Ran Lahav

   A for ABC    B for Bubble   C for Clearing   D for Doctrine
     E for Emptiness     F for Faith   G for God    H for Human  
  I for Inspiration   J for Joy      K for Knowledge       L for Lu 
  M for Mud
  N for Nothingness
  O for Openness     P for Perimeter 
  Q for Quest
 R for Remembering
     S for Sacred   T for Transformation
  U for Understanding   V for Voice     W for Wisdom
 Y for Yearning
  Z for Z

A for ABC

 ‘A’ is the starting point, so to speak—but only so to speak. Because “starting point” is already words, and words are a later development, and who knows what comes before words are born, and what the real beginning is.

One might respond: Creation, God, Physics—but these are words too. Words can weave brilliant theories, but they will never see the reality that enables them, that surrounds them, that comes before their birth.

Yet, words do not only describe or theorize; they can also arouse the heart, dissolve false boundaries, awaken hidden fountains. So when I speak about depth or reality or hidden dimensions, my words don’t make any statements. They form affirmative sentences only because of the rules of grammar. They only wish to sigh in wonder, to sing glory, to cry in confusion, to yearn.

B for Bubble

 A bubble rises into me from deep below me, like air from the bottom of a lake, a bubble of new understandings, sacred exhilaration, wonder. Delicate as a remote echo, it flutters briefly and is gone.

One could dismiss it as just a passing thought, a momentary feeling, a pleasant image and nothing else. But no, there is something more to it: a whisper from elsewhere, a glimmer from a different dimension.

One might translate it to human words: that’s what I understood and felt and saw—but formulas can’t capture the main thing: the bubble before it arrived to my surface, the underground fountain from which it was born—the voice of the depths.

C for Clearing

And then the turmoil dies down inside me—the chattering thoughts, the flickering images, the restless worries—everything which I am used to call “I.” A new silence spreads over the world, lucid and fresh—a clearing in the forest. I am no longer the familiar chatter, I no longer belong to myself.

           I now realize how much noise has been filling me, and how the noise has been blurring and confusing. And I understand: Things can be different. There is such a thing as a clearing. There is a place inside me that can receive greater things; there is a space in me for deeper matters.

            And then the silence melts away, and I am mine again.

D for Doctrine
Wanting to say more than is possible: One receives a drop of plenitude, and is tempted to turn it into a metaphysical doctrine.

Do I believe in the Spirit? The Absolute? Providence? Heavens? But how am I supposed to decide? By the way my feeling feels? How much pretense is needed to squeeze reality into one’s little formulas.

I neither affirm nor deny. Speculations don’t interest me. For me such words are not a matter of believe-disbelieve, correct-incorrect, fact-fiction. And yet, they are not nonsense either. They elevate the mind, awaken the heart, open me to greater horizons—like a poem, a lover’s whispers, a prayer. A doctrine is a movement frozen into a theory.

E for Emptiness
 When plenitude starts drying out, and the heart feels thirsty, then I know that a spell of emptiness is approaching. Soon no drop of moisture will be left to make me more than a human mechanism.

            Sometimes one doesn’t even feel the emptiness coming. The earth is dry, but one doesn’t notice. Emptiness is not just a feeling, but a state of the spirit. Everything may seem to be going well, because the normal functions still function, as if by themselves, day after day—and yet there is no plenitude, no life, only a psychological apparatus.

At such times there are two ways before me: I can try to moisten the spirit to divert the coming emptiness (and I may succeed, who knows, even though plenitude has its own weather patterns—it acts more by grace than by self-production). Or, I can step straight into my empty desert. This is a difficult path, agonizing and lonely, but with a promise: Over there, on the other side of the desert, a greater life may be waiting.

F for Faith
Yes, I have faith, but not a conviction. Faith is not a conviction in heavenly powers, in life after death, in holy scriptures. It is not a conviction at all. Faith is a willingness to grope in the darkness, to keep listening even though I can never be sure what I am hearing. It means that I need not grab and possess and acquire, because no matter what, things will be alright in some higher dimension.

