Think of this a picture of life.

–Dedicated to my self, with whom I have
an ambivalent relationship.

Think of this as a picture of life. You can walk in it, you can speak in it, everything’s the same. The difference is that this isn’t life. It’s a picture.

So, how does that make it different?

That’s a good question. How do you think it makes it different?

I guess that different things matter—or have different kinds of importance. Like, in paintings, pure form is a powerful idea, and probably takes away the importance of emotional concerns.

How would that affect you?

…It’s hard to say. It might be a relief. Imagine all the worries that would just… go away. Seeking satisfaction, being loyal to people, being meaningful to people you don’t even know. The world progresses visually, in shapes, but there’s no sound. Or if there is sound, it becomes a secondary sense, like smelling is for most people.

These burdens.

Oh great.

I knew you were going to say that.

How?

Because I’m looking at you and I’m listening to you and that’s what the clues tell me.

You really do look at life as a picture, don’t you?

Everybody has some version of that. It depends on how you interpret the effects of different metaphors. For you, looking at life as a picture—at least, the way you interpret it—relieves those burdens. It might not do that for somebody else. Buckminster Fuller used the analogy of a bunch of different ropes tied end to end. If you tie a knot in one end, and roll the knot down the rope, it eventually passes onto the second rope. How? The form and function of the object are still intact, but it shares absolutely no material with itself. Is it the same knot? You didn’t tie a new one. Anyway, the knot moves down the ropes, recreating itself. Until you get to the end of the rope. You roll and roll and it recreates and recreates until—it’s gone. He called knots “pattern integrities,” and he said life was the same thing.

That’s like saying being alive is the same thing as being dead.

Exactly. Those problems, those concerns, don’t exist. They never existed. No moment shares any material. It’s constant recreation, constant disappearing, nothing but a form that gives it a sense of constancy.

It sounds just like the picture idea. They’re both systems for making problems go away. But some systems make even that step unnecessary. If you step face forward into the stream of life, those lingering concerns start to feel natural, and relentless, and all the things you fear most. But on the other side of that is something more powerful, which is a clear-eyed view of the world. The more you see the world as it really is, the fewer questions you have. The fewer answers you need.

How would you make decisions?

Why couldn’t you? Isn’t that a part of it?

So, just, total acceptance of all you witness?

In essence, it’s permission to act naturally. There doesn’t have to be a sense of dissonance between how you perceive reality, and how you feel as though you are supposed to feel about the world. You feel like you do because it’s natural, because that’s what happens. In fact, you can’t even do anything naturally.

So, am I a slave to my biology, or fate, or…what?

No, no, you get to decide what “natural” is, just as much as it decides about you. Being natural and being alive are the same thing.

That’s an awfully permissive policy. Would you tell that to everyone?

It wouldn’t make sense to everyone. It doesn’t have to. It just has to make sense to me.

Wait a minute. I think I see the difference in how we approach this issue. I sort of run my ideas by a self-created audience. I discuss things with myself, debate them with myself. It’s the side that tries to understand other people, and oneself in the context of other people. You don’t have that. You are the audience. That’s probably a symptom of psychosis.

The diner closes.

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