Where you were
before you were born,
and where you are
when you’re not anymore
might be very close.
Might be the same place …
These lines by Lia Purpura appear in the current issue of The New Yorker. But the idea was coined ages ago by the Celts. They used to say that heaven and earth are only three feet apart and that in the “thin places” the distance is even smaller.
I have to believe Stonehenge was one of the “thin places” they had in mind – their idea of a gateway to beyond.
There is also a “thin place” on the paradisaical island of Vieques reminiscent of Stonehenge. A quarter-mile down a rutted dirt road into an isolated jungle area near the town of Esperanza, you can find a scene that stinks of spirituality. Boulders huger than houses rest in concentric circles – signaling a gateway that seems too perfectly drawn. To add to the mystery, at this crude site 4,000-year-old human remains were discovered and relocated to San Juan for safekeeping.
The Stonehenge of Vieques
These ancients might have intuited something modern physicists currently postulate. Parallel dimensions. Extra universes. Multiverses.
Physicists have detected the shapes of parallel dimensions by examining the influence these dimensions exert on the cosmic energy released in the Big Bang. The existence of parallel dimensions is a key element of string theory, which is the leading contender for a unified "theory of everything" – the idea that everything in the universe is made of tiny, vibrating strings of energy.
String theory suggests that the world we know is not complete. In addition to our four familiar dimensions -- three-dimensional space and time -- string theory predicts that additional, hidden spatial dimensions are curled in tiny geometric shapes at every single point in our universe. The “theory of everything” would unify quantum mechanics and gravity – but it would require extra dimensions of space.
In Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Thomas Merton says that “the gate of heaven is everywhere.” Unspoiled landscapes. Regal mountains, Sunsets and starry nights.
Like parallel universes, paradise is more intuited than seen.
Tourists, for example, abandon Cape Cod as winter approaches because they don’t see – nor even seek – the contours of paradise that are evident only in winter. Seals warming themselves on unpeopled beaches. Sea smoke rising off frigid waters in phantom silhouettes. Lake-effect snow off Cape Cod Bay drifting down from sunny skies.
Visitors to my other paradise, Vieques, avoid coming here during the autumn rainy season. As a result, they don’t get to see the electrically charged side of paradise – lightning storms that roll along the horizon in fearsome parades of energy. Thunder so hammering that you can actually feel what sound feels like.
Paradise can be found everywhere, alright. Because paradise is in the eye of the beholder.
In my next blog, “Lonely or Alone?”