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.