POSTCARD#55: Bangkok: Coming in from the airport in a taxi with my Thai niece. I call her M, nine years old (soon be 10) and playing Minecraft on my iPhone all day. Glass window opens into another reality, digital trees, cubed terrain, oceans and snowscapes in a gravity reduced space. ‘Look, Look, Toong-Ting’, she says. Since she was an infant, M has called me Toong-Ting; holding on to her baby talk of the past and now it’s somehow cool to call me that. I lean over to see what’s going on in her window: building an ice palace with Lapis and Gold entranceway while playing the ‘Let it Go’ soundtrack from the movie, ‘Frozen’. I listen, ask questions, sing along and we exchange views – limited because English is a second language. When there’s nothing left to talk about, she returns to the Minecraft world and I hover in space waiting for the next question to arrive.
I am the support system, resource person, back-up plan. We came by plane from Chiang Mai this morning and the day has passed us by like this; M absorbed in her Minecraft software and the outside world seen from a sequence of moving vehicles we’re in, time and space transforms around the moment. Clouds in high altitude sky of 30,000 feet, mountains of buildings in the urban landscape and M emerges from the dream from time to time to pull me into the depths of the inner world she’s in – let’s see what she’s doing there… we dialogue about it, laugh, and she disappears further into subterranean caves, while I swim up to the surface again. There’s only a short time for me to look at the page I’m reading… sometimes only a few seconds before the next request arrives: “Look Toong-Ting, look, look…” I take a deep breath and dive into the water again. In the intervals between these visits to M’s world, I’m having to be mindful and speed-read my text like pieces clipped from a larger flow of words; one piece jumps out more than anything else:
A man is searching for God but gets frustrated in his effort, throws a stone into the water and a fish sticks its head out, says: ‘You think you’ve got problems? I’ve been swimming in this river my whole life looking for water, dying of thirst and cannot find any water to drink.’ The man says, ‘But the river is filled with water, there’s not a spot in the river where there is no water. Just open your eyes and you’ll see.’ And the fish says, ‘same with you; you’re surrounded by God. God is all around you and within you. Yet you say you can’t find God…’ [Sant Rajinder Singh: “The Love of God Is All Around Us”] (Click here for the original source: Holy Notion/ God and the Self)
Our taxi arrives at the house, get inside and M runs around discovering the familiarity of the last time we were here. Later in the day we’re in a corner of the room where she has her playthings scattered around. Everything lying in disarray after a particularly large creative frenzy of cutting out and the sticking of things with glue, scotch tape, adhesive coloured paper and bits of old Christmas decorations, recycled. And when every additional use these items might be put to is thoroughly exhausted, M moves to Minecraft videos on my laptop: “Look Toong-Ting, look…” she says.
I position myself so I can see the screen, participate when I’m needed, and otherwise pleasantly distracted by the surroundings; the world suddenly thrust into a clear, enhanced three-dimensional presence. Objects become somehow… known? All our bags and things just lying where they got dropped, extensions and extrapolations of the environment of rooms, the furniture, the plants and trees outside. A momentary happiness, bien-être, no words for it…
‘… the Truth and the way leading to it are often indicated by what they are not rather than what they are… in the Upanishads, ‘neti… neti’, meaning ‘not this… not this’, the reality of appearances is rejected. In Christian theological language, referring to what things are not is called the ‘apophatic method’, also known as the via negativa.’[Ajahn Pasanno & Ajahn Amaro: The Island – An Anthology of the Buddha’s Teaching on Nibbana]
I love the analogy of the fish!
Nice isn’t it, summarised from the Holy Notion site. Omnipresent in a completely real sort of way
Very… and omnipresence is rather a difficult concept to illustrate when you are in it… all our descriptions and explanations tend to reinforce a separation that simply isn’t.
Bypassing the automatic tendency to step back from things… the mystery of why it should be like this
Language seems to be designed to reinforce this separateness.. I have a feeling it is something we can only really Know, not intellectualise.
This is it, words don’t stretch far enough. Learning the skill of seeing it in an indirect way…
Words engage the brain… there is more to it than taht
Though with all the typos this morning my brain seems to be busy elsewhere….
me too, I have heard it many times, but always forget again, and every reminder is well timed!
True as far as it goes, but often Upanishadic teachings are trying to get at (or allude to) non-dual “experiences” (definitely the wrong word). In such cases ‘neti, neti‘ is not only negating appearance, but subject/object, language and thought itself. In a sense ‘neti, neti‘ is a kind of proto-koan.
You mean it just blows away the whole thing? Yes, I’d agree with that. In dualist reality, though, it seems like a whole other way of seeing the world, so near yet so far. Maybe just letting it be like that, not making it into anything, means it’s seen at the edge of vision.
Well it’s pretty overwhelming, that’s for sure. But that’s not really what I meant. It’s more that it’s fundamentally impossible to articulate, even to yourself. You can’t even ‘think’ about it much less talk about it. There’s nothing to grasp hold of and no-one to do the grasping.
