Walking our dogs every day, I reacquaint myself with how badly-trained we both are. I can’t blame the one I walk for the fact that I fell heavily on my face this week, hard enough that I scrapped my hands and knees and found my nose bleeding when I lifted my face off the sidewalk. I guess my gestalt wanted me to know that two falls in the past year are my limit; a third could change my life forever.
I had to Google “gestalt” to remind myself of its meaning. So, I shouldn’t be using this word as if we are old friends. I found that the word denotes a psychological theory: that an enveloping wholeness shapes our perceptions and our sense of ‘reality’. I looked it up because I was trying to better understand something a writing friend said when asked about his writing plans for 2022. He didn’t use the word ‘gestalt’, but he said he was trying to develop the overall stream of his life, from which any meaningful writing would have to come.
That observation stayed with me and, this morning, I wondered about the relationship between my world and my life; and I wondered which came first: the gestalt that I call the world, or the sense that I am participating as a being who is free to make choices that define my world.
Sometimes the surrounding realm in which my days unfold feels like a vastly unequal reality in which I have little choice but to fit in somehow and to go along with its momentum. At other times, this relationship feels like a more balanced one, in which I can affect the nature of the world (at least how I see it) as much as I am determined by it. Or, as when walking my dog, am I determining the gestalt in which I live, or am I getting tugged this way and that, as I cling to the leash and do my best not to fall on my face?
“We don’t know who’s responsible or who’s in charge. In a way, no one is, because everyone agrees, everyone goes along. It’s like following an echo without knowing the source of the original sound.” Challenging Journey, Creative Journey: Tarthang Tulku, Page 167.
As my friend expressed about writing, I know my core task in life is to take responsibility for my own experience. And this, in turn, requires me to recognize that I am a co-creator of that experience. I may not be the only one creating it, but I am the one whose perceptions and actions I can directly affect.
As for writing about this intersection (as I am doing now), I view this juncture between my world and myself, as a kind of spider web which I weave by moving across it. Or perhaps I just keep moving because my eight legs can’t stand back from their spinning, any more than a whale can remain for a whole day in the darkness beneath the waves.