It is difficult to perceive the presence of God in the routines of everyday life. God is not apprehensible to our normal five senses. You can’t hear God, see God, taste, smell, or touch God. You certainly cannot weigh God.
So, how is it possible to perceive the presence of that ineffable reality we give the name “God”?
The movie “Smoke” starring Harvey Keitel and William Hurt provides a surprisingly profound answer. Harvey Keitel stars in the movie as the smoke shop owner Auggie Wren. People come and go from Auggie’s shop. He knows his customers and is attentive to their particular needs. Near the beginning of the movie Auggie has a conversation with a customer that starts Auggie asking,
Did you ever hear of Sir Walter Raleigh?
Sure. He’s the guy who threw his cloak down over the puddle.
That’s the man. Well, Raleigh was the person who introduced tobacco in England, and since he was a favorite of the Queen’s, Queen Bess, he used to call her – smoking caught on as a
fashion at court. Once, he made a bet with her that he could measure the weight of smoke.
You mean, weigh smoke?
Exactly. Weigh smoke.
You can’t do that. It’s like weighing air.
I admit it’s strange. Almost like weighing someone’s soul. But Sir Walter was a clever guy. First, he took an unsmoked cigar and put it on a balance and weighed it. Then he lit up and smoked the cigar, carefully tapping the ashes into the balance pan. When he was finished, he put the butt into the pan along with the ashes and weighed what was there. Then he subtracted that number from the original weight of the unsmoked cigar. The difference was the weight of the smoke.
In addition to running his smoke shop, Auggie has a peculiar life passion. He photographs the same New York corner outside his store at the same time every day.
At one point in the film, Auggie shows the albums containing his photographs to Paul Benjamin. Paul is a writer who has been unable to write since the sudden accidental death of his wife. He has lost his soul. As Paul looks through Auggie’s albums they discuss Auggie’s strange passion for taking pictures. Benjamin complains about the photos saying,
They’re all the same
That’s right. 4000 pictures of the same place. Corner of 3rd St and 7th Ave at 8 o’clock in the morning. 4000 straight days in all kinds of weather. That’s why I can never take a vacation. I gotta be in my spot every morning at the same time. Every morning at the same spot at the same time.
I’ve never seen anything like this.
It’s a project. What you might call my life’s work. It’s a record of my little spot.
You’ll never get it if you don’t slow down my friend.
What do you mean?
I mean you’re going too fast. You’re hardly looking at the pictures.
They’re all the same.
They’re all the same, but each one is different from every other one. You’ve got your bright mornings; you’re dark mornings. You’ve got your summer light and your autumn light. You’ve got your weekdays and your weekends. You got your people in your overcoats and goulashes. You’ve got your people in shirts and shorts. You’ve got the same people, sometimes different ones. Sometimes different ones become the same, and the same ones disappear. The earth revolves around the sun, and every day the light from the sun hits the earth at a different angle.
That’s how we discern the weight of God. That’s how we perceive the invisible, hidden imperceptible presence of the Divine. We pay attention. Paying careful attention to anything has the capacity to open the eye of our heart to that other hidden dimension that permeates all of life.
We become conscious of the Divine as we honour life and the Creator of life by taking the time to notice the ordinary realities of our day-to- day existence. We slow down. We stop; we look at what is there.
God will not be rushed. God is only perceived as we continue to show up to the wonder of each moment and the beauty of the ordinary.