The three great mysteries: air to a bird; water to a fish; mankind to himself.
Mom and Dad had it all worked out, who they were, what their roles were, all with the help of their heritage and their Bibles.
Mom's grandmother was Quaker, the religion of the "friendly persuasion" kind. Quakerism began as the opposite of dictum and dogma.
Quakers relied on an inner light. Preachers did not sermonize at meeting houses. A pulpit was unnecessary. All attendees were silent until the Spirit moved someone, then that person spoke out, testifying.
Mama had a very gentle disciplinary approach. Daddy, not so much. Both relied on the teachings of Sunday School to fill in the blanks with us, but sitting through adult sermonizing was required.
It wasn't until I'd entered public school I realized my parents were very different from other families attending other churches.
Other parents sent their children to Sunday School too, but they didn't forbid their going to movies, dances, and associating with those who drank wine, smoked cigarettes, or played cards.
Another difference was the periodic revival meetings our church staged. Converting sinners to potential saints seemed the goal.
It was at one of those revival meetings, around age seven, I'd felt unusually shamed. I'd listened to the preacher tell how sinful and black the heart of the "unsaved by grace" person was.
At home that night, Mom and I said our usual bedtime prayer together. She'd asked me if I had a special prayer request. "I want a clean heart," I told her. We'd prayed. I'd drifted off to dreamland.
The next morning was an entirely new day for me. Perhaps Mom nudged me into assessing how I felt, but even in my seven year-old heart I knew I felt differently. I seemed to have a new confidence.
Outside at play, by myself, I noted a new brightness, a new lightness of being. The grass seemed greener than I'd ever seen. I studied the tiny insects with wonder. I thrilled at the birds singing in the distance, as though they were acknowledging me.
It would be years before I came to realize that was the moment I'd felt what clean of heart was.
Such a nugget of awareness, that knowing of a bigger self, of autonomy, of expanse, saved my soul hundreds of times throughout the ensuing decades. It saved me when I could remember to return to it, to that anchor at my core.
I'd claimed a unique comprehension of a subtle distinction between religion and spirituality. I had jumped ahead on my own. I became connected to magnanimous love, bypassing dogma.
Knock on the sky and listen to the sound.
A student of life, eternally