I figure there’s probably a way of integrating dualist and non-dualist modes, but it’s way beyond me. My practice is pretty lame but I think the eightfold path is only partly about realising non-dualism and no-self, partly about ‘coping’ with it (ego annihilation can’t be pleasant if you identify strongly with your ego) and partly about integrating it into your day to day life. My concentration may be adequate, but my speech, action, effort and mindfulness (practice rather than attainment) all leave much to be desired and I think they’re all probably crucial to integration (as is livelihood of course). I was gifted with aptitude but have been very slack with development, probably because so much just fell into my lap I never learned to overcome my laziness.
I don’t think it’s a matter of non-dualism somehow being ‘seen at the edge’ of dualism though. There’s gotta be some way to weave them together. Unfortunately for me, that probably involves hard work.
A different kind of consciousness, seen from the dualist perspective and revealing itself as it develops. Small insights, that’s all. What you’re saying about the Noble8 is pretty much how I see it too, the key is ‘integrating it into your day to day life’ as you say and this aids the development. Then just see how it goes, that’s life…
I find myself at the wrong side of that window too often. And I know it too, when I am. When I swim to the surface to breathe real air, I am always astounded that I don’t spend all my time there. The experience when we turn our back to all these windows, when the senses take over completely and we find ourselves in a world of pure sound, light and sense, that makes all of the windows so completely unimportant. But then, for some strange reasons, I will sink down again to get lost in worlds of minecraft with its own rules and emotions.
But it is nice to know where the surface is.
This is it, just knowing the surface is there… diving in and returning to the surface is the whole action? And the feeling of being astounded that we don’t spend all our time at the surface is enough to eventully make the sensory diving less and less compelling. That’s how it worked for me…
I can see how that would work and to a degree it is happening to me. It also hugely simplifies my life by reducing some of those pointless dives.
I like the idea that it simplifies life, some easing off from the complexity. The awareness that it works like this would be the escape from illusion…
Becoming aware of the illusion removes any complexity that we created. It is like being in a complex stage play and then join the audience instead. Pure entertainment…
I like the example of stepping back from the act and seeing what it looks like, clear comprehension of the constructed ‘self’ (sampajañña)
I watched a Minecraft video to see what you were describing and saw a perfectly square sun descend behind a pixellated horizon. I wanted to understand that… Ha! Looked pretty addictive! Amazing how these virtual worlds can draw us in. We surface in the world we “normally” inhabit, and then there are those moments you describe, the “momentary happiness”, when we realize this world is a simulation also. Like waking from two dreams in succession. Like Russian dolls of reality, but the same emptiness holding-permeating all of it…
Your posts are delightful windows into the non-virtual.
Thanks Michael you’ve somehow written the ending I wanted to write. Everything is a simulation, the world we “normally” inhabit is not real either, it’s a perception, and only seems real by comparison with ‘the video world’… could be that this is where the fascination for ‘the video world’ is sourced – we are deeply familiar with the illusion. For a moment it’s seen and this is how we escape from the addiction…
Yes, I was thinking something very similar about my own intrigued reaction to a square sun setting beyond a blurry sea, that my curiosity about such a world might be some instinctual remembrance of creativity, of giving rise to worlds, of understanding at a deep level we inhabit a simulation… 🙂
This is it, we inhabit a simulation; sensory mechanisms create the world, and who knows what it’s ‘actually’ like? A square sun and cube-like trees, not so far-fetched maybe? Speculating on possibilities and using up many lifetimes on that before realizing we’re not asking the right question…
Ha! Right. I love that… Using up many life times on the wrong question. Then we realize… It reminds me of the old video arcades. Burning through lives… roasting bad guys with ambitious weapons no non-cyborg could carry… insert a few more coins to continue… Eventually you run out of money and ask yourself, what was that all about! 🙂
I remember them too… step outside, blinking in the sunlight of a totally catastrophic realisation that the ‘world’ has been going on without you.
love the image of you and M, so universal, so familiar ♡ thanks, as always, for your insight
I only see her during school holidays. I like to think Toong-Ting will always be associated with the holidays in her mind…
what a lovely name, too!My father was known to his grandchildren as ‘Bomp’, which I always thought was great. I can see you are reassuring your precious time together
It’s a non-serious name, like Bomp – senior male as large benign bear. M takes up my whole attention, everything else takes second place.
treasuring, I meant to say, though of course one of your jobs is to be reassuring too! Thanks for a great post and a truth filled exchange!
You’re welcome and thank you for stopping by.
Tiramit, what a warm and lovely blog you have! Nice!
I came by to personally thank you for being a part of Petals Unfolding. Your presence meant a lot to me. Bless you! (((HUGS))) Amy
Thanks Amy, you bring a little beauty with you…
(blush) Thank you. Love, Amy
Most of us tend to see the empty side of the glass not the full side, it’s all about how we think and look at things that shapes our lives. Lovely post!
It could be it’s just a case of looking closely at what is really going on, seeing beyond the habitual attachments and discovering the miracle of it all. Thanks for your visit