Michael Leunig (Loo-nig), according to his website, “is an Australian cartoonist, writer, painter, philosopher and poet.” I, and many, would add the description mystic to this list. Many Australians, and perhaps a few others, have their favourite cartoons from Leunig cut out and stuck to fridges, notice boards and alike. Some of these cartons have followed me to Meditatio House and are accompanying me on the meditatio experience. This one, for instance:
“Mr Curly transports wayfaring pilgrims away from the bad mood of the world to the peaceful shores of Lake Lacuna, a small, mystical and beautiful place of sanity which lies between the large, uncontrollable forces, the great powers, and the major issues. The little goat-drawn cart has been carved from a huge potato.”
Mr. Curly is a recurring character in Leunig’s cartoons. The Curly Flat website describes him thus:
Mr. Curly, of the paradoxically named town of Curly Flat, is a happy and optimistic fellow. Everyone in Curly Flat has the curious cranial feature: “..the curl is the tender, unfurling motion of nature’s growth; the unfolding consciousness; the way in which the heart reaches out into the world”.
Mr. Curly represents our loving, heartfelt best. He is a ‘fool in the world’, someone unaffected by the complications we create. He is fearless. He lives an enlightened playfulness, the playfulness of an integrated state. He is the human heart incarnate on the cartoonist’s page. He is, in his own way, the integration of ego and self that is a fruit of the contemplative way.
Perhaps a Buddhist might call him the image of a Bodhisattva. Some Christians may see him as a representation of the Christ consciousness within. I look at him and feel the pull of the divine life deep within me. Perhaps he’s just Mr. Curly. The bad mood of the world is a stranger to him.
The human and spiritual life is indeed a pilgrimage, a pilgrimage away from something to something else: from woundedness to healing; egoism to otherness; disintegration to integration; isolation to community; from fear to love. It’s a pilgrimage that does not proceed ‘as the crow flies’. It is a meandering journey, one that invites the development of patience and trust, one that reveals the destination as traveling with us.
Mr. Curly holds the reins of a goat. The goat is the force, the energy of the carrying cart. As Mr. Curly holds the reins he also guides the goat. The pilgrims can simply relax and experience the ride. Maybe the goat is a bit like grace – the grace of the goat. We need not be the energy of the pilgrimage. There is a creative energy in Creation that we learn, on the way, to participate in and be with. We learn to let go of the lie that ego is the source of this creative energy.
Lake Lacuna is the ‘unfilled space’, the gap between the forces, powers, and issues that can affect us and too much occupy the mind. It is a space because these forces, powers, and issues are absent. The absence of these things is stillness and silence. We can reclaim our inner stability and our sanity here. And we can experience the presence of Love.
What about the potato cart? Perhaps for the Christian meditator the cart is our mantra. It is a simple word, a word of the earth that grounds us and carries us, with grace, into the lacuna – the absence of things that reveals the presence of God.
Attention on the mantra is like riding the cart. As we meander along, deeper into the experience of the expansion of consciousness beyond ego, we ride the mantra lightly. Its movement becomes familiar to us. It moves with grace. Our lacunic arrival into the absence of distraction and self-consciousness, even if for a brief ‘moment-less moment’, would realise the potato as empty. Upon becoming aware of the lacuna we find ourselves in, it is time once again, to climb aboard the cart and continue our wayfaring journey into this mysterious, ever present silence.