“By learning to contact the essence of our being, we can discover an unbounded freedom, which is not only a freedom from some external restraint, but is itself the dynamic expression of the meaning and value of being human.”. Time, Space and Knowledge, page xxxv.
In Montreal, I bought a stereo system with my first paycheck and listened to piano concertos and symphonies. I was drawn to unabashedly romantic pieces that flowed from start to finish in waves of melody. After a while, I ventured into pieces that held back from that sustained celebration, and which instead began rhythms and melodies only to abandon them. But, when you reached the final coda, all those conflicts, hesitations, and interrupted hopes, which had taunted a yearning for resolution in the listener, burst forth in exuberant celebration. The book that I am rereading, 35 years after it first came into my life, has a final chapter that evokes this memory of listening to music as a young man.
There was also a book I read while I was still living in Montreal–“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert M. Pirsig. It took the world by storm in the 1970’s and appealed to many young people at the time. What I remember most about this book is that a single word–a three-letter pronoun—suddenly appeared on the final page and launched back throughout the entire trajectory of the novel, altering everything. Part of the prior text was an exposé of alleged fraudulence in the early Socratic dialogues, in which Phaedrus–a naïve youth–is led by Socrates, who claimed that truth is inherent in the human mind, to conclusions that Socrates forces upon him. And a father, who is on a motorcycle trip with his son, and whom we suspect has had a breakdown, is unmasked on the final page, when his son tells him the truth-through the single word (“you”); Western civilization, rooted in Socrates’ deception, opens as a broken man is rescued by his son.
Something parallel happens in Time, Space and Knowledge, a New Vision of Reality. The ‘you’ being addressed is the reader who, over hundreds of pages—has learned that space is everything, time is not confined to anxious plans and expectations, and that knowledge fills everything. But as we reach that final chapter, we may still wonder whether we, the weary traveler, have a place amidst those peaks, as soaring as they are.
A wonderful touching down occurs at last, giving us a place in a time beyond the treadmill driving our world, a space that isn’t locked down to make room for all the things we grasp, and a knowing that isn’t exclusively couched in the perspectives of a self. And now, I scarcely dare utter the word that is the ‘you’ who finds his true home at the end of this long journey. Identifying anything, which is claimed to be beyond the ordinary, puts it in a display case and cordons it away from the heart of where we live. Yet, this time, we come upon something that feels more accessible, not less. And we recognize a question, which we may have asked ourselves all our lives: “Do I belong?”.
“Our being has a primordial value that is continually being worked out within its own sphere, and our fulfillment requires that we attend to this value. Doing so . . . implies an awakening to the inseparability of Being and Human Being.” TSK, page 296