This morning, walking along the Hudson River at about 6:30 AM, I was struck by a group of stones — nothing special, just Palisades basalt — lined up on a grassy expanse of grass next to the marsh on the river.
There was no one else around; just myself and the famous dog Isabel. We rarely, if ever, have company along the river at this hour.
The impression of the stones came into me, and I felt a life in them. A kind of life that isn't defined by the narrow constraints of the physical sciences, but rather by the very magnetism and presence of the stones themselves, the gentle softness of their irregularities, the rhythm of their placement, the austerity of their gray color against the rich green of the grass, and their individual shapes: related, yet unique.
It occurred to me that we have never really understood why people built stone circles. We've applied a lot of astronomical, archaeological, and even metaphysical theories to why they existed, but we rarely think about the simple idea of the impression that they made on people. All monumental architecture is, in the end, about an impression — and these particular monuments, primitive though they may be in comparison to something like the Parthenon or the buildings at Uxmal, aimed at the same thing.
Perhaps the impression was more an impression like the one created by Zen gardens, where austerity becomes the vehicle for an inner message. I think this must be the case; the vision of stone against Earth and sky falls into us in a different way when it is intentionally arranged. One can't say how, except that perhaps the arrangement begins — no matter how simple it is — to express the action of law in what would otherwise be a random universe, a theme that I have taken up in a number of posts lately. The fact is that life itself is a random universe that keeps falling into us; our Being, our consciousness, is a polarizing element that receives that apparently random action and organizes it. Although the world may begin without definitions as it enters, it acquires them. And above all, the definitions are created by the action of Being.
We usually consider these definitions to be intellectual, but they are also emotional and physical; and this is the essence of inner work, that we sense the totality of what definition is, the totality of what impression is. Unless our parts are in relationship and active, little of this takes place; and unless we know and sense the fact that we have an inner life and can and even must live through it, our impressions are relatively dead to us. So much so that we demand loud, obnoxious, intrusive impressions which overstimulate the organism, instead of understanding the more delicate refinements of sensation that come from stillness and a precise inner observation.
It's this stillness and precise inner observation that touched me for a moment in my walk along the river. And it is the constant search for an intimacy with this stillness and precise observation that occupies me. I get up every morning and face life; I organize it and define it; yet this isn't what life is about. Life is about coming into relationship with life. And it's this action that's interesting — not all the mileposts of the job, the commute, current events, and achievement. I always ask myself, at all times, every day, how can I become more intimate with my inner life? It is always calling me, and yet I don't always listen.
I can sense the fact that the emanations of the divine that begin within Being and try to reach me are loving and concerned; I need to discover how to become reciprocal to that, how to stand in an intelligent and intelligible relationship that includes all of my parts
May your soul be filled with light.
A note to readers: part II of everyday impressions will be published on 9/1/13.
A further note to readers: Please read Tracy's post of today, which is related to this one.