Which came first—the Chicken or the Road it Crossed?

“The projections of the human mind, which ordinarily seem to set the limits on what can be known, become instances of a knowing prior to all projections, encompassing models and reasons, mistakes and confusion alike.” Knowledge of Time and Space, Page 421.

Reading this passage I thought about how our dead ends can make new alternatives available. Sometimes we don’t even have to learn new strategies or adapt to changing circumstances. It’s as if a transformation can come first, leaving us to gradually incorporate our changed understanding over the years and decades that follow.

I remember an important moment in my past: a full decade before I encountered the Time, Space, Knowledge vision in the mid-eighties. It was autumn, 1976, and I was winging across Canada from Montreal through the western provinces, pitching hay bales, driving tractors over square-mile fields in Alberta–discovering that the world was more open than I had dared believe while pacing the cubicles of corporate head offices in Montreal–when one afternoon, sitting in my rented room in the Calgary YMCA, I hit a dead end that felt like a cinder block wall.

In the rear view mirror, half a century later, I see that this was an important turning point, when a new way of looking at my own existence first surfaced.

I’m sure others can look back on similar times of transformation, when a feeling of having hit a dead end turned into its opposite; when–with certainty, or with tentative hopefulness–the future opened its back door and whispered, “This way. In here.”

In my case, instead of fearing that my past was calling me back and that my brief freedom had been an illusion, I realized I really was where I had dreamed of being. Sitting there in a Calgary YMCA room, trapped in a maze of my own making, I simply stepped through a door that had not been visible a moment before. A sense of embarrassment (for my panic as the summer farm labor jobs were drying up) merged with the thrill of standing on the edge of a great unknown; and I simply stepped into a kingdom whose very existence had been unknown to me.

This felt like a precursor to–or rather a given together with—the dramatically different way of looking at experience which I discovered years later in the 1980’s when I encountered the TSK vision. But perhaps there is never really a first step on the journey of our lives. Once inside a new way of looking, we find ourselves already moving along a path that is itself not new. It is our nature to always see a path before us, behind us, and beneath us. Sometimes we feel the wind at our backs; sometimes we are hung up on the rocks; and sometimes the conviction that we are about to tumble off Earth’s edge gives way and we notice that the sea ahead is calm and clear: the very sea that inspired us to set sail upon it. What is new is that we now see how, all along, we have been nudged forward by our loyal ally: Time.

Time: is not the span of the journey we are on. Neither is time the moments that we remember or the moments in which we remember other moments. Time is not before and after, nor is time now and then. Time is the ground, the flowering, and the sky above. Time is the hidden root beneath and the flashing before our eyes of a life beyond anything we yet know how to live.

Space: is not the empty coffee cup beside me. Space is not a Super Nova going off in some distant Galaxy, and not the edge of the known universe, beyond which the speed of light can’t catch the light train accelerating down the track. Space is the dance floor on which everything and nothing dance; where nothing dresses up in the raiment of something and something rests in the arms of a nothing without boundaries, without limits.

Knowledge: is not the printed arithmetic sheets (2+2=? 7-4=?), delivered day after day to a student who sits demoralized before them. Knowledge could never make a creative child feel inadequate and humiliated. Knowledge is not the recalibration of the Hubble telescope mirror, which has brought the heavens to our doorstep. Knowledge is not all the gestures, inspirations, and transformations that make life worth living. Knowledge is the Horse of Being, galloping across fields of wonder, whinnying, nickering and neighing, whenever we see, or appreciate, or take another breath.

2 comments to “Which came first—the Chicken or the Road it Crossed?”
  1. I beieve I sense another Canadian immigrant in our midst. I don’t think many Americans know about Boxing Day. Even growing up in Montreal, with parents at most one generation away from the British Isles, I don’t think we ever actually boxed up old presents for donation to others when we had received new variations of the same thing ourselves.

    Monty Python did a skit in that vein: the landed aristocrat makes a big deal about giving rotten apples to his impoverished serfs and clearly expects to receive lavish praise in return for his largesse. Something that only Monty Python could make hilarious.

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