POSTCARD #39: Chiang Mai: Coming up to Chiang Mai from Hat Yai was done in two stages, with the stopover at Bangkok, as we did going down. It was the same thing, the other way round. Everything already seen, but occuring in reverse order and the hassle and stress we experienced on the way down got cancelled out on the return journey. Like a video on fast-rewind, it stops at the beginning not the end and the memory of ever having gone or been away is erased.
A short trip, six days only. The point of it was to visit Jiab’s youngest brother and his wife and their new-born baby – a truly amazing child with a wonderful smile. It was a bit like the Three Wise Men following the star to the stable where the baby Jesus lay in the manger – not really like that… there was Jiab and her sister, me and M, who is 9 years old and dismayed by lack of internet, sadly playing the same old games on the iPad and not interested in being in a rubber plantation, with its curious waftings of latex smells. I was quite blown away with the experience of being surrounded by rubber trees – I knew that rubber came from trees of course but it was sort of bizzare somehow… trees made of rubber?
Now back here in Chiang Mai and friends have sent pics of the monks blessing everyone for the coming year. These quiet humble events are meaningful in a way I’ve not seen in the Church and all the gusty hymn singing, great heaviness of acoustics and out-of-sync organ suggesting a fearsome power and immensity. What my Sunday School teacher taught me was that “God made the world,” and I wrote that down in my little exercise book but had absolutely no understanding of it; an imponderable, a Zen koan: God made the world…
But who made God? The world and God are two separate things, one of them made the other, therefore seeing this from a place created in the mind for the purpose of looking for God and finding only a complexity of half understood truths. In the end, I stopped worrying about it; there is no God (in that way of thinking) and decades later the whole thing vanished – with it went the concept of ‘self’. Liberated from ‘the thralldom of the senses’. Quite an ordinary epiphany, like one might be sitting in a quiet room with furniture and objects and light coming in through the window then suddenly a letting-go moment takes place and ‘I’ no longer have the burden of ‘my’ thoughts about ‘me’. Released from the subject/object duality. God is not ‘out there’, but ‘in here’. God is subjectivity, conscious awareness.
Conscious awareness is everywhere. In the blogging world, for example, it’s what we’re talking about or describing all the time, one way or another, in our different locations, circumstances and in our various states of mind and body. Sometimes there’s an instant understanding of what conscious awareness means but it’s beyond words. Sometimes awareness is there but I think I can’t see it. Thinking I can’t see it, is another mind moment that exists temporarily in awareness. The mind doesn’t create awareness, mind is contained in the awareness. Other times there’s the simple knowing of it and a feeling of quiet purpose in every step, every move.
‘Only by liberating oneself from the thralldom of the senses and the thinking function – both of them servants and not masters – by withdrawing attention from “things seen” to give it to to things “unseen” can this awakening be accomplished.” [E. F. Schumacher, “A Guide For The Perplexed”, p.79]
Thanks for this post. I was enthralled.
Thank you, I chose the title because I’d not heard the word before…
A very good reason. Thanks again.
Came across this quote recently in my reading of A Course of Love, and it made me think of you, and some of our previous exchanges. I thought it was perfect, and almost an echo of what I’ve read the Buddha said about the self (which you should feel free to correct if I am mistaken…)- something along the lines of holding either that there is a self, or that there is NOT a self, are extremes, and that this question of a self is simply not necessary…
Then I found this: “A concept of God is simply not necessary. False concepts of God, however, are compromising to God and to Self.” And later, “God is the being and the relationship.” There is some discussion of God being found within the “relationship” of all things. This struck me as very similar to what you have written about here. God is indeed, “in here”, which is where we encounter our relationship with all that is- in our mindful experiencing…
I think these are such lovely non-concepts!
Thank you for these observations and quotes Michael. Yes, I agree with you, this question of a self is simply not necessary. You’d have to say, though, it’s best avoided altogether because, for most people, saying either a yes or a no to the issue of ‘self’ is, in itself, identifying ‘self’. Better to describe the situation in terms of what it is not and there is a word for that… I can’t remember it right now. Language has this tendency to identify things, leading to the inclination to select ‘what I want it to be’ (also what I don’t want it to be) and the resulting attachment that forms. For most people it’s not seen, it becomes ‘mine’, a concept so deeply embedded that there’s the concept of God – a macrocosm of this kind of make-believe ‘self’. In the gnostic teachings, which disappeared from Christianity, my understanding is that there’s a context for your quotes: “God is the being and the relationship, and God is found within the “relationship” of all things”.
Thank you. I am not familiar with the gnostic teachings, but am familiar with the simple peace that comes from sharing a moment of willingness and discovery with a friend. What this feels like. That, as you say, is enough, is it not?
Thank you so much Michael, this is it exactly, a special moment…
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