Faith is a family member of trusting, of willingness, of listening, of not knowing. Conviction belongs to an altogether different family—of opinions, declarations, doctrines, of “I am right!”—which has nothing to do with faith.

True, at times of dryness a conviction might serve as a scaffold to keep one’s faith from collapsing. Pure faith, unaided by images of heavens, is difficult. Well, we may indulge ourselves with convictions if we can't do without them, but let’s not confuse them with the real thing.

G for God

Yes, I use the word “God,” but not as a description. God for me is a traffic sign: “Here starts a different terrain, where things are no longer in human proportions.”

God for me is a human image—a heavenly king, a loving father, a universal force – but a very special one: an image that points beyond itself, an arrow directing me outside my boundaries, to what is really important, to what is really real. The traffic sign is just an image on a pole, but also an exit point towards elsewhere, beyond human dimensions.

An exit point is a tremendous thing. It means total transformation, self-loss, nothingness, upheaval. This is a huge mission, even for God, and that’s why he needs to be such an awesome figure, with miracles, commandments, fires of hell, rituals, holy scriptures. But even with all this makeup, he doesn’t always succeed to open the gate. Stepping out of human boundaries is a rare event. God is an enormous image, but a human image nonetheless.

H for Human

What can I do, I am only human—an animal who tries to be more than an animal, a biological machinery with yearning. How tiring it is to be human. Sometimes I wish I could be just myself, a simple fact, not a mixture of here and elsewhere, not a promise awaiting realization. 

         On the other hand, it is a great honor to be the meeting point between psychological mechanisms and greater dimensions, where the spirit harps sometimes on brain cells and arouses in them echoes of understanding, of inspiration, of plenitude.

          This is a great honor, but a silly one as well, like a person wearing oversized clothes, like a dog in a circus who recites poetry and is proud of his own sensitivity. What can I do, in order to be really human one must be a little silly, one must wear oversized clothes, or else no space would remain between the biological facts and the greater horizons—no room for yearnings and pretense and aspirations and faith and fancy and imagination and all the rest.    

I for Inspiration

 Something stirs in my inner depths, barely audible, followed by a moment of silence and of waiting. Then a hidden movement starts rising into me, still vague, still searching for words. And suddenly I am saturated with new understandings. All drowsiness melts away. My mind is soaked with intensities.

        Who knows why the inspiration appeared at this particular moment? Why not earlier, when I worked so hard to force words into sentences? Where do those understandings come from, like a gift, like grace? But these questions fall silent, because everything is light now, and flowing, and just right. I submit myself to the inspiration, I let it carry me along, I let it write its words through me, through my brain and fingers.

Now I remember: I am only a surface phenomenon, a crust over greater depths. But I keep forgetting—I keep losing myself in myself and pretending to be the source of who I am. Let me always remember to be a flute waiting for distant winds to blow through it.

J for Joy

Joy is not an emotion, like pride or fear or anger. Emotion is a power—it activates me, controls my heart rate, pushes me to yell, or insist, or demand, or beg, or cry. Sometimes I forget its dictatorial powers and imagine it to be part of me—but the moment I try to resist an emotion. I realize how much effort is needed, and how much power it contains. This is the power of psychological mechanisms.
                    Joy, in contrast, is gentle, a flow of plenitude. It does not force or dictate. It does not enclose me within my psychology, but dissolves all walls and mechanisms. It open me towards greater dimension—like overflowing love, like thankfulness to everything, like a symphony that creates itself as it pours out. And then I no longer belong to the powers; I am a fountain.

