An exercise in transcendence: Daydreams

Posted by Rick Chrisman

"I'm late! I'm late! I'm late for a very important date!" These words were the White Rabbit's complaint before disappearing down the rabbit hole. Mostly, that is our own complaint every day, all day.

However, it wouldn't be so bad if we were headed for Wonderland just like the White Rabbit (and Alice behind him). Ah, to fall into the land of imagination, absurdity and free play of the mind! But we are not. Here we are in the land of measured time, insufficient time, and time the tyrant, where there re just not enough days in the minute.

Suppose we find a rabbit hole of our own. And just how would we go about finding that? All kinds of rabbit holes are abound - look around.

Fortunately, we live in an age of fitness and exercise, athletics and intramurals, that give us unlimited access to endorphins. With their aid we can effect, at practically no cost and with no side-effects, a legal and safe departure from planetary limits — and return unharmed. For me, it's basketball, or was until recently.

When I could still play full-court pick-up games, I had instant entry into the fifth dimension where bodies are fluid, motion is balletic and time stands still. Others say so, too — marathon and treadmill runners, swimmers, squash players, cyclists, skiers, to mention a few of the high energy options. But it does take intentionality, or you never find the rabbit hole.

And, fortunately, we have the arts. Whether we participate on the creating end or on the consuming end, the arts give us access to another timeless realm, the realm of beauty. When we give ourselves to the process of creation, to the exploration of a medium and its craft, we are admitted to that same fifth dimension where time stands still.

Or, at the other end, when we concentrate on the performance, the lines, the orchestration, the dancers' movements, we likewise gain entry into a timeless world. But it does take intentionality, or you never find the rabbit hole.

Yes, and fortunately, we have religion, too. Say what? Now, haven't we dismissed religion from all courts of serious consideration in this modern age, certainly at least here at Skidmore, the seventh most "secular" campus in the U.S., according to the Princeton Review?

If we have dismissed it, there are plenty of good reasons we can appeal to: the irrationalities of religion, its lethal competitiveness, its rigidity, the sexual abuse and corruption and more lethal competitiveness. All true. However, that's only part of the story, the "outside" that appears in headlines and history books.

Yet there's much more to religion than meets the unaccustomed eye, there's an "inside" to religion, which opens the way to a timeless world, a way not so much imposed by religion as something actually sought by believers as the entrance to that rabbit hole I've been talking about.

People do voluntarily observe the rituals and practices of their religion because of the efficacy in bringing peace, sanity and wholeness to their lives. And for some people, that inner peace prompts them also to fight for peace at large through work for social justice.

Sure, many so-called "believers" practice their religion because it's an obligation, or because it is a means to an end, they think, a way of getting into "heaven." Hopefully, it dawns on religious people that eternity isn't later at all, it's now.

And they know they have discovered the Eternal One when they feel free, when they feel for others, when they act creatively, when they can laugh at the absurdity of the world and when their minds play imaginatively amidst life's demands and they hardly ever hear the ticking of the clock.

But it does take intentionality, or you never will find that rabbit hole. It takes the same application of a runner or of an artist for the result to happen. The original (religious) word for this was "Sabbath," a dedicated place and time apart (could be anywhere, anytime), when Wonderland is within reach.

Rick Chrisman is director of Religious and Spiritual Life, teaches occasionally in the Religion and Philosophy departments and suspects art is the one true religion.

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