The White Wall
Tuesday, April 30, 2002
The White Wall (c) Mark Butterworth 2001
"Let your thoughts be on things above, not on the things
that are on the earth, because you have died...." Paul
"For look, I am going to create new heavens
and a new earth, and the past will not be remembered
and will come no more to mind. " Isaiah 65:17
I don't mind dying. I don't mind dying
at all. Not because I'm old, though I am,
nor for the fact it's painless - it is not -
but because the wall before me is white,
and I am not the least afraid.
my brothers, are with me but I don't see
or notice them now. I see a soft, white wall
that I am ready to pass through and cross
into paradise. I have no doubt of it.
Not exalted or depressed, glad or worried,
I am ready. All of me agrees.
I seem to move into the white wall
and there I am.
This is a pleasant place:
a green, tree lined lane; two low buildings -
one like a tavern, one like a cafe.
A mature, young man is sitting at
a table. I walk over to him. He says,
"You've just arrived."
"Yes, I have."
"Then join me.
My name is - " He says a word, only one,
yet, I then see a field of orange poppies
amidst rich green grass. And that is his name.
I say to him, "My name is -" except I
don't recall my name. I need a new one.
I look up and see a deep, blue sky filled
with great, white clouds. I speak a single word,
and that is my name - Blue Sky - and much more.
"Would you join me in food and drink?" he says.
"Yes, I will."
He then goes inside the cafe,
returning with wine, bread, cheeses, and fruits.
All he has brought is delicious to eat
and drink. As we do so, I try to cast
back into my mind for thoughts and memories.
I have no memories. I don't know how
I came here, but I am content anyway.
I could sit here all day like this. A breeze,
scented with pine, blows gently through the forest;
the air is temperate, and the sun is toward
the afternoon. A pleasant spot. I like
the company although we've hardly said
"Are there more people here?" I ask.
"Very few at this time. There are many, though,
beyond here. In the mountains is a wasteland
full of people. I've been there. I'll never go
"Why is that?" I ask.
all that I had to do there, " he replied.
"Where's God?" I ask. "Somehow, I thought he would
"He is and isn't. He is not yet,
except that he reveals wonderful things.
"All right. I'll wait then. There must be
many beautiful places to see here.
I think I could pass a number of years
sitting at a rocky cove, watching water
rise and fall like breathing. And there was once
a mountain, great volcano, rising like
a snowy, crystal palace to the clouds
which I admired. I've longed to live in sight
"Yes, there are just such places here.
A thousand paces from this spot, there is
a meadow and a stream of terraced pools
which murmur like a whispering choir."
"Show me then."
We arose. He led me on
among thick, tan barked, and tall, scented pines.
Through broad avenues amidst great columns,
we walked upon a soft, forest carpet.
Few flowers, and small berry shrubs disturbed
the even, sunshine dappled, woodland floor.
Stepping into great shafts of light and warmth,
it seemed as if the smell of dust, the duff,
and resins of sap gave sunshine a scent.
An occasional breeze rattled the limbs
overhead, sifting through the canopy;
the verdant needles shimmering in light
and gently combing the sky.
Soon, we came
into the clearing where the meadow lay,
bright green in gold light. A silver wash
descended upon low, broad terraces
to a shallow brook with soft, mossy banks.
We sat, dangling our feet into the stream,
and felt the water's calm tug and cool flow.
Small fish and tadpoles darted here and there.
I scooped a handful of the stream, and drank.
Delicious. My senses rejoiced with taste
and flavor. All that I now seemed to know
had more sensation or experience
in it. Water felt wetter, blue looked bluer,
and light shone whiter and brighter. It made
me marvel at the richness of pure things
and simple thoughts.
I turned to my friend, asking,
"What are your thoughts?"
He laughed. "Primarily,
I wondered what you'd ask me next. And so
"There doesn't seem to be a lot
to ask, " I said. "The things I wonder about
are ordinary. Not worth mentioning."
He nodded his head.
From there we arose
and I was led by my friend through the woods
to the green lane. We walked westward and down,
eventually coming to a grassland,
then sand dunes and an ocean, or a sea.
He had a dwelling in the grassy dunes
not far above the high tide of shoreline.
As we approached, a door opened. A child,
small with bright red curls bouncing, ran to him.
He caught her as she flung herself at him,
and raised her up to trade a clasp and kiss.
A woman then appeared at the threshold,
her hair as fiery and coiled as the child's.
