoubtedly charmed her new caretakers. Blondie probably never thought of herself as a great theologian; but I will always treasure the excruciating moment when I grasped the meaning of the Absolute from The Holy Goat.