Animism comes naturally to storytellers. The storyteller is a kind of ventriloquist, throwing imagined spirit into any and every thing. Birds talk, trees talk, doors, plates, shoes ...anything talks and thinks and feels.
As a storyteller father, I find it very easy to animate the objects around me, especially when such animation serves to amuse, instruct, or motivate my children.
So, naturally, that day I was trying to get Jordan (then 4) into the car so we could go somewhere, I resorted to animism.
Jordan was lingering on the sidewalk, investigating the starry leaves of a Japanese Maple. I stood by the car door, explaining why he needed to get in his seat. (Why did he need to get in his seat? Why did I get so worked up? An agenda, a destination, an agreed-upon system for time-keeping, and I can't see the starry wonder of a leaf!)
Clinging to my sense of urgency, I decided to animate the buckles of his child safety seat. I spoke to them resignedly, "Well guys, I guess we're not going out after all..."
The buckles replied, "Aww too bad, we were lookin' forward to the trip. We been sittin' here going' nowhere all day."
"Yes, I commiserated, "but that's the way it is. Jordan isn't coming, so..."
I was angling for Jordan, using Polonius' strategy: "by indirection, I will find direction out."
For some reason, the belt buckles had a kind of urban street dialect; a touch of Brooklyn, I think. I instantly realized that they are basically naive; ignorant but not stupid. They just don't get out much. So they rely on Jordan's reports to understand his world.
The trick worked. Jordan came over to talk to the seat buckles and they were delighted to see him.
"Hey! Look who's here! Good to see ya kiddo. Come on up here and let us give you a big hug. Where we going' today?" On and on they cajoled him, while I dutifully snapped the buckles and took my place behind the wheel, leaving the stage to the newly animated seat.
Jordan carried on the conversation and had a nice chat with the buckles. I drove on, throwing my voice into the seat buckles, while the rest of me watched the road.
I paid the price of the Creator. Having brought the buckles to life, they were now a part of our routine. Getting into the car, Jordan would call out "Hey guys!"
They would chat while I took on the chauffeur's duties.
So, it happened that I was driving with Jordan to a pizza party at his school during the time that I was also disintegrating into the microbiome and losing my self. ("Lost" parts 1,2,3 on this blog.)
As we got into the car and I buckled Jordan in, he began to converse.
"Hiya kiddo! Where we goin' today?"
"We're going to a pizza party!"
"Oh that's great! What's a pizza, some kinda shoe?"
"No, a pizza is a thing that you eat."
"Oh yeah? What kinda thing?"
"It's round and it tastes good."
"Yeah? What's it made of?"
There is a brief silence. I am driving. He answers.
"It's made of God."
There is another silence. I don't know what the buckles have to say to that.
In the pause, Jordan addresses me.
"Isn't that right, Dad?"
"Isn't what right?" I say, feigning ignorance of this conversation.
"Isn't pizza made of God?"
"Well," I consider, "yes, I guess it is. If God is in everything, then God is in pizza."
Jordan and the buckles are satisfied with this answer.
Suddenly the world has become luminous. I am driving in harmony with all creation.
All is one and God is All."
Walt Whitman's words come to mind:
"... all the things of the universe are perfect miracles, each as profound as any.
I will not make poems with reference to parts;
But I will make leaves, poems, poemets, songs, says, thoughts, with reference to ensemble;
And I will not sing with reference to a day, but with reference to all days;
And I will not make a poem, nor the least part of a poem, but has reference to the soul;
having looked at the objects of the universe, I hold there is no one,
nor any particle of one, but has reference to the soul."
I have lost myself and found, instead, a greater Self.