The Weight of Mists

THIS POST STARTED with Across the Universe, the brilliant cinematic reworking of The Beatles’ ouvre into a story of love, rejection, and nirvanah interwoven with a full on history of the 60s in America. I first watched it when it came out and became obsessed with the Beatles as a result. I’d never really liked them before – too hippie. As an alumnus of one of the most hippie schools in SF, I’m allergic to most hippie things. I’m sitting in the Haight-Ashbury as I type. All around me are the collapsed shells of Boomers lamenting the loss of that paradise. Anyway, I was looking for the song that contained the lyric line, “across the universe” and found it was from the song by the same name. So I was googling the lyrics and stumbled across this amazing remake by Rufus, Moby, and Sean Lennon from like 15 years ago.

It was in this video that I first heard clearly the chanted background lyrics, “Jai guru deva, om”. Something clicked: the Beatles were huge fans (if not devotees) of the Marharishi Yogi. Thus the song’s refrain, “nothing’s gonna change my world” is not a prideful claim of “here I stand and damn all who say otherwise” (as I had heard it and as it seems intended in the movie) but rather a shocked acknowledgment that the realization all is meaningless illusion will change everything. Nothing, literally, is going to change everything I see and how I see it.


As I’ve been thinking more about Hevel, the Hebrew word usually translated “vanity” in English Bibles which is also the name of Eve’s second son – usually rendered Abel. Same word. And same meaning. Eve’s first son, Kain, has a name that means “spear”. So there’s something else there, but I want to stick with mist today in the singular and plural forms.

In the plural – hevelim – it’s often used to describe the idols of the Gentiles. Every Baal, Zeus, and Nuit of the various pantheons, all rolled up together are nothing more than hevelim. So I started to wonder at the meaning of the phrase that’s usually rendered “vanity of vanities” or “hevel of hevelim” and it suddenly seemed to me that that could also mean “mists of idols”.

Chewing on the mystery of mist (mistery? myst?) I stumbled across the idea of “glory” – which in Hebrew is kavod and can also mean weight.

As was mentioned in an earlier post, Ecclesiastes seems to posit that the way to navigate the mists – and to make anything important out of them – is to follow the way of God and thus to infuse the mist with the weight of the only reality that is.

Reading “Transformation in Christ” it seems that the author wants us to do nothing at all without accepting the direction of God to do so. We might want to do something because of our internal desires or passions, or we may want to do something because it is good to do so but without the direction of God to do it is is merely following our own will. And while at first I objected to this idea it comes to me that deciding – on my own – what is good is the very definition of the act of our first parents in the garden: something seemed good and they did it. We might say they “followed their bliss” or, for those a al carte folks, “followed their conscience” which last is a very Catholic idea, but not a sure defense against error as St Thomas teaches. The idea is to conform your conscience and will in the Church to the will of God, then you know that your conscience cannot mislead you. But then, says the author, you’ll not do anything without God’s direction. Seeing the argument that way it made sense.

So this is the way to infuse mist with reality and to avoid the breath of idols. Take nothing without God’s will and according to his direction. To do otherwise is to take the gift without the giver, to make an idol of what may – in another time or place – be a good. In the bad way it’s only more hevel.

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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