Cloud-walking is the kind of expression that drives pragmatists mad. It puts words around the insatiable desires, huge talents, boundless energy and grandiose dreams that we all carry in the depths of our souls. Like Oliver Twist, we always want more. There’s a hunger inside and nothing seems to satisfy it. We cope with it by blaming the limitations of everyday realities – unfulfilling jobs, partner hiccups, mortgage repayments, tractable children morphing into adolescence, inappropriate education, health issues, world- events and so on.
Cloud-walking is like reaching for the stars. Something draws us but we just can’t seem to grasp it. We want to believe that the sky is the limit – if only I could get out of the rut I’m in. We share our yearnings with a friend or a partner – and they tell you to get your head out of the clouds. Talk that goes beyond the day to day stuff is uncomfortable. There is even a suspicion that you’re depressed or maybe you’ve ‘got religion’.
Even so many Australians are comfortable with the kind of innerness that accompanies activities like surfing, fishing, bushwalking and gardening. But any mention of God or suggestion that such activities might have a mystical quality about them and our sensible, rational self steps in. Writer and academic David Tacey says that Australians find it hard to talk about spiritual matters because “they fear being stigmatised or categorised as a lunatic fringe. We are such a radically secular culture, so materialist, that to talk about the transcendent is almost un-Australian.”
That word, transcendent, can be a stumbling block. Celtic spirituality describes transcendence as a thin place, as though the air around suddenly parts and takes our breath away. Some call it an Aah! moment. Time stops still and our hearts and minds are suddenly full and complete. It can happen at the birth of a baby, or a first glimpse of Uluru or in the silence of a sleeping house, maybe listening to music. It’s a God thing, a glimpse of God, not just as Other, but really close, one with us. It’s a gift and God offers it to people of all religions or even no religion.
Inside each one of us resides a mystic. Now, that’s another word that makes us uncomfortable. American writer Kathleen Norris says that when someone is described as being a mystic it’s generally meant as a warning – here is somebody whose head is in the clouds and can’t get to places on time – someone we admire but wouldn’t want our children to marry. Mystics, cloud walkers par excellence, understand that it means stepping out into the unknown. No longer content with a life of outmoded religious externals and the restrictive rules of an institution that has forgotten something, they take small, tentative steps into the unexplored depths of what seems ordinary, and find God is already there.
God knows well that within each of us is a mystical core, a point where the human meets the divine. So God keeps calling and nudging and pushing and inviting us to go cloud-walking.