The Entire Universe for $49

Yesterday I spent two hours waiting at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Stockton, CA, so that I could pick up my new custom license plates. I was really excited about these plates (I suspect that I have immersed some of my identity into these), so not even the bizarre DMV style bingo game that seemingly blurred all time and reality bothered me.

“Now serving B145 at window 3. . .,” the anonymous voice announced. I took another deep breath and looked at my stamped receipt. B192. Maybe ordering custom plates was a crazy idea. But in the two hours I sat there, I became good friends with the retired couple waiting next to me. We talked about my “fancy” iPhone (he was very excited about You-Tube), and life in general.

Finally, my lucky number was announced, and in no time I was hurrying out the door with screwdriver in hand to put them on my car. In the parking lot as I was turning the screwdriver on the last screw on the back plate, the retired couple walked by and excitedly waited for the viewing. I stepped back with a big grin and a measure of fanfare only to witness their blank stares fixated on my new plates: ‘M BODIED.’ Blink. Blink. I could almost hear the sound of their deer in the headlights expression.

“What does it mean?” the old man finally asked.

“I think it means ‘embodied,” his wife remarked. Then the question I expected: “But what does that mean?”

I knew this moment would come, but I guess I didn’t think it would arrive before I had actually formulated my ‘official’ response. I hesitated for a split second before I started quoting the dictionary definition while my mind worked out the philosophy behind the details.

“Well,” I stammered, “Embody means to express or personify, or to embrace, or you know, to provide a body to something—like humans do—we are spiritual beings having a physical experience. . . in a body.”

The old lady was nodding her head expectantly as if she wanted more, so I continued. “I believe that too many human beings spend their entire lives completely in their heads,” I said, tapping the third eye region of my forehead. “They conceptualize everything and experience nothing. They are so immersed in their frantic thoughts, that they don’t hear their bodies crying out for attention or against the constant abuse or neglect. They have constructed a reality around their thoughts and sadly don’t recognize that they are completely disconnected from who they really are—and where they really are. They are here!” I exclaimed, gesturing widely with both arms in the DMV parking lot. “So, for me, the word ‘embodied’ means that we have been given such a wonderful gift to embrace and experience the beauty, love, and compassion of being human—right now in this very moment.”

The woman smiled and shook her head in approval, and then she said something that completely confounded me. “Yes, I used to study all those kinds of things. But now I’m a Christian.”

Blink. Blink. This time I must have had the deer in the headlights expression. “But this is all the same thing, right? Aren’t we all the same, really the same—no matter what you want to label it?” I was looking right at her, right in her eyes. And then she shut the virtual door between us.

“Well, enjoy your plates, dear. It’s been a fun day.” She gathered up her husband, who had been oddly silent, and they disappeared into the parking lot.

I sat in the car for a few minutes, wondering if I had gone too far. Did I say something wrong? I ran through it in my mind again, as best as I could remember it, but I wasn’t sure what happened. I needed to know what to do next time someone asked me about the plates. I knew it was inevitable, and I had to be ready. Why was this important to me? What was I trying to advertise with these plates?

I struggled with this question in the back of my mind for hours when I returned to work. It wasn’t until I drifted off to sleep that night that it hit me. I longed to show others that they don’t have a body—they are a body. I longed for others to connect with who they really are so they will discover that they are inextricably connected to this Earth. And once they discover this, an immediate awareness unfolds that they are connected with EVERYTHING. We are all one.

My license plates are a reminder that I long for the feeling I had when I watched the part in the movie Avatar when all the Na’vi joined together with the land and the goddess Eywa in a sort of bio-botanical neural network. I long for Unity. Absolute unity.

Thanks, DMV. Not bad for $49.

In gratitude,


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