Pattison on Wheels

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

4-8-08: This

As I was reading last night, part of a sentence got into my thinking and the aftershocks are still coming. “When we mistake what we can know for all that there is to know . . .” Well, yeah. Unintended consequences. The author is speaking about soil fertility but it applies to humans, conceptual thinking, and civilization in general and in spades.

I got up early and was on the trail by 7:30. By 8 I was at Weston Lake again and trying my best to stop thinking. You couldn’t find a better place. The lake was calm and unruffled, the birds were telling the truth, there was lots of isness around for which there is no name, and there were no other people to confuse the issue with their characteristic symbolic verbalizations.

Being without thinking is nice. The trees. The wind. My breath. This. All I have to give up for this treat is the pretense of absolute knowledge.

But it is difficult for me. I keep drifting off again and then suddenly realize I have just told myself a story with no foundation in experience. And that trick of abstraction has its own magic as it was how these foolish monkeys got to the top of the food chain. It’s only wrong when you assume that’s all there is.

My reading of the wisdom traditions has told me this again and again. That same reading also told me that the power and importance, and even the existence of non-conceptual being is unteachable with words. I love the book title: “Zen: It’s Not What You Think.”

Eventually people came to my retreat at Weston Lake and eventually I started back up the trail. I noticed that I stopped a lot and was unusually content. No narrative. No implied conclusion. No mission. Nowhere to be. Nothing to tell. I enjoyed taking pictures but seemed equally pleased by trying settings and lenses and deleting the experiments.

I had a vague ambition of trying to capture the sense of the new leaves—their color, their hopefulness, and their tiny size and multiplicity combined to a kind of green mist into the distance. But I didn’t really need to succeed. It was just another path to take. Maybe it will lead somewhere interesting.


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