K for Knowledge

Some speak about accumulating spiritual knowledge, about advancing to higher levels, climbing a spiritual ladder through training and exercises. They have spent years in studying esoteric techniques or meditation, they have reached a high rank and now they possess so much.
                 My own knowledge is so meager—a few disposable ideas, a couple of tricks to calm the mind but nothing about the essence. In matters of depth, reality, life, light, my knowledge refuses to accumulate and grow. In the face of Lu, the best I can do is to forget my theories, my techniques, my confidence, and stand empty-handed—an unknower.
                  Of course, I am sometimes tempted to accumulate—it would have been comforting to feel advancing—but I find that I can’t. When it comes to Lu, I am always a beginner, always at the starting point.
L for Lu
Lu is my way of saying God without saying God, my way of saying sacred without saying sacred, light without light, spirit without spirit. These ancient words are buried under heaps of interpretations and doctrines and legends. Like old sheets of paper that have been written and erased over and over, they will never be clean again.
         Lu is a new page, a new word, free of extra meanings and commitments. It is my way of turning to the root of my being without pretending to capture it with human ideas. Lu means that I don’t need to grasp it all, control it all, push myself to the center. I am free to be unknowing, insignificant, a peripheral character in the story. Because even in my own little world, Lu is the main topic.

M for Mud
If only I could rise higher, if I could be light as light, if I could be light. But so much mud fills my soul and makes me too heavy for flying. Mud is opaque and solid, with density and weight—like psychological cement, like concrete walls, like dead mass. It makes me dense and weighty, not out of bad intentions—mud is not good or evil. It’s there because it’s there, a biological fact, the sort of sediment that is everywhere on earth, even on mountain tops, even on the temple’s floor, even on the altar. And in me too—who knows why it clings so stubbornly, why so much effort is needed to sweep away one tiny centimeter.

Mud is just mud, it’s what it is and nothing else; only light can pour out beyond itself.Yet, even in the depths of the mud there are gaps and open spaces, where sparks of light penetrate sometimes, and shine. Let me be not just a puddle of mud, but a puddle of mud with a bubble of light in it. Let me be a bubble of light in the midst of the muddy puddle.

N for Nothingness

Nothingness is not the same as no-thing, as vacuum, absence. Absence means that something is lacking: a thing which once existed is no longer, a thing which could have been here is not here.

But nothingness is an altogether different matter, with intensity and presence. It is the intense stillness in the forest, the mystery that generates awe and wonder, the heart’s yearning which no-thing can satisfy. It is the sacred presence that descends sometimes—who knows why and from where—and then words fall silent. Nothingness is the hidden, silent depth which thought cannot penetrate, and imagines it to be a mere emptiness.

Nothingness is a lot, much more than something. It is no-thingness not because it’s less than things, but because it’s much more, so much more that it does not belong here with us.

Nothingness is too much for a thing like me—it escapes my eyes like absence, like nothing. If it didn’t send me an echo of its presence, if it didn’t enable me to sense what I cannot sense, I wouldn’t know it.

O for Openness

And then, sometimes, there are moments of openness: the familiar lattice of psychological structures melts away, and now I am a prison without walls, my air is the atmosphere. My experience is penetrated by foreign experiences, my thought dances with the thoughts of others. I am a word in a poem, a flute among other instruments in a greater symphony. I am wisdom-with you and wisdom-with her and with them and with everybody.

                  And then, if the familiar psychological lattice keeps melting away for a little while longer, new understandings appear through the new transparency, fluttering like butterflies in the open air and whispering strange thoughts in unfamiliar languages. New movements stir in the openness, and voices I have never heard. I am a witness to a life that is not my own, a witness to insights from distant universes, strange visions like exotic potions, wild species of plenitude. I am wisdom-with here and wisdom-with elsewhere, and with the source of all wisdoms.

P for Perimeter

Perimeter means my repertoire: I am the way I am. Something persistent keeps producing in me, again and again, the same familiar anxieties and the same hopes, the same thoughts and doubts and bodily postures, the same little stories. That’s the way of psychological mechanisms: they have their own pattern of action, and a lot of momentum, and they are not willing to change.

Sometimes I try resisting them, to change my style of speaking, to suppress a bout of anger or envy. And they might yield for a little while, but the moment I stop trying, they kick in again as if nothing happened. And then I realize: Powerful forces block me in here, within the person whom I call “I,” within this repertoire, within my perimeter.

My perimeter is maintained by many efforts: to erect walls, to declare myself, to insist, persist, to be what I should be. Perimeter means my boundaries: I am here and nowhere else. And yet, I am much more than that. The walls that hold me are fortified with psychological fortifications, with automatic mechanisms—but walls don’t stop me. I extend far beyond the little perimeter which pretends to define me.

