Monday, November 10, 2014

A flight to Shanghai, part I: the size of my world

 This essay was written while flying from New York to Shanghai on November 3.
 Subsequent portions of the essay will be published for the next three days.

I feel that I live in a very large world. 

Billions of people; a seemingly endless series of national and international events, across vast territories. I have my place in a tangible progression of time that stretches back millions, billions of years; I live in a cosmos reaching out billions of light-years from where I am, governed by unimaginable forces.

All of this is true; yet the size of my actual world, the one of my personal impressions and interactions, is quite small. The number of people who I have daily contact with is really very limited; tiny, even. Measured on the scale of my immediate surroundings, the impressions I take in from moment to moment, the outer world is constrained by the limits of what lies within the range of my senses.

There is depth here, but it doesn’t lie outside, it lies inside.

The greatest expanse of what my life consists of lies inside me. Through my sensation and an inner awareness, I can sense this, but only according to my relationship to an inner energy that gives life. Without this energy, life is two-dimensional, flat. I assign scale to it with the mind, and inflate it, but that inflation is imaginary. I remember here what cosmic inflation implies: galaxies moving, forever, further and further apart.

When I conceptualize the world at large, the enormous scales of society, history, cosmology, and so on, and picture myself within them, the action is impressive but ultimately pointless. I’m reminded of Beelzebub’s advice to Hassein, when he contemplated the nature of the world and his place in it. 

Beelzebub knows it’s impossible for this to lead anywhere in terms of Being; and thus he advises Hassein to sense himself and his connection to his body:

I advise you, my dear Hassein, not to put such questions to yourself yet. Be patient. Only when you reach the corresponding period of your existence for becoming aware of such essence-questions, and reflect actively upon them, will you understand what you must do in return... is indispensable that every day when the sun rises, while watching the reflection of its splendor, you bring about a contact between your consciousness and the various unconscious parts of your 
common presence.

 —Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, Chapter 7

I come back to this question so often it may seem redundant or obsessive; but it isn’t. The scale of my world is actually measured by my inner state, not my outer one, and the real dimensions of the cosmos can’t be understood until the organism comes into a sense of its own living contact with itself. This is self-remembering; the remembering of the organism by itself, for itself, on an organic level that lies beyond the conceptualizations or even grasp of the mind itself.

This is where life unfolds; within me first, and only after, outside.


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