This past Sunday, I noticed myself turning in imagination to Eric, my long-gone mentor, and sharing with him an inspiring thought that I had just read. I will share that particular thought in a moment, but for now what has caught my attention is how I paused in the midst of that movement toward my memory of Eric; as another, more radical thought came to my mind:
“Am I still doing that? I thought I was well past having to account for my ‘new interests’ to the man who got me ‘interested’ in ideas in the first place.”
This catching of myself in the midst of an old tendency and then shifting gears into an observation of that tendency, while the former was still in play, is a considerably more unusual event for me than simply bouncing along on the bumpy road of one thought after another and one feeling after another, as I slide into one emotion or another associated with each thought and feeling. To see that dynamic, in which familiar players continue to play their parts, helped bring closer an ever burgeoning freshness of time and a deep reverberation echoing through space.
Perhaps this is something that I can pause now to celebrate for a moment. The fact that I can see myself repeating an old pattern is itself a sign that this pattern has—to some extent at least—been worn thin enough in places to allow a bit of light through, or even that it has given way to another more inclusive and balanced way of participating in the unceasing flow of ideas, emotions and intentions that constitute my life.
So what was the passage that provoked me into imagining myself sharing an idea which I had just encountered (in the “Object and Its Glow” exercise–that I explored in last week’s blog post) with my memory of Eric (the old mentor of my adolescence and my early ventures into adulthood)?
Following the main instructions of the exercise–to consider how the habits of seeing separation among things, and between what is seen and the one seeing, may not be the final word on the nature of our lives in this world (and to see this experientially, not just as yet another interpretation of that experience)–the exercise concludes with the following question:
“Might there be a sense in which there is no such distance, even though the series of experiences which usually constitute evidence for moving through distance can still be experienced?” Time, Space, Knowledge, Page 172.
I’d like to believe that this weekend, reading this phrase and finding it both familiar and a pointing toward deep mystery, my impulse to share it with the man who started me thinking about such things was a glimpse into the depths that loom within all the self’s impulses to communicate its own presence. And I’d like to pause once more to appreciate the man who imbued me with respect for the global landscapes in which this discursive, inquiring mind can find itself part of a larger community.
Perhaps there is a connection between my indebtedness to Eric and this weekend’s impulse to share this particular phrase with him. It’s a phrase that invites the reader to consider how we are here, in the midst of a “series of experiences which usually constitute ‘evidence’ for moving through distances”, but in a way that doesn’t oblige us to treat that distance as an irrevocable or inescapable determinant of how life will unfold.
Alongside all the ‘evidence’ that Eric is long gone from my life and that I never got to really share with him how I have run with the ball of ‘interest’ that he passed on to me, there is also a message of ‘no separation’ running through all the facets of my life in time and space, which can never be entirely extinguished.
Accordingly, I appreciate that I can now bring to mind an image of myself chatting with Eric about a way of looking that I wonder—had we been closer in age back then—might have helped heal the sense of isolation that he felt in a world changing around him: changing into something that seemed to be abandoning the values for which a generation sacrificed and fought. And in my mind—for both our sakes, even though only I remain alive and kicking today—it feels worthwhile to reconsider the meaning of all distance, separation and the ensuing loss of intimacy that has come to roost in vast stretches of public life.
We don’t need to ignore the ‘evidence’ that we live in a time in which so many values and the constructs that enshrine them are being abandoned—as if we ever could—in order to realize that those losses are only strengthened when we allow them to drive a wedge deeply into the heart of the greater, intrinsic wholeness that is our ‘birthright’. Such discouragement only diverts us from the ‘right’ way to respond to this gift of awareness and caring, which has been bequeathed along with our ‘birth’ as human beings.