A Particle in the Dark Night.

As I usually do, I wrote a draft for today’s blog a few days ago and I called it “Particles and Waves”.  I intended to connect the Quantum insight–that there is a fundamental duality at the deepest levels of our understanding of light– with a similar ambiguity revealed in the TSK vision of the nature of time.

For centuries philosophers and physicists have found light and energy an enigma.  Then, in the last century an amazing discovery was made: certain aspects of light can only be accounted for as the behavior of photons barreling through space; while other aspects can only be explored by viewing light as waves of electromagnetic energy.

As with Einstein’s insight that the behavior of phenomena is “relative” to an observer’s situation, I expect that for most of us the ambiguous nature of light is simply an interesting metaphor.

But now I have something else on my mind.  I couldn’t sleep last night.  For hours I lay rigid with stress, afraid that I was getting sick, and unable to see a tolerable path into the future.

I certainly knew the source of my anxiety.   I had received a nasty letter telling me that I owe $544.00 because I downloaded a photo of a cat off the web.  My sleepless night, and the prospects of others to come, was such that I could be tempted to pay a one-time therapy fee of $544 just to get rid of it.  However this cat was only one of about 20 photos I downloaded as illustrations to my weekly posts.  In each case, I searched on “free photos” and then downloaded something suitable to that week’s post.  (I had been marginally aware that these sites offered an opportunity to sign up, but I never got around to it, and I was careful to select only items that came up in my search for “free pictures”).

A lawyer friend called this tactic “switch and bait” and warned me not to reflexively pay (because they could then produce other pictures), nor to ignore the situation (because they might eventually claim that I also owed thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fees).

Thinking of friends whose children have died before them, and comparing my situation to the struggles of people living with limitations that will never relent, I recognized that I was folding like an empty suit.  Who am I to be laid low because one of society’s all too common attacks on the defenseless has made it into my own privileged existence?

As I was searching for a way to get some rest, it occurred to me that I was embedded in a particle of time: stuck in a limping moment of experience that had split off from a founding past and from a future that is innately full of possibility.  I felt attacked in the activity that comes closest to replacing my two decades working with Friends in Time, and I watched helplessly as waves of anxiety washed over me.  Hadn’t I simply, and in good faith, tried to produce new writing and to integrate it with my books?

This experience may have actually changed my view of websites and social media.  Instead of trying to attract new readers, I now need to look for simple ways to engage in the lives of others.

Last night–strung out like a specimen pinned to a measuring tape of time–the future felt hostile and the past snapped at my heels.  I felt like a particle speeding through time, while the waves of continuity and the mysterious turning of cycles were flat and lifeless.  So I tried to open the edges of each passing moment and feel the rising and falling of something greater than my own anxiety.

I know others who offer up prayers to a higher Being, forging a covenant that helps them to stay afloat in the waves of adversity.  But my sense of a greater Being is one that I don’t know how to pray to.  Instead I try to keep alive a sense that the future stretches before me, offering an opportunity for unexpected redemption.  And it is such a loss when the open face of the future shuts down and becomes the visage of a frozen past.  Last night the past was paved in concrete by that nasty “official notice”.  Then, eventually, as I tried to view the future in a more open way—rising and falling with the breath–I was able to ride for a few hours on the soft billows of blessed sleep.

Now I pray that I can learn to accept whatever arises as an opportunity to better understand this life that I share with other beings.

According to the law of karma, whatever arises now is the residue of prior actions and provides a chance to work through things that have held us back.  What a radical and hopeful relationship with the past this view enshrines.  Instead of helplessly repeating, reacting to, and trying to escape the consequences of our past actions, we are offered an opportunity to surf on the waves of a greater time and engage with the wider world that we share with all living beings.

8 comments to “A Particle in the Dark Night.”
  1. Who is TSK? I tried to recall among the physicists I know. Failed.

    Don’t worry about the legal claim. Ignore it. I’m good for the $544 if it comes to it. Once I was given a Miranda warning and faced the ruination of my career. My higher power told me not to worry. I worried anyway., Nothing came of it.

  2. Michael,
    Kind of a heart-rending experience. You are not alone. Re: The cat picture. I would do a few things. First, this is just rank intimidation and extortion. If the image was not clearly marked, if it had no copyright mark to distinguish it, then this attempt for dough seems crazy. I would search on line to see if others have been subjected to the same treatment. I would not pay. I would investigate first, and then I would (through your lawyer friend?) write a letter to these extortionists explaining the exact circumstances of your encounter with these “free images.” I would file a complaint with the attorney general’s consumer affairs division. I would take every legal move possible to report these crooks to BBB and any other agency possible. Chances are they are just trying to intimidate you into sending money. DO NOT DO IT. They are crooks.

  3. Foster, Jim, Walter–I really appreciate your responses. You’ve helped my “dark night of the Particle” become my “illuminated morning waving of a new day”.

    Foster, I appreciate your sharing those calming, centering chants from a Buddhist tradition–which still provides an important support in my life, even though I no longer draw upon it daily as you do. Speaking of those C’s of Caring, I sometimes think of the poster you made and which hangs on your wall: “Compassion+Consciousness+C . . . =Confidence”.. I’m afraid that third “C” is not coming back. Probably yet another Casuality of memory . . . I expect your third “C” has something to do with our willingness to be engaged.

    Walter. Thanks so much for your encouragement, reassurance, and for sharing your “higher” way to rise beyond the quagmire of false accusations. I’m glad that your own intimidating obstacle eventually dispersed like morning mists in the dawn of light and sanity. As for who “TSK” is, I am glad you ask. I used that shorthand because I posted this week’s blog in one of the sections I’ve been using, which I base on my own long time interest in a vision (of Tibetan Lama Tarthang Tulku) called “Time, Space, and Knowledge”. Very briefly, I find a higher light in this vision which invites us to reconsider how we view three primal elements present in all our experience: we can relate to “Time”, not as a linear sequence of moments in which we are stuck in a miniscule present, but as a dynamic wholeness that runs through past, present, and future; “Space”, not as the measured distance between the objects in which we are so fascinated, but as the spirit of openness that unites, allows and IS all we experience; and “Knowledge”, not the hard-scrabbled facts we cram into databases and our own conditioned beliefs and behaviors, but as the very fabric of all that arises and all that is in our life and being. If you are interested, you can see in the right column of my blog screen that I have 4 categories and that I have made 27 posts in the one called “Time, Space, and Knowledge”.

    Jim, I really appreciate your support, in the comment above, in a couple of e-mails you sent me, and during Wenesday’s Zen sit at the Quaker house. I hope your reading from your new book, “The Oxbow Poems” at Bookworks, 7:00pm, Oct 29th, goes beautifully. What an impressive review in Kirkus you received.


  4. I would imagine the karmic lesson has more to do with you react, than the substance of a meaningless attempt to coerce funds from you (which is baseless, and would cost more for them to collect, if valid, which it isn’t – so they won’t go too far).

    The emptiness that our Venerable VA Lama refers to, applies.

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