Everybody has a secret part that yearns to be startled out of normal life and blown away: by love that touches your deepest self, by music for the oboe, by mountains that disappear into the fog, by justice getting the last laugh. Calling this feeling a spiritual yearning makes some people uncomfortable, because that language has for so long been so associated with organized religious groups, that we assume they hold the patent. They do not. The yearning for connection to something deeper than words, is universal. If you encounter it in a traditional religious setting, great. If not, read on.
The image of the wild goose comes from the ancient Celtic Christian tradition, which celebrates the sacred in the midst of the everyday, and most intensely, in the wilderness. It is a tradition in which sensitivity to small, breathtaking encounters is a normal part of life: prayer, for them, was deep appreciation of the rowing of a boat, the night sky, or the moss growing on a log.
The wild goose became the image that later Christians called the Holy Spirit, the divine presence in the midst of ordinary moments, as much as in personal crises and public celebrations. The wild goose flies where it will, graceful and fearless. We are tempted to drop what we are preoccupied with, and watch. No belief system prepares us to be awed in such moments, and none is required.
Something unusual is developing in the community of spiritual seekers today called “emergence,” a search for images, social projects, and genuine community transcending normal boundaries of religious dogma. It is being expedited by the capacity of social media to gather together diverse communities. Some emergent spiritual seekers have traditional religious affiliations; some do not.
Sojourners, a blog about faith, politics and culture, writes today about the Wild Goose Festival planned for later this month in rural North Carolina, coinciding with the Christian Pentecost, the traditional, awkward celebration of the mystery called Holy Spirit. The Wild Goose Festival is described as multimedia and interfaith, merging visions from art and social justice: “In adopting the image of the Wild Goose we recognize that in the current climate of religious, social and political cynicism, embracing the creative and open nature of our faith is perhaps our greatest asset…” May their journey to North Carolina be rewarding and inspiring. Maybe it will be another Woodstock.
The image of the wild goose inspires searching in unexpected places for spiritual nurture. That process can happen at home, too, of course. It is the intent with which you approach an experience that invites spirituality into the room. Try this: find something unique about each person at the dinner table tonight, that you may not have noticed before. Or google a topic you care about, and notice the stunning number of sites scattered around the planet, where information awaits you, each of them touched by somebody with whom you have a common concern. Walk mindfully and slowly around your block, noticing small accidents of nature and human encounter. Prepare to be surprised.
The wild goose seems to show up that way.