On levity

Levity, 2021 (digital) © Gabriela De Golia

A few weeks ago I was walking through the woods near my house with the specific intention to receive divinatory messages from nature. What came up was a visitation from a butterfly that landed right in front of me on my walking path. It nestled itself onto the ground and opened up its beautiful wings for me to marvel at.

Almost right upon seeing this creature, I heard a voice within me say, “Levity is sacred.”

Levity isn’t something I often think of as a personal quality of mine. I’m able to have fun, yes. But I often tell myself it’s best to “think deeply,” to take everything I’m doing seriously, to consider the weight inherent with being alive in these times. An intensely intellectual upbringing mixed with navigating traumatic experiences made me a bit of a stranger to levity for many years.

I also consider myself a mystic. Many people will define that differently than I do, but for me, it means I can have direct and embodied experiences of the divine. I don’t need middlemen to mediate my connection with Source / God / Mystery. It was mystical poetry that most helped me fall in love with God because it was through those words that I first encountered depictions of the divine as playful, joyful, even ecstatic. I resonate with a God like that, I think in part because I want to better embody those qualities in myself. While I think God experiences the full spectrum of emotions humans have been gifted, for so long I had only ever seen portrayals of God as imposing, demanding, and stern. Mystical poetry was a balm for my disillusioned spirit.

Mystics across traditions have been known to levitate. I often found it funny to think of mystics as floating through their towns and abodes while living their lives in flight, but I didn’t think much of it until I met that butterfly in the woods. The legends made a lot more sense to me thanks to that encounter.

What if mystics, who embody unmediated connection with the divine, didn’t so much levitate à-la-flying-through-the-air, but rather levitated in the sense that their spirits were floating with a sense of levity? What if a key to touching God is to loosen our grip, let go of our seriousness just a bit, and make ourselves light enough through self-emptying that the divine can take up residence within us? What if playfulness is a doorway to encountering God’s Self? Not at the expense of grief or anger or any of the other “heavier” / “more serious” emotions we have, but as an acknowledgment that play and pleasure and levity are part of God’s Being, too? In a world that is so rife with suffering and all things “serious,” might a little levity go a long way? Like an alchemical compound that helps transform all the ingredients into something entirely new when they’re all brought together, I’ve been finding that infusing my pains with some levity helps me experience my pain, grief, even despair in new ways. Levity is a necessary sibling to the seriousness of our times, I’m finding.

Since that encounter with the butterfly, I’ve been stumbling upon many feathers and wings on walks. Turkey feathers, vulture feathers, an intact butterfly wing, a dragonfly wing, … I thank all these messengers for the repeated reminders that levity can help me take flight through a lightening of my soul, serving as a portal to God and a balm for my wounds.