ordinary miracles


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POSTCARD #90: Delhi: Now it’s September and there’s been some proper rain, temperatures have started to drop. Wonderful, no need to have the AC running, I go around the house in the morning when it’s not raining and open every single door and window that’ll open. Screen doors closed to stop the insects but fresh air passes though, enters into these enclosed spaces where only the Hoover has refreshed the air for so long. Indoor plants sway in the breeze for the first time since June. Glass doors to the garden are pushed back on their hinges – so widely open it feels like outside is ‘in’, or inside is ‘out’… I don’t know which. The walled garden that used to be situated ‘out there’ is now a contained part of my room ‘in here’. The roof is the sky; birds fly through and inhabit my world.

Playing a music track on the speakers, and why does it sound so different? It’s because it’s echoing through the open doors, into the new acoustics created by the walled garden, the space by which my room as been extended. And what’s this? I’d forgotten about the sounds from the neighbourhood; people chatting on the other side of the fence, a phone rings: “hello?” Somebody somewhere, banging with a hammer. A shout, a barking dog. A Hindu ceremony far away – maybe a wedding. I hear reed instruments with drums – it must be on the other side of the park. Sounds carry a sense of location, near and far; the distance I’m aware of measures my world. I can explain this in terms of sound frequency, wind direction, but that’s not it. The experience itself is more than can be accounted for in words. When I become aware of something larger than I can find a reason for, it becomes a miracle. Science says there are no miracles, explains it all away by means of technical descriptions; telling us, the uninformed, that this is how a miracle works – yeh, but it’s still a miracle, isn’t it? Butterflies in the rain, (Sue Vincent’s Post)

It reminds me of the bell. A long time ago I lived in Japan. For three years, I had the top floor of a simple house in the grounds of Zuisenji Temple, high up on a cliff face near Kamakura. It was completely quiet there of course and I became acclimatised to the silence of the place. Except that sometimes the monks would ring the large bell… a horizontal pole suspended on chains swings over and hits the bell DONG! I’d be at home, alone in my house down below, sitting in my chair reading a book and WOW! this extraordinary sound suddenly hits the atmosphere. Jump with the shock of it; the acoustics – not the loudness… the pitch, deep and resonating, something from the 14th Century is suddenly intimately present in my small space… staggered by the closeness of it.

yun_13781For the duration of that one chime, the sound had presence, it entered the rooms immediately and was everywhere at the same time. Then an indefinite period before the next one – waiting to see… but maybe it’ll not ring this time – and then it happens just as I’m thinking it’s not going to. Pause, turning the page in my book: DONG! Same thing, heart-attack stuff, a curious presence of sound, an event that extends beyond hearing; more than something just felt, almost seen… can’t be explained, a miracle.

Held by the memory of it, fixed in that time and I discover I’m not there at all, I’m here in Delhi, more than twenty years have passed unnoticed, hair has turned white, sitting by the glass doors looking at the rain and not seeing anything…

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” [Thích Nhất Hạnh]

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G  R  A  T  I  T  U  D  E
Sue Vincent for her post Butterflies in the rain’, which helped inspire this post. Upper photo by Sushil Kumar Verma, The Hindu Newspaper 02/Sep/2014.  Lower photo: Zuisenji temple bell photo source: http://www.yunphoto.net/en/

25 thoughts on “ordinary miracles

  1. I love those Japanese bells.

    Many years ago when I used to live in East Devon, I would frequently visit the town of Ottery St. Mary and would always be sure to go and produce a ‘dong’ with this wonderful example:

    http://www.otterystmarytourism.co.uk/friendlyrelations.html

    Each time I heard this particular bell, there was a magical capturing of awareness that absorbed one-pointedly into the deeply plangent sound made by it – exquisite.

    All best wishes Tiramit.

    Hariod.

    • Thank you Val, yes, we need to remember that it’s all a miracle. Quite a thought! I’ve read about this kind of universal vibration you mention, something intuitively known – I’m aware of traces of it. Certainly it’s in the bell toll, and I like the idea that this transcends time too…

    • It’s morning here, all windows and doors are open and I’m listening to the Himalayan bells file as I write this. Thank you for sending it – amazing, birdsong outside and bells inside. A miracle of sound…

  2. I much enjoyed your description of all the sounds of the “outside world” returning to your awareness of your home with the changing seasons. The tapestry of sounds alive in the world is indeed such a miracle. It often gives me the feeling that there is so much more happening than we could ever fathom, and we catch an inkling of that in sound… like we are bees and the world is our hive… we think we’re distant from one another perhaps, at the periphery of acoustic connections, but from afar we’re all abuzz, hovering over our little honeycombs, fixing them up, basking in the sun, playing records, cooking meals… and just like when I look at a bee hive, I imagine whomever has such a perspective must look at all these goings-on and say, something peculiar is happening here, not here or there, not even everywhere, but where… I can’t quite put my finger on it, but would you just look at that!

    Michael

    • Thanks Michael, I like the example of the bee hive and this kind of self-awareness of the micro/macrocosm. The world is a miracle, ‘so much more happening than we could ever fathom’. It’s not usually seen because we have a default setting that filters out what’s not immediately relevant and science offers an explanation that takes the place of the actual experience. It’s the action of stopping for a moment, as you say, following one’s intuition and, ‘would you just look at that!’ Bringing focus back to what’s been happening all around and continually manifesting…

  3. Dear Tiramit,

    Bram here from The Netherlands (met you at the Buddhist monastery in Northumberland) Have been reading your new and old blogs, really enjoying your writing.
    I’m planning to go to India again soon maybe I will see you in Delhi 🙂

    I enjoyed the conversations and walk we had together,

    Mettacittena,
    bram

    • Hi Bram, good to hear from you again, I’ll write by email after this. Yes, Northumberland was wonderful, it was a special time. Thanks for visiting here and taking the time to check out the posts. Let’s see if we can meet up in Delhi…

  4. Nice writing, as always, Tiramit. You master to start talking about ordinary events and end giving us a sense of awareness and oneness, with nice prose. About science and miracles, I think science is the reference for understand the objective world outside us: objective facts, laws, causes and effects, etc. On the other side, the miracles we are talking here belong to our inner world, they are subjective. Science is almost ignorant about our subjective world, is not their aim at all. Reading you I start to desire to live for a while in such sites, but later I realize those little miracles are also around me, here, and also are around all us, whatever we are. Thanks for share with us your time 🙂

    • Thanks for this inaendelea. The ‘sense of awareness and oneness’ contained in ordinary events is the miracle. Science, as an objective explanation and reference, takes the place of subjective truth. Do we have what is needed to see past this somehow? Those little miracles are around me here, and around all us, whatever and wherever we are…

  5. Pingback: sentience | dhamma footsteps

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