Last night, I went outside a couple of times simply to look at the sky. The first time, there was a glowering, orange gibbous moon hanging to the north-east, and banks of cloud here and there. The second time, the moon was higher, silver, smaller, and looking more directly at me.
And on both occasions, I was struck by just how big the sky is. We are all accustomed to the permanent idea of how big the sky is, but how often are we struck by the reality of that idea in a really visceral way? I really felt the size of the sky.
I went and had a short chat with a neighbour, and later was briefly joined by a friend back at my place. Both of them were amused by my saying how immense the sky was. One of them said it really wasn't so big - it really went up only a hundred or so kilometres above us. That's less than an hour's drive, out of town.
True, I said, but how big is that black thing behind and beyond the atmosphere? That is truly immense. And for a brief time, I had a full body-awareness of the immensity of space.
Talking about it, however, did what words always do: it codified it, it fixed it, it nailed it down in the memory, and as such, somehow took away some of the vivid immediacy of the experience. I went out several more times during the evening, but after the conversation, the living presence of endless immensity had gone, slipped utterly away from me because I talked about it.
Much of spiritual experience is like that.