She smiled. Her lips a pale coral against
the cream and peach skin of her face. She wore
a simple dress of a soft color. She
came out to greet us. I was introduced
to them. Her name evoked tall grasses mixed
with wildflowers swept and waving in a breeze.
The little girl, green eyed like her mother,
was named the moment of dawn when the sun
first throws its light upon the world.
the woman smiled and led me in their home,
a modest house, low, merging with the dunes
in color and shape. The room I saw first
was simple, brightly lit, sparsely furnished.
A rug of intricately colored designs
covered the floor. The walls were plain and white.
Great windows, shaded by an overhang,
looked out to the beach and incessant waves.
Outside, among the dunes, a patio
retained a place with low, sandy, round walls,
and broad flagstones of slate. Some stairs went down
from there to the smooth, wave washed sand and water.
"What a beautiful place to live," I said.
"I always wanted to live on a beach,"
he said, adding, "let's go down to the water."
We went outside. The salt breeze slightly stung
my nostrils and eyes. We walked across the slate
flagstones, brick red, to the terra cotta stairs.
His dawn child held his hand as they came down.
The surf was pacific and not too loud,
but lay its rows of waves like rolling cables
in gentle dissipation on the shelf
I watched the water climb, then slide
and churn in its retreat as another curl,
aquamarine in clear patches amidst
white foam, dropped off its freight of blue water.
I had started to wonder about islands
in the sea and lands of exotic spice,
when it began to strike me - for the waves
kept the time of eternity, I thought.
I felt a presence in the ocean, just
as if God, like a Neptune, might rise up
and embrace us in a wave of molten light.
"It has really happened, " I said. "Heaven
is here now; and the endless Mystery
now free, all his and ours, to be explored.
He's waiting to be known in a new way.
He simply comes quietly, shares a look
with us, then passes on - as though he walked
in a garden in the evening's cool
to glance on his work and our happiness.
This is heaven. This is now home at last."
My friend smiled.
"Daddy, did you see God wink
at us just now?" the child asked.
"Wink or smile?"
he asked her.
"A twinkling smile," she told him.
"Yes, I saw him, " he said.
At our return,
a light supper was laid on the table.
Sitting down, we gave thanks, and ate sweet bread,
we drank cool, blood red wine, and supped on stew -
sopping its delicious sauce with the bread.
We spoke very little, except the child,
when asked, recounted all the things she'd seen
and done. Her childish voice, serious mien,
and narrative of marvels gave delight,
provoking gentle laughter now and then.
My friend and his beloved hesitated
to question me; letting me alone
to find my way into and through this world.
I had no doubts or questions, though. I felt
suspended from time, but not from life;
enjoying all I beheld and did, pleased
in each moment.
At the end of the meal,
the child and I sat while the man and woman
cleared the table. I watched the two of them
perform a kind of dance around the other
as they moved in rhythm, ease, affection,
and awareness. The child watched, too, and noted
the natural intimacy of them,
her parents - their graceful manners and motions.
They then produced a fruit dessert to cap
the dinner which I ate with pleasure.
the eating was done and we removed
into the living room, I took notice
of a piano. Recalling I knew
something of the instrument, I sat down
at it, opened its keyboard, and began
to test its tone and touch, picking out
a simple melody.
My friends reposed
on a couch, the child lying across
their laps as I began exploring what
I might do with fingers and ideas.
like the soft stroking the woman did to
her daughter's hair and back, I learned to lose
myself in the richness of intervals
and counterpoint, the drive of a rhythm
which presses gently forward like a tide
that carries imagination away.
I played on for some time and felt I filled
the world, flooded space and time, with music.
The room was pregnant with tone and texture,
comprehension and pleasure in beauty.
I thought, heaven is more imagining
With that thought, I brought the work
to a quiet, peaceful end.
The child slept.
My friends smiled. Sunset had passed and dusk
lay on the ocean. The room was also dim.
The child was put to the bed they all shared.
I was shown a place to sleep. I went out
to watch the stars emerge in the dark sky,
and see if any satellites or planets
appeared. I found an unfamiliar universe,
of different orbs and constellations; so
I smiled delighting in the novelty.
"Disciple is not superior to teacher; but fully
trained disciple will be like teacher." Luke 6:40
Remaining with my friends, I made a place
to sleep outside beneath the overhang
where I could rest among the sounds of surf,
and feel the wind and weather as it came.
Sometimes, when it was storming, the Dawn child
would join me as cold gusts threw mist or spray
while we snuggled warmly in our quilts.
