I see the world, or I used to, through the eyes of a child. Magic, mystery, unexplainability are all my friends. I like not being able to define or understand things that come from the other side of outer space. I understand little of science, to be honest, although I am fascinated by it and recognize its value to my life, to all of our lives. However, when I meet someone who works only with the facts, proven, irrefutable data, and who approaches life from a place of finite understanding, I have to shut my gob. I can walk some way with this person who does not deviate from what they can see, touch and prove, but I cannot think as they do. They have built a whole persona around the ‘truth’ and with me and my otherness at the table, there is no going forward. The best I can do is to ask questions, which I do, because their knowledge and their definiteness intrigues me. They know they are right, these people, because they can prove it. But, it is not enough for me because I wonder. I wonder at everything. If man and woman only believe in what is seen or heard, what happened to otherness?
In childhood, otherness is called bad behaviour, or it was in mine. In adolescence, as weird and in adulthood subversive, dangerous, cloudy with a chance of thunder. Otherness people refuse to fit into any box or pigeon hole. They won’t be labelled, thus disallowing definition. Otherness people may well look wistfully at the definite people and wish they were over there, with them. Sometimes, if that need is great enough, they will go ‘over there’ but it won’t last, for the pull of mystery is too strong, like an inner moon nobody else can see.
So, what is otherness? I call it spirituality, the unseen, the unconfirmed, the invisible. Saying it isn’t there is, well true. I cannot see it, nor control it, this carpathian mystery, but without its guidance, I am not whole. I don’t believe in the spirit world, I heard someone say once. If I can’t see it, touch it, explain it, prove it, then its just fairy tale nonsense.
In many African cultures it can kill you, this non-existent otherness. It can also give life. Cursing a man from inside a shake of clacky bones and weird clothing will kill him, for he believes in the otherness so strongly. A blessing can save the same life. It’s all about belief. Although I know ‘Muti’ to be of immense power, I couldn’t talk you through it and nor can anyone who isn’t a witch doctor. Incantations, fire, herbs and potent bush plants in the hands of such a ‘doctor’ will decide on life or eventual death. Its just words, just plants, just gobbledygook, but not to the believer. I can’t see belief and nor can you. I can’t see love either, nor empathy, nor kindness – only through their manifestation in a human act. Oh, there it is, that invisible marvelous mysterious undefinable thing! It was always there, of course, a spirit-sent energy, ripe for the taking should a believer believe.
Breaking it down, walking backwards into mystery, I find my soul. It is also invisible. An unseen, unscientifically proven part of our scientifically mapped out bodies, the giver and receiver of magic. A postmortem will never reveal it, place it, define it. It quite simply isn’t there at all, can’t be pickled in formaldehyde nor accurately described, and yet we all have one. We nourish it or we starve. The up-to-us bit is, well up to us. Worldly intelligence is a wonderful grounding thing and we play truant from that class at our peril, but, if we deny our spiritual side, our otherness, we grow faint and weary.
Acknowledging that what we know for certain is only half enough for a whole life, opens our souls to a wealth of power. Let’s say I am stuck in my life, can’t work out what I want to do, whilst knowing for certain that I have ants in my pants and nothing feels right as it once did. I go through all my scientific knowledge and wherever I look, there are fences. Then, one random moment shines her light. A new idea, one I had never thought of before, which I never could have, as it just wasn’t in my data bank. It came from outside of me, not from my mind. Had it been hiding in there I would have been able to locate and employ it yonks ago. So, if it didn’t come from me, where did it come from? It came from nowhere in response to a soul call, that’s where.
In balance, we walk with our feet on solid Mother Earth and our heads in the sky. As this good earth limits us more and more with health and safety rulings, with DO NOTS and other boundaries, we must feed our souls for they are our light and our strength, our epiphanies and our revelations. They hold in gentle hands the life we live and the love we give, and when all is said and all is done, they go somewhere, nowhere, into the mystery of otherness to inspire a future soul on solid ground.
‘The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.’ Carl Sagan