Max Ernst La joie de vivre 1936, National Gallery of Scotland
Perhaps, through a recognition of beauty, any beauty, which has shed its baggage of memory & association, we might sense our deepest nature, the root of our being. Our inner world, that inner life of sensations, thoughts & emotions which we inhabit, is an ecology just like the apparently outer world. Contemplating the complexity & paradoxical simplicity of our own inner life is not unlike peering into a rock pool, taking a walk in the forest, or watching the birds who visit our garden.
Our thoughts & feelings are complex textures, multi-valent patterns of relationship; constellations that constitute the cosmos of our experience, the moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day sensations of being in the world.
Can we step back from the field of meanings? From all the ideas that we have about ourselves? Can we experience our thoughts & feelings as modalities of sensation? Witness them as textures & patterns instead of fixating upon what they seem to say? Can we quietly watch them grow & clash, feed one another & upon one another? Give birth to each other or die? It becomes like watching an opera in a foreign language which we don’t understand, peopled by unfamiliar figures whose real motives are obscure to us. Yet despite all the obstacles to our comprehension, we can relate to its harmonics & its rhythms so that it doesn’t matter if we cannot understand every word, we can still appreciate its beauty.
If we are serious about meditation, about discovering our deepest nature, we must allow ourselves a panoramic presence that takes this all in & keeps walking. When we truly experience this we discover an amazing thing, that we are privy to an incomparable vision; our inner world is also a deep & ancient place, shining forth all its dimensions in splendour. There is geology here, deep structures formed in darkness beyond memory. There are whole landscapes, landscapes! Vibrant, diverse communities which we once called a self. There are forests with deep roots that drink in secret, unseen places, supportive structures; stems, trunks & branches exploring space; all kinds of leaves & flowers, fruit & seed beyond normal knowledge or belief.
All manner of strange & wonderful creatures live in there, dressed in dream colours & their voices & perfumes fill the air. The strangest thing of all is this: that you can know it in a minute, you don’t need to sit down; you don’t need to close your eyes; life is itself a profound state of trance, the so called alteration of consciousness is not necessary. It is only necessary that you open yourself; that you make yourself vulnerable to the world that you are. When you do this, how can you not be in love with it all?
But you call it hope. You call it fear. You call it desire. You call it suffering. You call it pain, you call it pleasure. You are often embarrassed or disturbed by it. You call it a person; you make it a kind of object, but it is a dynamic, ever changing wave pattern, not a lump of particles stuck in the mud by the side of the road.
It's like looking into a drop of pond-water with a microscope for the first time & seeing all that life; all those creatures swimming about, hunting & engulfing one another; watching the pulse of a contractile vacuole as some tiny little being pisses out the excess water which would make it explode. Then one little, hairy thing swims across the field of view in a tightly spiralling trajectory, on a quest of some kind. We see a droplet, it inhabits an ocean. When I see such a creature, I feel kinship with it, for all that it is just a single cell & my body is a universe of billions like it. Take a look through a microscope. Do this for yourself. Allow yourself to see these things, to feel these things.
It's like looking into the deep sky with a reflecting telescope; seeing those fields & fields & fields of stars & galaxies, planetary clusters & nebulae; countless worlds, more than we can even begin to imagine. Who cares if we can prove that there are earth-like planets out there or not? When we get a direct sense of this vastness & complexity for ourselves how can we doubt it for even a moment? & yet. & yet this is, again, a reflection of the cosmos of uncounted tissues & immeasurable forces that we ourselves contain. Take a look through a telescope. See these things for yourself & allow your feelings free reign.
A cliché is in the mind of the beholder. Nothing is banal & everything is happening. Invoke, don't banish. Then you will become stronger; strong enough to look yourself in the eye & see what many have called God looking back at you.
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