POSTCARD 139: New Delhi: Lights change to red just as we’re getting near and traffic comes to a standstill. On the intersecting side, cars start revving their engines as the green light shows over there, and it takes a moment to see the elegant cow standing quietly among the cars, dressed in the body given to it, held in its place by the restrictions of stationary vehicles all around. Exotic and dignified, the animal has a calm and wise bearing; just looking at the world and waiting for the lights along with everyone else.
I’m thinking I should take a photo of it… yeh, good idea, but where’s the camera? Frantic rush to find it, deep in my bag, a pen, papers and things flung out on the seat then leaning out of the car window, take a photo click as surrounding vehicles start to move with the green light. There’s the cow walking at the speed of the others – not holding anyone up, no reason for any driver to be impatient, nobody toots their horn.
Funny how the cow is simply going along there in its own lane, not attempting to overtake, just slowly making its way in the limited space and in the direction of the traffic flow moving towards the next intersection, the next set of lights. It seems to know where it’s going, has probably travelled this route many times. I can see it disappearing in the distance, head held high above the cars, bobbing along with the rhythm of its walk – a being that’s in this world but not of this world.
To me it’s an extraordinary moment. I’m the Western cultural migrant assimilated in the East (resistance is futile). I have userID, password; there’s a sense of connectedness with the East, although still carrying some weight of Western thinking and childhood conditioning from the West. Thus insisting on a preconceived reality by creating supporting statements to prove what I’ve already decided is the correct way of going about things, and convinced about this simply because my continuing engagement with it somehow pushes it over the edge, the tipping point… metaphor becomes reality (although I know there’s really nothing there).
Nobody else here is paying the slightest attention to the cow in the traffic, just waiting for the lights to change. My kind of Western reasoning seems to confirm it has objective reality and that’s tolerated here, along with all the preferences, likes and dislikes that don’t fit. It doesn’t matter because the ‘object’ is not the goal. The answer may be one of many associated answers – maybe all. And related searches are revealed in interaction with the question – more of an exploratory thing, open-ended – the observed world and the observer of it in an all-inclusive oneness….
Smaller than a grain of rice, smaller than a grain of barley, smaller than a mustard seed, smaller than a grain of millet, smaller even than the kernel of a grain of millet is the Self. This is the Self-dwelling in my heart, greater than the earth, greater than the sky, greater than all the worlds. [Chandogya Upanishad 14.3, 8th-10th century BCE]
Yeah, reification. The tendency to concretise abstract concepts. I’ve seen it lead to some truly horrible errors by others. I wonder how much my own thinking is messed up by it.
“Reality check…” as they say. I’m doing it by comparison with the Eastern inductive way of seeing the world – living in Asia and engaging with local people I’m constantly reminded I have to allow for this to some extent…
Thanks for sharing this. I like it a lot. Awesome how the cow isn’t bothered by the traffic, and how the people aren’t bothered by the cow.
I resonate with your description of insisting on a preconceived reality.
The cow can be a metaphor. How many times a day do I come across a metaphorical cow on the street where my mind screams No! But everyone else does not seem to find it strange?
Exactly! I was amazed, it’s like the cow is not there. Maybe I was the only one who could see it, for a moment checking with the reference about free roaming cows in India before I was able to believe it was real. But Delhi can a bit like New York, I’ve heard stories about foreigners being kinda head-butted by the cow – what’re you lookin at?
Going with the flow … depends on which current you originate in. 💛
True, and I suppose things could also look pretty weird from the cow’s point of view…
I like this post, but I confess I am a little unclear on the reference to the metaphor becoming reality. I thought you were referring to the “sacred cow” metaphor, but the cow is real and sacred and not a metaphor. But taking it as a metaphor does trigger a moebius strip of mental gymnastics. The really curious part is to see the cow as sacred AND invisible. Are there cows in my traffic? The sacred hiding in plain sight?
