A Star, a Star, with a Tail!
This last year, to my surprise, I began to follow a star, and it’s led me to my inner Baby Jesus, made of both the heavens and the earth. Yes, it’s been a stretch of imagination and has called for a creative mixing of elemental metaphors.
Tonight, time writ both large and small is upon us, time as the stars tell it. Tomorrow, we finally realize the oft-repeated fact of the end of the Mayan calendar, and another oft-repeated event, the annual winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. As Christmas is next in the line up of Big Days, I think also of the wise men who followed a star to that near naked baby in his straw bed, Baby Jesus, sweet little animal, born as all mammals are from his mother, ready to root and suckle and belong to the human family. “Said the shepherd boy to the little lamb, do you see what I see? A star, a star, burning in the night, with a tail as big as a kite.” Surely the little lamb had a tail; what’s amazing to me is that even the star has a tail! And so I imagine the star loves the animal world, the far-flung consequences of its own creativity; stardust the ancestor of shepherds, and lambs, and even a baby in a manger. And so I think today about stars and animals and the way we humans are both star and animal.
Over this past year, destiny erased my self-story—not my life, not even my livelihood—just my story about my life, just my sense of character and direction. But what is a human person without a story, if not a bunch of bones stewing in a psychic cauldron? The end of your story feels like an end of personal time, a death, especially if you have spent 50-some years constructing your self-centered story. It happened to me this year, but it happens in every life and I am old enough to know this, to know these are both devastatingly vulnerable and stupendously freeing moments, very much like the newborn baby moments we cherish and celebrate. But I am no newborn; without my story, there were no signs for me to follow, no one to point for me. As my life settings changed, and the characters in my story morphed unpredictably, I did not know where to go or what to do. Ah, desperate times call for desperate measures, so I meditated every day.
And, in my meditations, I found the inner star I'd been told about. I mean by this a particular phenomenon of experience, the radiant light that can appear at the third eye, the sixth chakra between the eyebrows. It appears there naturally when our minds become calm enough to perceive it. Once perceived, you know it was there all along, gently at the periphery of awareness.
This star became my guiding light and I came to love it and to feel comfort and a kind of gentle exhilaration whenever it appeared in my mind’s eye. I think this star may be the tunnel of light that people who have had near death experiences report going through. I would love to see brain scans of the mind’s experience of the star. I can’t help but wonder about the neuroscience of the phenomenon. I think it’s got to be something important about being human, whether that importance is some cosmic connection to the stars out there, or simply a mind calm enough to perceive its own light. In any case, these come down to a common interpretation—that stardust out there made this inner light in here and we can experience this scientific fact subjectively and directly; we can find comfort.
I wonder if those wise men of long ago who followed the star till it rested over the manger of Bethlehem were themselves exiles without a story. Forced alone into the darkness, I followed my inner star and that star led me to a naked baby self, lying in the manger of the animal world, myself a vulnerable and new human with the impulse to root and suckle and to belong to the family of things. I've come to think this Baby Jesus to whom the star points is the promise that, without the distraction of a tidy self-story, we're fresh; we rise and shine because we have that inner star to follow, and no death can eat that star because it is the portal from life to life.
This last year of the Mayan calendar is the year that I followed a star because it was the only thing I could do, and it led me to a kind of Baby Jesus, the flash of pure potential, of innocent being without the baggage of a complicated life story, the broken open, fresh from the womb potential. This is the wisdom that Buddhists name with elegant simplicity, “No Story.” The wise ones from the East followed the Star to a little bundle of pure joy for the whole world. And this year, may we all know where to find that Star, the greatest of all blessings, a Christmas gift for the time beyond time.
Do you see what I see? A Star, a Star, shining in the night, with a tail. . . .