Some days I wandered up or down the coast,
sailed out from shore to islands in the sea,
or practiced the piano - deepening
my skills and musical ideas.
we often visited or were visited
by others. All of whom became my friends.
We ate together, entertained each other,
made music we might listen or dance to.
Poets sang about beautiful places,
the love of men and women, and of children.
The mystery of light and joy which sprang
out of all things existing was invoked
in all the art and science of our lives.
Our friendships were instant, affectionate,
and amusing. Work and play with others
pleased and endeared. Kindness was everywhere.
After many months, I awoke one day
having an urge to go to the mountains;
the place my friend had mentioned, where there were
a great many people.
I left my friends
walking back the way when I first arrived
to the green lane that lead East.
the mountain range rose up blue and silver.
Along the way were places to rest stocked
with food, drink, shelter, and blankets.
was easy and passed through lovely places
or gained great vistas as I climbed. The days
were warm, sometimes darkened by thunderstorms,
while nights were clear and cool.
At night I sat
wrapped in a blanket by a fire and thought
how simple is the universe; and of all
the seeming greatness of its size is that
it took that much material and time
to make a home for life, for man, for me.
Beauty is in patterns and designs - how
a log will burn into a checkerboard
of embers; how a pine cone spirals open;
how a breeze spins the leaves of aspen trees
shimmering them like a curtain of light,
silver and green.
And what is the pattern
for man and me, I wondered?
Then I'd sleep
and see that dreams are simply images
of wondering and wandering.
across the blue and granite mountain range
until I came up to a great escarpment.
Suddenly, the land fell deep and down
into a desert stretching to the East.
Looking out upon the plain, it seemed dark,
unworldly black; and in looking closer -
it seethed. It moved as if countless insects
swarmed, buzzed, or crawled. A noisy hum rose up,
though distant in volume. I descended down
the steep decline. The pitch and strength of noise
increased; and I began to see as I
went lower that the mass of insects were,
in fact, people. Multitudes beyond count.
I came down at last to the dusty plain
and saw to my amazement that the crowds
were maddened and insane. Great numbers fought
each other by hand, claw, and tooth; screaming
in fits of frenzy, trying to kill or
were being killed. Yet no one died though pain
was felt. They stopped when exhausted, but then
resumed with rest. Their eyes were crazed. Both men
and women took part in what was endless
and individual war.
I passed through
the raging mobs. They took no note of me
as if they never saw. Within the plain
were monuments of rock that rose up high
in fingers and small mesas. People crowded
their way up on these pinnacles and cliffs,
then threw themselves down to the floor below.
They smashed into the ground in clouds of dust.
After a moment or two, a man arose,
staggered about for another few moments,
then trod back to the climbing mass, ascending
once more the cliffs.
Also, all around
were people lying down, clutching at stones
they used to bash against their heads, while some
sat back against a boulder banging skull
upon the rock. Some moaned, others ranted,
many screamed, and countless raged and then wept.
I was indifferent to them all until
I came upon a man who lay against
a stony cliff who'd strike himself with fist
and cry out, "Stupid! Stupid!" Strike himself,
and then yell, "Die! Die! Die!"
As I stood there,
he slowly noticed me, ceasing his actions.
His eyes widened, jaw dropped open. He asked,
"Who are you?"
"Your father. You are my son,
my beloved child."
"It is really you,"
he said in amazement. "My God, my God,
you really are here. Oh, father!" And then
he cried and I embraced him.
"Come with me,"
I told him when he was done with weeping.
I took his hand, guiding him through the mass
of mad humanity. He looked in shock
at all he saw around him. We walked East.
He asked many things. I did not reply.
His questions could wait. It took many days
to cross the plain. We came upon a wall
of mountains which ringed the vast desert. Where
I'd led my son, we came upon a pass,
a fissure in the wall which took us from
the riotous hordes of people and noise,
and led us through a maze until we came
upon a green valley.
Beyond its meadows,
there was a campus of fine buildings. Clustered
here and there, small groups of people engaged
in talk or walked along the paths.
a group. They stopped what they were doing.
this man, my son, and show him what he is
to do from this time onward, if you would,"
I said to them. They readily agreed.
Their eyes were shining as they stared at me.
I wondered why. They seemed reluctant to
engage my child while I was there. I left,
returning back from where we'd come.
I wandered until I came to a man
furiously fighting another. Tooth marks
were all over his arms and shoulders.
came up, pressed between the two, and they parted.
The man saw me, cried out, and ran away.
I followed him.
"Get away! Get away!"
