Sighting lifes sparkles
By JAMES STEPHEN BEHRENS
A man was here to buy bonsai pots yesterday, and we had a nice chat. One topic moved to another: from jets to lights to fires to frauds to things that astound to the ruined ecosystem to government cover-ups to the Kennedy assassinations -- and to Montana and aliens.
The man believes in aliens. He told me he saw a UFO while he was in Montana and has a video shot of it. He told me he saw strange lights and said that a lot of other people out there see UFOs on such a regular basis that it is no big deal. The fascinating thing about them, he told me, are the lights. Marvelous lights, unmistakably alien, different, other, from the Big Out There and now right here in our midst.
I confess I get into the alien thing every now and then. I do believe there is other intelligent life out there and I think they travel. I am not sure if they have been here or are here. I was into the alien thing for a while after my chat with that man. A couple of hours, maybe, getting a buzz thinking that we are not alone, that there are things flying around up there and maybe I will live long enough to experience the big encounter. That sure would change a lot of things. It would make my sense of paradise a bit different -- more crowded, different-looking folks. There would be lots of new work for theologians and for Wall Street.
But after a few hours, the buzz wore off, and my daily routine was grounded again in earthly Conyers affairs, like taking out the garbage.
Later that same day I received an e-mail from a friend. Greg and his wife, Kathy, celebrated 15 years of marriage that day, and he told me that they were each others best friends. I wrote him back and said what a blessing that was -- to be married to your best friend.
Today Greg wrote that he gave Kathy a diamond ring. That one sentence sparkled. He gave it to her as a surprise at an outdoor café in Chicago. I felt my heart move when I read his words. So many miles from here, that diamond twinkled. I imagined its beauty glistened as she saw it through tears in her eyes.
Of all the trillions of lights that shone in Chicago last night, to my way of thinking, there was none more beautiful and telling than the twinkling of that gem and the light in the eyes of two people who are much in love.
I am happy they are my friends. I wish they did not live so far away. But when I read his e-mail I felt close to them. Light travels fast. It has a way of dissolving differences and distances.
I saw his face light up when he was here at the monastery and told me about Kathy, whom I had not then met. And when I did meet her a few months later, there was a light in her eyes when she spoke of many things, when she spoke of their children and Greg.
I love light. Any day is filled with so much of it, from the light of day to the light that shines through human eyes and kindness and hope. There is the light given us through words and sacrament. There is the light of memory and forgiveness.
Paradise may indeed be a vastly different place than I imagine it to be. Will there be lights? I hope so. And creatures from worlds vastly different from ours? Maybe.
Will there be diamonds? Who knows -- the streets may be paved with them. There may be gutters of gold and rainbows of rubies. But I hope that there are friendships and best friends. That makes life sparkle. It makes the heart glow and the eyes shine. It made Chicago a place of magic last night, when something of God found its expression through a mans heart and the beauty of a diamond and the heart of his wife.
I do not know for sure about life out there -- way out there. But if there is life and if it is intelligent, then it is of God, and it knows friendship and intimacy, and, perhaps, diamonds. I hope that if they were passing over Chicago last night that they saw a tiny glimmer of light, and in that seeing, felt more at home. Felt something good and familiar. Felt something from wherever they came from and ultimately want to go.
Trappist Fr. James Stephen Behrens lives at Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Ga. His e-mail address is email@example.com
National Catholic Reporter, January 26, 2001