Q for Quest  

A quest is a search that keeps searching, like a question that finds no answer, an eternal not-yet. Any final answer would smother it.

Answers require that I accept them as answers—that I suppress doubt, declare my yearning satisfied, adopt them as “my” opinions. Opinions are convenient, safe, a relief from uncertainty and disorientation. They offer a resting place, but at the price of betrayal. Because when I search, I am closer to the real answer than when I think I am holding it with my fingers.In matters of significance, to have is less than to be empty-handed.

A quest means that even the question is not yet completed, and even the purpose and promise and motivation are not yet fully given. I seek behind the screen of opinions, beyond the surface upon which they float, where one cannot possess anything with formulas and doctrines. This is a special type of not-knowing—a not-knowing that wouldn’t accept anything less than not-knowing.

There, in the realm of before-answers, my ignorance is my eyes, my disorientation is my fingers. I understand through my vertigo, and the pain of having nothing is mixed with the joy of yearning, and with the awe of being as close as I possibly can be. 

R for Remembering

I know I am entangled within myself like a bundle of rags wrapped around themselves, and this is something I cannot undo. And maybe that’s how humans like me must be. But every once in a while, let me glimpse beyond my knots, let me look outside them and remember that I am more than a self-enclosed bundle, that I am out there too, that in truth I am with everything and that everything is with me.

I wish my glimpses were longer, I wish I could stay in remembrance a bit more. But my stubborn psychology pulls me back—and I am bundled up again, wrapped by worries and plans and distractions. I wish I would never forget to remember, though maybe that’s how a human psychology must be. But grant me a moment every once in a while, one instant in those many hours, a little crack in these murky rags to peep out, to see and remember that I am not only in my little bundle, but also with you, Lu.

S for Sacred

What can I say about sacredness? That it is a presence from broader horizons? An elsewhere that dwells here with us?

But elsewhere is elsewhere and here is here, and the two cannot dwell in each other—that’s simple logic. And yet, I cannot deny that there is sacredness here with me, and that it’s greater than local facts. I can sometimes see its glow in the silence, among the trees and on the mountain, even in the depth of my own tiny being.

This may sound an arrogant violation of the rules of logic, and yet I cannot deny it—I would be denying not just ideas, but my own being.

Yes, as absurd as it might sound, I declare that sacredness is an immensity that is present here, in our miniscule proportions, in violation of the laws of space and distance, rupturing the geography of the world, fracturing walls and boundaries. This cannot be comprehended with local words—the sort of words you chatter in supermarkets and offices, only with words of sacredness, which is to say with words of awe and silence, with words of elsewhere.

T for Transformation

And then, one day, a real transformation might arrive—not merely a reshuffling of my old psychological structures or an improvement in my behavioral patterns, not just a modification but a transformation, which is to say: a new stirring in the depths from which I emerge, a new source of being.

Such a fundamental event—far below the bottom floor of my psychology so to speak—is not something I myself can orchestrate. Still I can imagine it with a mixture of hope and vision: Deep down, at the root of my existence, dormant fountains might awaken and bring in new plenitudes, and perhaps novel species of wisdom or love, maybe something even stranger.

It could improve the person I am: New doors might open up in my perimetral walls, and the walls themselves might soften. And maybe not—I might remain confined to the same old boundaries, and continue to grab and defend and insist as awlays, only now with a new fountain underneath my visible fortress.

True, I would like to get rid of a couple of troublesome patterns, to have a better psychology—but that’s not the main thing. Psychology, after all, is only a surface structure over the depths. Even if it fails to change, a greater life could still awaken in a deeper dimension. And this, after all, is what really matters.

U for Understanding

A new understanding materialized inside me, and I recognized that it came from the depths. It doesn’t matter what precisely it whispered, the point is that it percolated into my little self from a hidden fountain. Whether it spoke about spirit or matter, whether about me or humanity, about poetry or scriptures or philosophical theories—whatever its words, it rose from the depths and infused me with a surge of inspiration, like an echo from a distant world.

