Sometimes he finds himself in a boat, paddling along on the undulating surface, rarely getting as far as he wants. Sometimes he is walking in a desert where the mountains in the distance seem more like a backdrop than a destination getting closer. Sometimes he finds himself in a house where he sits, walks, pours another cup of coffee, turns lamps on and off, listens to sirens on imagined streets, and remembers the terrible urgency as they come onto his street, stop outside; then pounding on the front door.
Over the years, he has learned to assign less certainty to the visualizations that show up and carry him along, one after another. He has begun to notice that everything he experiences comes wrapped in precisely the ways that he has learned to receive them.
When he asks himself whether any particular visitor is more real than another, he feels confused, as if the one asking that question may also not be entirely real.
In an attempt to resolve this uncertainty, he reads books that ask similar questions. Some strike a chord: like a cello playing deep in the forest beckoning the lost traveler; or a sonata offering company to a lonely heart. In the company of their pages, he wonders if these visions, with their strange ways of looking at life, are helping him to recognize a more trustworthy reality than what he finds cycling around in his own mind.
But these visions feel as mysterious as the mystery they claim to fathom. They don’t offer another place where he can move in with his old furniture. They don’t deliver a ready-made alternative to his present way of living. It’s as if they make him aware just how immersed he is in expectations, interpretations, and judgements, so that any alternative is inevitably sized down to fit with his old way of thinking.
He tries to relax so that fresh ways of looking can pass unnoticed through the toll gates of his deeply entrenched way of formulating what is possible; even while he suspects that everything he thinks and tries to learn may be just another sand castle destined to be swept away by the next high tide.
He has to admit that it is encouraging to know that nothing he imagines can ever last, since he has already noticed that important things don’t always last. He has to admit that it is comforting to realize that he doesn’t have to work so hard at nailing down the tides of time or corralling what appears in the fields of space. Granted a limited reprieve from his struggles with what cannot be controlled, he tastes a freedom to explore fresh ways of understanding, that come into his life like surf rolling in through mists of time.
He is glad to learn that in the past century, western science has arrived at an understanding long known to Eastern mystics—namely that an all-embracing wholeness permeates everything. Since our western world treats the discoveries of science as more trustworthy than mystical insights, it feels important that physics and Relativity Theory have demonstrated how subatomic particles are tendencies to exist; probabilities, which never finally roost in any one particular place or moment.
“Perhaps that’s true for me also” he thinks, and breathes a sigh of relief. “Perhaps I too merely have tendencies to show up; now jotting down a few thoughts; now standing in the kitchen with my hand on the handle of a coffee pot; now listening to the coo of a dove while noticing that the dawn has come and gone, each and every manifestation bobbing along. afloat on the tides of time.”
And then a thought flies in the window and lands in the branches of his mind, “If everything only kind of exists, it’s all the more important to welcome whatever shows up. After all, all these thoughts and feelings have been welcoming me for as long as I can remember.”