The Human Carnival: Shining Like the Sun

When the weather seers predicted a weekend of the glorious summer days we’ve lacked since May, we cast about for adventures that would take us outdoors.

Phillip has a friend who restored an old car and enters it in auto shows, where cars are grouped by their “class,” and receive awards according to these and other categories, including the coveted “Best in Show” award.

I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy a car show; I’d be happy in a world where transportation was limited to walking, bicycling, and mass transit. But I own a car and drive it when I want or need to go somewhere further than I can realistically walk or bike in a given time frame. And people have different interests and assign value to their collections for a multitude of reasons. Maybe I’d learn more about car collectors by attending with an open mind and listening for the stories behind the choices.

I learned, like those of us who value antique furniture, there is a nostalgic aspect to collecting and restoring old automobiles; they remind us of our childhoods, an idealized past, or are historically significant. And an old car can symbolize someone’s youth, his time of individuation and the endless dreams about the life he imagined for himself as an adolescent. Here is the very vehicle that took him beyond parental authority and into his own…

And then there’s the puzzle-solving aspect of restoring old machines: the location of parts and endless tinkering, perhaps not unlike my endless hours in my gardens. It seemed to be the kind of activity, like any passion, that takes one deep within and mends the spirit while engaging the mind.

So we went to a car show this weekend, and the next day attended an even larger event that featured autos, crafts, music, and carnival rides as well. I listened to stories and learned a bit about old cars and met the people who love them.

I observed other human animals and relaxed in the midst of those others who, like me, are constantly sifting through choices, assigning value and judgment, succeeding and failing, earning awards, connecting, withdrawing, winning and losing.

All these limits and labels we place on ourselves and others—they vanished as I sat and breathed and merged with the human energy around me. There can be a great letting go, in the unlikeliest of places, that comes with a blessed grace washing over the spirit.

I recalled Thomas Merton’s moment of enlightenment, his epiphany on the corner of Louisville’s Fourth and Walnut:

…in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers.  It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race … there is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes.  If only they could all see themselves as they really are.  If only we could see each other that way all of the time.  There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed… (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, New York: Doubleday, 1996)

Those who forecast the two days of pleasant weather were right: It was a lovely weekend, both sunny and enlightening. I could use a few more of these…maybe I’ll start a collection.


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6 thoughts on “The Human Carnival: Shining Like the Sun

  1. Fortunately for me, your conclusion redeemed much of the earlier part of this post, that made me quite uncomfortable. All of the pictures, though, were a joy.


    1. Thank you, Shimon; I liked the way the pictures turned out, too. I chose to edit the post as well; perhaps it would make you less uncomfortable now, although I would also say discomfort can often be an invitation to explore where we are emotionally and spiritually, and what our feelings are telling us–which was the point of the post, actually. I always appreciate your visits and comments.


      1. Thank you, Catherine. And yes, I like the edited version better. I understood what you were saying in that first part, but I thought it was worthy of a full discussion, and that some of these attitudes about wanting to ‘save the planet’ should not be taken for granted. But should be examined carefully. I hope my earlier comment wasn’t too intrusive.


  2. I want to go somewhere with you so I can listen to your thoughts and observations. I would truly learn presence and attentiveness, I think. Thank you for sharing with us.


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