It spoke in English, of course, in a language I know, in the vocabulary and images found in my mind. These were the available materials, and it combined them into verses of wisdom, as a child combines building blocks into a grand castle.

The result looked like ordinary human sentences—the same grammatical structures found in newspapers or street conversations. But despite the linguistic similarity, not all understandings come from the same source. Many come from one’s self, produced by perimetral thoughts and staying in there—they are knowledgeable and clever sometimes, but still of human proportions.

Yet other understandings, much rarer, are altogether different: They are not mere thoughts or ideas, but surface ripples of a hidden movement in the depth of the ocean. They are not a matter of opinion, not something to agree or disagree with, because they do not declare anything about anything—they are the original movement itself, an echo of a reality reverberating in me, in the human material.

V for Voice

Sometimes my words are not my own, they are not of my thoughts. They emerge from a hidden dimension, like a wave rising from the depth of the ocean, a voice of a deeper reality whisperingin my mind, articulating new ideas and activating my fingers to write.

A voice of reality doesn’t try to give information, to make declarations, to express opinions. Itdoesn’t ask for agreement, it doesn’t try to convince. It opens a window, breaks a wall, awakenshidden fountains of inspiration, and flows towards new horizons. Its words are seeds of newmeanings, a grammar for novel possibilities, a beginning of a fresh movement—a currentthrough human history, motivating, inspiring, unfolding for us new realms.

Such a voice has its own dynamics. It keeps speaking even when people try to silence it, evenwhen they try locking it in dead formulas and doctrines. It can speak through the writings of athinker—it keeps speaking centuries after his death, still awakening and stimulating. Of course,a voice might shrivel and die, if it stops giving life and turns into mere theoretical formulations.
But as long as it is more than words, as long as it has a real movement, it carries bubbles ofreality in me, in us, in life.

W for Wisdom

Smartness is sharp as a knife, sophistication is complex as an electronic circuit, but wisdom is vast as space. It does not dissect and calculate and categorize—it opens its arms and embraces the world, silently attentive to all, a light that caresses everything, tender, hardly noticeable. It does not grasp every detail it touches, it does not always know to analyze and define in clever formulations. It understands quietly, without seeking to declare and impose and accomplish, without seeking anything—it is simply there, simply present with all.
It stretches far beyond the walls of my perimeter, beyond the theories I declare and the opinions I hold. Because wisdom is much greater than my ideas, greater than me—I may belong to it, but never possess it. It infuses me with understandings from great dimensions, engulfing me, seeping through me all the way to the root of my being, all the way to the depths. Through wisdom I am beyond myself, and I too am with greater dimensions.
Wisdom is a cousin of presence, of vastness, of ocean. Only when it fills me, only when I am submerged in it, only then am I in wisdom and wisdom is in me.

Y for Yearning

Things seem to be going just fine—work, relations, success sometimes—and yet, a strange thirst inside me keeps whispering: Something is missing, it says. It isn’t satisfied with ordinary satisfactions, it wants something different. What exactly does it want? Entertainment ? A change of profession? Adventures? No, it longs for something greater.

It’s hard to understand what it is looking for—after all, I have everything one might want. But sometimes, in moments of silence, I can hear it asking: “And that’s all? Is this the entire story—social games, comfort, money, self-respect, fun sometimes—and nothing more?”
I could ignore this whisper: “A mere adolescent dream, how unrealistic! I must have been working too hard. I need some diversion, a little vacation might help.”

But sometimes I understand: This is not mere boredom or tiredness, but yearning. And yearning is an altogether different thing. Yearning is not about myself, not about my satisfaction, but about horizons, heights, depths. It isn’t interested in lukewarm substitutes—pleasant, interesting, clever, exciting—these are games, it longs for the real thing, at least a little drop of it, at least for a moment. Yearning is a type of love: Open the gate, Lu, let me in. I have seen enough of myself, now let me come to you.

Because yearning is not a need or desire, not a product of psychological mechanisms. It is a voice from another dimension awakening my inner depths—and my inner depths responding in yearning. They remember the lover who touched them once, they wish to be touched again, they long for plenitude, they want to flow into the ocean.