I felt alarm last year when I heard New York was thinking of abandoning its New Year's Eve ball descending in Times Square because, I confess, I like thinking of that ball descending, and all the New Yorkers in that square, smack in that elusive, theoretical centre of everything - that nonexistent dream we all long for and can never quite reach unless we become what the Yogis call our authentic selves. Smack in the middle, deep in the centre, in the heart of the rose - deep in the central sadness of a single tear, or sparkling in the centre of the flame of happiness, or curled in the bosom of love, or somehow in a corner of belonging located in the alley of Never Found.
My daughters and I have a list of food we like to say has no centre, yet it has a lure that draws us into it: eat the whole plate and you might find it - but one never does. Macaroni and cheese is on the list: it has an elusive atmosphere of home cooking, even a scent of real butter if you are lucky - but, in the end, there is no centre and you wind up feeling heavy and cheated and somehow blind. On one of the French radio stations I heard announcers speak of a new apartment building in New York City - no one who is a real New Yorker can afford it - the real livyers have moved to Brooklyn, or New Jersey, the banlieu: the real centre of anything is always elusive, always shifting and sliding away. And the real centre of ourselves - where is that, and how do we get to it, and what fulfilment lies there? How wonderful it would be to break the cheat, once and for all, that says the centre of love, of being, of belonging, is somewhere out there. The wisdom of the ages says it is found within. All the sacred texts say this. And now, half way to being one hundred, I begin to gather the meaning. Maybe you can't gather it until you have grown old. All I know is, it is not coming to me through intellect, or text, or anything that speaks with an extraordinary voice. The centre is calling to me through the body, through the ordinary, through a much, much more basic level of being than I had imagined. The comfort of trudging slowly through a street, not looking for anything at all except what is.
I have always been intrigued by that self-proclaimed name of the Judaeo-Christian deity: I am that I am. But of course, this is not possible to grasp in text form, just as the urban belonging promised in that glittering ball is not possible to grasp, or to enter. You can only enter the ordinary sacrament by beginning to rot within it - beginning to fall back into earth. Bonne Annee, as they say here in Montreal. I am going to don my golden mask and go out slow dancing.