In the middle of things, we are born, we live, and we die.
R. Carlos Nakai (b. 1946)
The title of this website and my recent book, In the Middle of Things, is also the title of a selection on one of my favorite compact discs, a recording of native American flute music by R. Carlos Nakai (b. 1946). Since first reading Nakai’s brief comment about this piece, as stated above, I have often referred to it whenever reflecting on the significance of spiritual life, especially with regards to our relationship with time, perhaps the most taken-for-granted aspect of our lives. Being “in the middle of things” in the context of “we are born, we live, and we die,” obviously suggests that a person’s life is a passage through time. But it also suggests that all such passages are part of a recurring cycle within which all of life, as we can observe it, unfolds. And if we take the image of “being in the middle of things” further, we can imagine the recurring cycle of time itself as something within a more encompassing reality – a timelessness, an infinity. If we are actually in the “middle” of everything, both within and transcending time, doesn’t this also imply that we are at the center of everything? And if we are actually at the center of everything, surely we are in a position to be in touch with the ultimate source of meaning for everyone and everything: we are in a position where, in a spiritual sense, “touching anything touches everything,” where we can sense the fundamental unity at the heart of the diversity of our world.
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Both this website and my recent book focus on exploring questions and paradoxes that I believe can keep us in touch with the fundamental unity we share with everyone and everything. Are we born to be good? Why is there always more than meets the eye? Why is an end always a beginning? Can there be strength in weakness, freedom in necessity, light in darkness, life in death? Everyone, regardless of whether or not they belong to a particular faith tradition, is faced with these and many similar questions and paradoxes as they look for meaning in the often complex and perplexing situations of daily life.
In the light of our common spirituality, such questions and paradoxes have a power to bring people together in a common quest for meaning, which transcends the distinctions between different belief systems. It is my hope that the simple little phrase, in the middle of things, will keep reminding those of us who reflect on it that ultimately everyone and everything belongs to the wholeness of reality. In the light of this realization, to be fully alive is to live as a spiritual person, which is first and foremost about honoring the incredible diversity-in-unity to which we belong. And we can do this most naturally and creatively by participating as fully as possible, moment by moment, in our everyday lives.
[Book available at Indigo Chapters]
Humanity will find that it is not a diversity of creeds, but the very same creed which is everywhere proposed… Even though you are designated in terms of different religions, yet you presuppose in all this diversity one religion which you call wisdom.
Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464)
Cited in Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells (2004), p.3