Saturday, September 21, 2013

Glorious, Various, Mysterious


          I sat in the backyard watching the September light darken as it passed through the trees. It rallied, finding gaps in the branches, the crowns, and my perspective from the Adirondack chair perched under a big shade tree grew lighter. Then another decline, and the light shadowed once more.

            It's a mystery. Everything, really. A mystery at the heart of things. We don't get any closer to understanding it, but we have to watch it sometimes. Simply stop and stare. How have we come to this point? How is it that in a few days more we will come to another point in time and forget all about the hour in the late afternoon that we sat and watched and found so impeccably beautiful. Words can add nothing to it. People have no role to play. Everything both very alive and perfectly still. Well, one mosquito paid a brief visit. It, presumably, has no capacity for remembering. But we are ultimately in the same boat. Neither of us knows how we got there, or how it -- 'there' -- got away. The plants do not appear to move. I do not see the flowers emerge. Or the foliage grow old. I never see anything "happen" on a plant. Only the wind, when there is wind, moves them. Only in the time lapse of our own movements, our forgetting and remembering, do things 'happen' to plants: flowers, mere buds yesterday, blossom today. I assume they "blossom," an active verb. What I see, and know, is: bud on one occasion, flower some other. Oh, sometimes, if they're big enough, you catch the blossoms half way out. But you see no movement from one stage to another; you simply don't. You see the morning glory gloriously open to the morning sun. Later that day the same blossom is closed. But the process is only inferred.

            I sat outdoors in an Adirondack chair watching all this happen, which is to say watching nothing 'happen,' until at some point in time I stood and went into the house and did something else. Since this 'happened' (my movements) only yesterday I may be able to recollect them with some accuracy; but the clarity of this recollection soon fades. Today in about half an hour I will try to reproduce the experiment -- or do I mean 'experience' -- of returning to the same chair, the same point of view, at the same time of day, and permitting the nothing that is the life of the natural world to happen again.

            Yesterday afternoon: no wind. Nothing moved, though obviously the sun -- by which I mean my position relative to the sun -- moved. That is: the earth moved. Because the earth moves, everything happens. I suppose there is my explanation, the only one I will get.

            But it will not be the same, no matter how much I control the observable conditions. If I am looking for the same conditions to reproduce the same thoughts, the same feelings, I will be disappointed. You can't step into the same river twice -- old Buddhist proverb.

            And (not a proverb, but my own), you can't account for what makes it different.

            We hope divinity has good eyesight, good sense organs, able to see the subtle changes, the "passage of time" -- i.e. able to see time pass -- because if the eye of god is not watching, nobody, absolutely nobody, is seeing the whole show. We see snatches and infer the rest. Causality; connection; story line. Ah yes, that little flash of pink on the edge of a particular branch of rose of sharon extending a casual reach a foot above the fence line; that wasn't there yesterday. Was it?

            Who the hell knows. 'God knows,' as the expression goes. Maybe.

            Maybe, at best.

            I don't know, but I rather doubt any such eye of god exists. That the divinity, or one of his bureaucracies maintains an uber-surveillance every moment on every dimension of space from every point of view on an infinitude of galaxies in a possibly infinite universe. And even if finite, unimaginably vast.          

            And if this eye of god does not exist, then we are god's senses, his physical senses, sense organs, powers of perception. We exist in order that the universe may know and regard itself. I admit it, as I admitted right at the start, it's a mystery to me.

            We live in a mystery, and the mystery is us.