The Miracle of “Hello”

Something amazing happens when we say “hello”.

By all accounts, this simplest of exchanges shouldn’t be possible. It is nothing less than a miracle.

“Hello” is proof, if proof were ever needed, that the life force did not remain entirely Absolute, but relativized itself absolutely, so that ‘one’ could know ‘another’, even though it always remains absolutely One. Although life is really greeting itself, relatively speaking I am greeting life disguised as another “I”. Absolutely speaking, I know I am only talking to myself. But this has a very different quality from muttering to myself alone in my room. “You” respond, as if by magic – and it is somehow “me”, and it is somehow “not me”. Hello you. Hello me. Hello universe.

By all accounts, it shouldn’t be possible. But there it is. “Hello”. The recognition. The smile. The knowing glance. The response across a seemingly impossible divide. One cosmic mystery appearing as two seemingly divided mysteries, coming to know each other as one again. Delighting in the madness and divinity of it. Who are you?

There are no others? No. Surely only an “I” would say that, knowing others vividly, then denying their existence to prove a point or hold a philosophy. It’s the other way round, really, isn’t it. There are only others, and no “I” to separate itself from that seamless miracle. There is only everything, only the ocean of living, and no second ocean of “me”. There is only the richness of experience.

Using “you” as a living invitation to remember, I discover myself to be the vastness in which all of creation dances. A thought. A sensation. A vibrantly alive feeling. A memory. The taste of tea. The appearance of “you”, right there in front of me. Seven billion human “you”‘s all moving through the life cycle. Nine million living “you”-species crawling on land and swimming in the sea, animal, vegetable, mineral. A trillion “you”s brilliantly disguised as vast and ancient planets slowly arising and revolving and dissolving in space. And I am the space for all of this, if I have to say anything about myself at all.

“You” is the invocation, the call to remember, the promise, that every human being, every breathing being, indeed every being that every lived or will live, has a home in what I am. And so I say to you all, come, rest, here, now. I give you space to be. There is nothing to defend here, no boundary, no separate object, nowhere where “I” end and “you” begin. The line is the lie. The world comes flooding in. Nothing to block it out anymore. I am helplessly filled by everything. Impregnated by the cosmos. I am the ongoing recognition of myself in others. I am the Bodhisattva Vow. I am the living commitment to never rest until all of you are free from “me”. Where am I at war? What am I still seeing as “not me”? Where have I broken my vow? Where have I violated the “hello”? I cannot truly be free until all violence is finished.

“Hello” is not just a word. It is not merely a “greeting”, spoken by one “person” to another. It is pure poetry, a single note in a vast and endless symphony, a reminder that however far away we seem, we always meet in intimacy. Friend, we are alive. Here. Now. Together. Shall we meet for a moment?

“Hello” is not just “hello”, is it? It is an ancient invocation, spoken and sung and cried out by every living being throughout time and space in so many ways. Communicated in squirts and grunts and screeches and now in words, it is always sending out the same message with the hope that it will be heard: “I see you. You exist in my world. And so I exist too. It is the same existence, mirrored.” And it is a question, too: “Are you there? Are you there? Do you feel the same way? Do you acknowledge me in your world? Am I only dreaming? Am I all alone in the universe? Is this an Absolute with no relatives?”. And seen in this way, “hello” has only ever been an expression of love, and a call for it, and a dance of mutual recognition, of the mystery of the Absolute and the Relative, indivisible, undivided. In every “hello” is the love and longing and resolution that moves the stars, and grows the grass, and contains the seemingly uncontainable, and breathes this very next breath, and moves its eyes down to the next paragraph, in search of the very next thing.

It all begins and ends with a “hello”, or ends and begins with a “goodbye”, however you want to say it. Clothed in unimaginable simplicity, these ancient invocations work their magnificent, earth-shattering wonders, on a seemingly “ordinary” day.

Next time you speak a simple “hello”, pause and consider the mystery. There are no “ordinary” days.