Mark Zegarelli
Mark Zegarelli

A Short Book About Oneness


Isn't he a bit like you and me?

            John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Nowhere Man


I remember the day as if it were yesterday, although it occurred in 1996. 

My mother left two messages on my answering machine, one after the other. The first was in response to a terrible argument we'd had, one of too many such arguments throughout our relationship. The second was a response to that response.


The first message went something like this:


Mark, I think I'm getting it.


I realize that you can't hurt me. That, in fact, nobody and nothing can hurt me. Because who I really am is entirely safe, eternal, and indestructible.


I see that now. And from that perspective, I see that everything that's ever caused you and me to argue and suffer and blame each other is entirely an illusion. It has nothing to do with truth, the truth of who we really are.


I don't think I've ever really seen that until today. And I think it may well change our whole relationship, the whole nature of who you and I are to each other, from now on.


It was a startling shift. Listening to her message, I could hear the profound calm in her voice – as if, having traveled through a lifelong and battering storm, she'd suddenly awakened to a clear morning that was strangely lacking in thunder, wind, and rain – filled with welcome silence, peace, and the potential for joy and renewal.


The second message, however, was roughly as follows.


Mark, I'm sorry, but I want you to ignore the message I just left you. I can't do it. Goodbye.


We didn't speak for many months, maybe several years, after that.


If you recognize at least a bit of yourself in these two messages, you're not alone. And that goes double if you're on any sort of a spiritual path, whether or not you'd label it with those precise words.


In one moment, we seem to have access to an unshakeable calm right in the center of our ordinary, chaotic lives. It came from nowhere, and yet it's always been there, and we know that to be true without quite knowing how we know.                           

And at some later moment, we find ourselves kicked out of paradise again, wandering in a storm of fears, conflicts, uncertainty, suffering, and constant threat. 


How does this happen? And why?


It strikes me that this is a core question – a burning question – almost a taboo question in spiritual circles. And as such, it's a question that receives too many answers that are unsatisfactory, disappointing, misleading, or even downright insulting.


And yet, it's an essential question.


How can I acknowledge the vast misery of life on our planet, place it alongside the undeniable glimpses of peace and joy that have visited me throughout my life, and somehow make sense of these two experiences?


Or, wait, let me ask the same question in another way:


If these two experiences are somehow two sides of the same coin – that is, they're connected, but you can only see one side at a time – how can my life be more than just the repeated flip of that coin, weaving randomly between despair on one hand and welcome but ultimately unsustainable peace on the other?


Can my life ever be more than that? How?


That's what I want to explore.