Eventually, he ran up
to a cliff wall. Trapped in a corner,
he fell to the ground, clawing at the dirt
and base of the wall.
"Get away!" he screamed.
"Don't get yourself dirty! I'm filthy!
Don't touch me! Don't touch me! I'm too dirty,"
he continually cried.
I don't know why
he thought that he could make me dirty if
we touched. He could not alter me, and so
I knelt and grasped his feet.
He moaned, "How can
you dare come near me? I'm a filthy mess."
I kissed his feet. He trembled, broke into tears.
I gathered him in my arms like a child.
I rocked him as he wept a long while 'til
he ceased. I took my father's hand and led
him to the other place I'd put my son.
For a period of time, I walked the plain
retrieving people that I'd known before.
My son, my father, an uncle, a dozen or more
acquaintances. At last I felt my work
was done. I turned West and headed the way
The journey back gave me a chance
to wonder what it was the others I'd
encountered in the plain and small valley
seemed to see in me. What caused the fear
or terror, awe and reverence in their looks?
It seemed as if they saw another man
and not their friend or kin.
It's true, the man
I'd been to them no longer was the same,
yet, even so, I was the same man. Still,
they didn't know me as I am or was.
They looked at me as if I were a god,
the living God, with power to destroy
"How can that be?" I wondered.
And then I knew that it was possible
for God to cast his image through my face,
my form, my gestures, and my work. His face
and his form appeared to those selected whom
I'd seen. His affection and tenderness
had been revealed which terrified and rescued,
delighted and humiliated. That
had been my task - to bear his image as
a window into bright eternity;
a template of truth and mirror of peace.
I understood the differences between
myself and those I'd seen upon the plain
and in the place of new pathway for them.
I understood the likenesses between
myself and all the friends whom I had left
to do this final work upon a past
I no longer knew or recalled except
to realize indelible bonds of love.
No one is forgotten whom I'd ever known.
These thoughts erased perplexity. I looked
upon my journey back to all my friends
renewed with interest in the sights and sounds
of what surrounded me. The air seemed fresher,
drenched in woodland scents or meadow flavors.
Something essential had been completed.
Nothing lingered or delayed the rest of time.
All that was to be, limitless yet bound
in being, expanded out before me.
When first arriving here, it was as if
a butterfly had emerged from cocoon,
needing time to unfold and dry its wings.
Now all was ready for flying into
a clearer, brighter air - not of the future -
but of the present.
And in fact, the air
looked newer and particular as if
I saw its atoms dance and molecules
collide and splash with light and colored lights.
My heart was full of a kind of music,
tranquil and lyric.
As I walked, I made
a song up as I went, melodic chant
of what I saw - "How bright the air as though
the day was full of stars. How green the leaf
as though a single one could dye the sea."
I knew in myself an eternal Spring,
and that delight impelled a fresh desire.
Eagerness infused my footsteps as I
awoke to a will to form a family.
"Then I saw a great white throne and the One who was sitting on it. In his presence, earth and sky vanished, leaving no trace. " Rev.20:11
After happy reunion with my friends,
I began a task of wandering the world.
My purpose was to find a place, a land,
a home where I could build a house and live.
The world is a big place and all of it
is graceful, yet each one of us delights
to stay in one place more than others. Thus,
it did not take so long to seek and find
as I first thought.
I found myself
a wooded forest where a stream ran through
which tumbled out of mountains to the west.
The stream ran to a lake where wide girthed pines
marched up to sandy shores. Small meadows lay
dispersed amidst towering conifers.
Across the small lake, to the east, there stood
reflected in the water, a volcano,
great, massive mountain which arose supreme
among lower, wooded ranges that flowed
and radiated from its huge base and arms.
In summer, it stood brown and rocky, veined
with ice fields above the timberline which ceased
at half the mountain's height. In winter, it
was robed in white ermine, and shone in gold
during evening's alpenglow.
It was there
beside a stream, amidst great, sunny pines,
before the lake and mountain vista, I
built a house with help of friends out of rock
the same as made the mountain that I loved.
When furnished and complete, I sat and thought -
"How strange it is to realize even now,
a human is an animal, and through
all things remains a creature with desires:
not to be alone, not to be fruitless,
not to be unmated.
God is ultimate
and overwhelming, yet there is rapture
in human love for other people, too."
I felt this joyful need and so began
my courtship of a woman I had met
among a gathering of friends. Her name
was that of starlight on a moonless night.
She was as beautiful to gaze upon -
loveliest youngness married to wisdom.
