I love words, signs, symbols, the flow of language, old maps, and any form of art. I love that humans are somehow driven to use the raw energy of the universe to imagine the workings of it; to express what they think and feel, and to emote the most primal responses.
And like lots of curious people, I have always been fascinated with what's underneath. My parents worked in engineering; my mother used to say, when I was a child, that I had a "mechanical inclination" because I had rapid, logical troubleshooting ability when confronted with minor problems like broken radios or bicycles. Perhaps. But not only did I want to know how things worked, or why, I wanted to know what they were "made of". Not plastic, metal, muscle or bone; obviously, there was something underneath that...and that. As I grew up, I exhausted the sciences as holding real answers to my questions, because they dissolved into abstractions of life, processes, matter. I didn't want abstractions, theories, frameworks, systems and such, although I understood that these things "defined" life as I knew it.
I wanted to know what life is. No one seemed to have that answer--or rather, the answers varied according to the conditioning, profession, personality, fear or enthusiasm of whomever I asked. It wasn't too long before it dawned on me that I was looking for the answer, something ultimate. My experiences in living demanded that I revolve around that. What is this? became my sun. Every event was passed through that light. I didn't want to know things about life, I wanted to know.
Of course, somewhere in the story I learned that the closest and most fertile ground for mining what I needed was myself. Sometimes with delight and sometimes dread, I tore this self apart. I put it under the intellectual, emotional and philosophical microscope; I'm sure I put various people through all kinds of hell in this process, because I was so ruthless about trying to understand what and why I was. Blindly, I created my own pain and anguish to explore. Now the dynamics are obvious, but then I usually believed I was somehow marked for trauma.
I couldn't have asked for a finer or more relevant education. :)
Somewhere in the midst of all this self-exploration, I'm sure I was like Narcissus, in love with the reflection of myself, feeling a kind of false power that arises when encountering the esoteric layer that few seem to aspire to (with good reason). There was a kind of "high" associated with that. I knew, saw, felt and experienced what many couldn't or wouldn't...then I fell into the very surface I used to gaze at life, at this locality of life called "me". I drowned, and never recovered, thank any deity!
Probably the most important lesson I have absorbed thus far in my (now) endless education is that there is no absolute answer or ultimate experience. Questions and answers about what it means to be are no doubt "necessary" for intense communication and expansion. But there are endless ways to quest and find, completely outside of the intellectual realm or the traditional spiritual circles. This is because what we are already is its own absolute knowledge, in which all the seeking and finding appear everywhere, like weather.
In human relationship, the deepest heart, life or essence of it can only be experienced by some form of honest contact with the other person. Relationships end because people unconsciously enter them with a set of expectations--images, symbols and a form of language to contain and construct the relationship, to make it comfortable and stimulating and secure. We want it explained, defined and fully understood, so that we can "see" it.
Usually, what we're seeing is a mental map that is much too narrow to ever define what "you and me" fully is. Before long, things change, and we find ourselves fighting with our own (or the other person's) ideas about living and relating; we tend to be inflexible, because that self-image can feel like the only thing we have that's "true". Changing a firmly embedded idea can feel like some kind of death. We are extremely reluctant to redraw or do away with the lines.
Along with our inner story about how things should go are emotions, which are physical, biochemical responses to our own thought process. Emotions are responses to what we perceive. What we perceive is often what we wish or what we fear, but not the actual state of affairs. Emotions are reactions--natural and wonderful or tragic to experience, but they are not the essence of the trip--just a physical picture of what we happen to be thinking or believing.
Generally, two people combine mental maps and emotional response and call it a relationship. An idea relates to an idea, a self-image to a self-image. When it ends, we may say that it somehow "just wasn't real". No wonder. While all the shuffling and negotiation and currency exchange is going on, what is real is almost universally ignored, in favor of the drama of maintaining what we believe. In the fallout, which can range from mild disagreement to complete separation, we feel the gap, a hollowness that we can't seem to fill. Words no longer work and emotions drop through it like stones. Something is missing.
Alas, we use the same set of equipment to relate to life in general. We hold up a false self constructed of ideas and reactions to ideas, insisting that life fit neatly into this package for our consumption (there's that word again!). When it doesn't, we react further with despair, aggression or withdrawal of some kind. Something is missing.
There is nothing wrong with all the equipment we are using. Our mental processing is astonishing, as well as our emotional depth. The problem is that we confuse these tools, symbols and representations with the reality of ourselves. We assume that the map is the terrain, and that our reactions to events are the events. We come to live only by a sort of mental and emotional shorthand, while the vastness of what is goes unnoticed. Something is missing...there is a gap.
Gaps are uncomfortable to humans conditioned by rules, lines and walls. Gaps are too--well, open--somehow indicating incompleteness. We rush to fill them. They feel like vacuums, which nature is supposed to abhor. Gaps indicate a weakness in our defense systems. Gaps may mean periods of no sensation. Gaps are things we can fall into like traps, leaving us powerless. Even worse, gaps, by nature, aren't filled with anything! The mind can't represent this emptiness with anything because it's so damn empty. There is nothing to stand on. Scary.
At the least, these spaces feel pointless, and at the most, like abject terror of the unknown. But letting go of the impulse to fill the gap brings about a revelation...which is: I am the gap.
I am the space in which the maps are drawn and accepted or rejected. I am the space in which perception and emotion happen. I am the gap "between" myself and other, as well as a kind of space which never opposes thoughts, emotions, people, relations or "solid" objects, but is actually characterized by these. Conversely and equally, I am a kind of singularity, entity or point characterized by space.
This is not a mere mental exercise or emotional state. It is a "positionless" position, literally "standing under" either side of a dichotomy. It is subsurface and invisible. It has no qualities, yet includes any. It can only be represented, never really grasped, except by surrender. Surrender is not an issue when one is both sides. There is nothing to lose. Surrender is actually a perceived shift in a story. In reality, there is nothing but gap, and nothing missing.
When the walls of identity fall, all of life rushes in and escapes, at the same time. Actually, nothing is happening that hasn't happened all along. Nothing is attained, no glory added. But there is a Feeling...not to be confused with an emotion. It is, rather, the feeling of openness that is the potential for all kinds of feeling...and any kind of being in the form of facts, relationship, time, subject/object, anything and nothing. It is described sometimes as "oceanic" or "cosmic" because it feels at once completely enveloping and completely freeing. Complete. Nothing missing.
When I fell into this borderless pool, I immediately grasped one of the first bubbles arising: "Wow--but what is the practical value of all this?" I can laugh now, but in my life story at that time, it was a landmark question. When the bubble burst, a word came...intuition. Yes. A word for that "feeling of knowing" which seemingly has nothing to do with surface events. A kind of knowing not bound up in facts of a particular space and time, but free to move and explore like some preternaturally divine extension. We all are that, but mostly would rather not speak the language, as full of honesty as it is.
The practical value of truth is self-evident to anyone interested in what's real, anyone tired of emotional games taken as the totality of existence, or of chasing down the promise of cheese, only to run into another dead end. Believing in a series of selves and worlds to fight is an exhausting task. Watching selves at play as the art that they are, however, is somehow energizing. It is much less life-threatening when you admit that you are the underground...at which point, your more hostile aspects simply exit without much fuss. The primal response, then, is mostly awe, or joy, from a matrix of freedom. The emotion is love independent of image. The action is immediately giving; the direction creative. Purpose? Obvious. :)