POSTCARD♯09: Delhi: The flight from Bangkok arrives at Delhi mid-morning. I’m identified, processed and out in the crowd. Shym is waiting with the car, bags inside and we’re in the huddle of traffic. Not so much give-and-take, more like push-and-shove. They’re opportunists; mindfulness is a necessity. Same old thing. Looking around, what’s different? An unusual brightness, it’s the lens implant, the operation on the left eye in Bangkok. I have to put up with this one-eyed vision only for a little longer. Next week I go back for the second op. All these flights are possible, fortunately, due to some free airmiles we have to use before the end of the year. And coming back to Delhi means I’m noticing the difference in vision here. So nice, much clearer now through the left eye, it looks… clean? What I thought was urban pollution, may have been obscured vision – or what I’m seeing now is an enhancement, a brightened-up version of everything. Close the left eye and look through the right; that’s how Delhi used to be, a dull, indistinct, old, yellowed photograph. Close the right eye and look through the left again and it’s like the Nat Geo channel, as clear as the iPhone5 retina display, 326 pixels per inch; using the techno-device metaphor to describe reality.
The world is a kind of analogy, a figure of speech, the conceptual metaphor. In my case the lens in one eye is plastic, not God-given – the same as having an artifical leg or a dental crown. Nothing special about it except that you walk around with an artificial leg, you chew with a dental crown but I’m seeing the world through this artificial lens. There’s a difference. The world is coming in, ‘seen’ through the plastic. The lens is a functioning part of the cognitive process.
Light passes through the lens, images appear, mind figures it out based on received experience of similar images, and says, there you go, what you see is like this. It resembles something I know, so I accept it, and that’s what it becomes. The metaphor pushes the whole thing over the edge; one thing becomes another. There’s that thing out there and ‘me’ in here, looking at it; so ‘I’ must be on the receiving end, somehow…. the link creates the metaphorical self; conscious experience ‘is’ individual identity: ‘I think, therefore I am.’
The assumption is that everything coming through the senses is real; sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, cognition – and it’s all coming to (((me))). That’s reality, that’s the point of the exercise. I like it, I want it, I want more of it, and so closing the door on other ways of seeing things. Saying this is how it is, means I get all the joy and pain, the good with the bad, love and hate, heaven and hell – thus I have to spend a major part of my life (maybe many lifetimes) trying to control this craving and desire [tanha] that I accidentally created, thinking I was doing the right thing.
“… craving the ensnarer that has flowed along, spread out, and caught hold, with which this world is smothered & enveloped like a tangled skein, a knotted ball of string, like matted rushes and reeds, and does not go beyond transmigration, beyond the planes of deprivation, woe, & bad destinations.” [Tanha Sutta]
What to do? How to not be a slave to it? Just the intention to be mindful is enough, the tipping point, sufficient to disengage from the automatic reaction. Not caught up in the experience of it, far enough back, one step removed, just knowing it’s there; that’s all. Knowing it takes the place of not knowing it. Step by step, learning how to do it….
‘… look upon the events occurring in your mind-and-body with the very same impartiality that you would look upon clouds floating through the sky, water rushing in a stream, rain cascading on a roof, or any other objects in your field of awareness.’ [Ken Wilbur, No Boundaries’]
Love your thought processes. Very thought provoking. & solid quotes.
Thanks. The ‘tangled skein’ quote is a good one, isn’t it, describes things really well. There you go, that was how things were 2,600 years ago; is today any different, I wonder…
Thanks for liking my posts. Look forward to catching up with your latest. I always really enjoy your writing and living vicariously through your travels. Very exciting! I long so badly to travel. I’ve never been out of the country. One day…. One lesson I am working on ..patience..(maybe one of the paramitas)…all in due time.
Thanks for sharing your gifts with the world.
Thank you Suzanne, I seem to be on the other side of things; travelling for so many years I envy those who stay in one place all their lives. The need for patience (kshanti) is something I encounter from time to time, being always just a visitor in other people’s countries. Can’t find the right word for it, something to do with contemplative forbearance…
Ah yes, the grass is always greener….. : )
But what about bad events happening to the body of someone you love. So hard. I keep trying to be the observer meanwhile my own body is rigid with anxiety.
Good luck with the eye surgery. Must be like getting a new lease on life. Take care.
Thanks for visiting this post Ellen. It’s been more than a year, I had the eye surgery done and the world was/is transformed. About the bad events, there is compassion, empathy and it is hard to see someone else in distress – my feeling is that being the observer includes the Buddha’s Noble Truth of Suffering; you ‘know’ what it is. There’s something in there about a deep understanding of the whole range of suffering from discomfort to extreme pain, and knowing also that the automatic reaction, the resistance to it that arises out of not-knowing, is what causes most of the suffering. So, as far as possible, we open up to it…