Wise and kind eyes above a merry smile,
softness in her form and grace in her motion,
I noticed the small perfections of her lips
and teeth, seashell shape of her ears, the length
of fingernails, her hands' dexterity.
I marveled at her lovely newness.
Youth is as immortal as God, who is
the youngest being of all; and as youth
owns God's untiring freshness of beauty,
men and women remain charmed and entranced
by the difference of each other's nature
in perfect love - which is undying as God.
And heaven is where it's fulfilled in all -
in man and woman, in friends and in children.
I know there was a time that wasn't so,
but that has passed and is forgotten now
beyond all recollection.
She and I
would walk on pleasant paths and talk of what
we knew and did not know; and spoke of that
which gave us joy or held each other's hand
in simple silence. We became beloved
and joined our lives together - a seamless
knitting of our souls, similar as God
has deftly knit himself in each of us -
it is a lasting and eternal bond
as friend to friend, and as parent to child.
Family is an image of God, too.
Selfless love makes children in an embrace
ecstatically dissolving boundaries,
as if air and light were one breathing thing;
or like man and woman centered in a sun
amidst great forces joyful to expand,
explode into Creator momently
as though God danced equally in our bliss.
All matching of love is divine delight.
Creating a child is no afterward
but cause of greater awe and sense of life.
When my heart is full to overflowing
with glory in the richness of such gladness;
when mind cannot consider there could be
greater depth, appreciation, or blessing;
there'll come fresh experience that expands
my comprehension. The impossible
becomes possible, and powers that seemed
incomprehensible become child's play.
Thus delight in love never wanes, but finds
renewal everywhere as when I wake
each day to my beloved, to a child
adorable, affectionate friends, and work
creative, beautiful, and splendid.
was made for life of this intelligence,
inheritance, and fruitfulness. I see
all things in gladness especially when
a child of mine is born, and I recall
all is gift: pure, absolute, wondrous gift.
The greatest of all questions which remain
may always be - what next? When children, though,
are born our purpose is exact - to help them grow
in truth and wonder, joy and understanding:
the easiest of tasks, but most delightful.
And so we lived, season after season,
my beloved and I, and child after child;
teaching, making, serving, and celebrating.
I could not say how many years flowed past,
but one day a man came visiting us.
My young son said, "Dad, he looks like you."
I said. "I look like him. This is my father."
We embraced. Surprisingly, my heart leapt
ecstatic and relieved to know he loved
me as any good father loves his child.
I was satisfied. My father truly lived.
Time passed. One day another man appeared.
He was my son. I was happier still.
And so it happened, person after person
making their way to great reunions. When,
at last, my mother came, I was astonished.
Tears filled my eyes. The one who had borne me,
how deep my feeling went to her; how much
a child I felt in amazement. I blushed
to see her happiness in seeing me;
in noticing the adoration she
bestowed on me. I realized that I'd longed
to see her and we wept with joy. I knew
she saw me for the first time, and realized
the honor to have made and to know her child.
The glory of creation is unyielding.
The world began to fill and worlds began
to be enjoyed. The universe is but
a neighborhood after all.
Ten thousand children had my beloved borne,
and they ten thousand made so that our line
was numbered like grains of sand on a shore,
scattered like jewels across the universe
as countless stars.
There came a day, though, when
desire waned between my love and I
for children. We realized a deeper need,
a greater immanence of glory that
we wished to know. Together, we left
the life we had to wander, all in white,
no more to work or play, eat or sleep.
we did was roam or rest, investigating
patterns in what we watched and saw; unthreading,
in a way, the warp and woof of creation.
And each of us was present to the other,
like people in a room quiet and still.
Across the world and then the worlds, we joined
in this new prayer with others as they came
into the circle which we formed. A sphere
of seeing and a vision of each other
looking face to face with everyone.
We saw the whirlpool in a rushing stream,
the fall of orange leaves flung in the wind,
the calving of great glaciers at the sea,
the wear of granite from the air and water.
We watched the birth and death of stars, the turn
of galaxies, and the marvels of light;
while others joined our expanding circle
and added something wonderful.
a choir singing, and seeing, and knowing;
an intimate family, a lover's kiss.
And such a kiss that foreshadowed embrace
into unbounded and yet fruitful bliss.
Who knows what God has stored in his mansions
until revealed? And so it is for us,
expectant, pregnant, awaiting in peace
another kind of living. And it grew,
white light, another kind of wall before,
around, and in us; white and yet golden.