Hi Gary, I see what you mean, sorry if it was unclear. The whole thing about metaphor interests me; a figure of speech in which one thing is said to be another. I saw it on a few levels, the clearest metaphor in the text is this: ‘…my continuing engagement with it somehow pushes it over the edge, the tipping point… metaphor becomes reality…’. Another metaphor is that I am a long-term resident in Asia and somehow not ‘seen’… maybe stretching it here but how about this, the cow is part of society, as I am part of society (not sacred 🙂 ). I was going to title it ‘Metaphor and reality’ (might have been less unclear) but decided on ‘Metaphor becomes reality’, kinda liked the play on words… ‘it becomes you’ (to show to advantage). I see metaphor all through the phenomenon of conscious experience – the world ‘out there’ is something I create by way of the senses…
Ah, so. Metaphor becomes (as in, enhances) reality! I like it that way. Much clearer.
Even so, there’s an elasticity about it all – one’s relationship to the metaphor and how it may enhance all kinds of qualities…
Amzing that the cow adapted but a natural fete. I have a poem titled insignificant. I wrote while depressed in it I mention that I am insignificant as speck of dust only to cause an irritant sneeze now and then. Though it was a pity poem it does express all of our existence. I don’t know if it’s still on my blog I’ve been deleting my poems. I’m using my tablet since the birth of windows 10 my desk top is obsolete. So I am limited on line.
Hi Kimberly, the emptiness inherent in existence that the idea of a constructed self conveys is something thought to be negative in Buddhism, but that’s not it. There’s the sense of liberation that letting-go brings; a kind of generosity, giving it all away. Good to know you’re moving on, working with the tablet and getting into something new…
amazing photograph, I’m glad you took time to take it 🙂
I like how you stated it’s a being in this world but not of this world…I think on some level we all are that …… each moment we create a world and see if we can be a part of it…
we could there from this being ..slow down and have patience, everyone will get there 🙂 and think on our words twice before we speak so don’t choke on them,
I think growing up on my grandparents farm I always thought the cows were observing us as they chewed, such a calm expression, now I wonder if they were thinking the same thing about us as you said here, 🙂
wonderful post….I enjoyed it …
Thank you for sharing you and your world with us….I always feel like I am reading in color
Take Care…You Matter…
Thanks maryrose, wow! Reading in colour? Happy you find it so vivid 🙂 Just managed to get the photo – evidence that the cow was actually there, that’s all – and the sense of it passing through, not really connected with the environment. It’s this that struck a chord; as you say, ‘each moment we create a world and see if we can be a part of it…’ It’s the construct to which we apply meaning, the nature of existence. In their own way, animals know this, maybe watch us and find us curious beasts…
You’ve got me thinking here, Tiramit. I’ve come to think of our physical world that we often call reality as the metaphor– as a symbol or representation of the invisible reality within us. I think similar in a way to what you meant by this line in one of your comments, “I see metaphor all through the phenomenon of conscious experience – the world ‘out there’ is something I create by way of the senses…” I was going to say our experience can sometimes be metaphors within metaphors… we use the images around us to try and explain what cannot be named or captured…
But it’s helpful also to keep trying to move closer, to part the tall grass of metaphor (whoops!) and come closer to pure contact with the reality itself. It’s just that it’s so real, so profound, so expansive… we come back with only a remembrance. A seashell memory of an entire ocean. But still, the seashell sometimes works to trigger a sudden view of the sea…!
The cow seems perfectly at home in your picture, and the most amazing thing is seeing the cow wandering without a handler… Was it truly all on its own? Next it’ll be making deliveries… 🙂
Thanks Michael, metaphors within metaphors? I have a friend, borderline schizo, there are times when he might ‘part the grass’ and find the jungle has taken on a life of its own – devoured by free-roaming tigers. He likes it, even so, I’m careful what I say to him… tightrope walking over the great abyss of the unknown. I do like the idea that the ‘reality’ of our physical world lying beyond the metaphor is even more exotic; abandon everything to that, and ‘how far does it stretch?’ comes to mind. Yes, no the urban cow in the picture had no handler, knew where it was going obviously – maybe to be milked in a car-park somewhere and spend the night there… endless concrete pastures and meadowland.