That phrase arrived in my small share of the universal mind this morning, as I was engaged by the beauty of the September sun on Lake Ontario and the pleasingly unpredictable breezes riffling the waters and my hair. It’s a phrase redolent of the activities of criminals, activists, spies and exiles, and as I’m deep into the composition of my mystery thriller series “The Scottish Psychic”, such language kinda comes with the territory. Not to mention that it’s an occupational hazard of the writer, a person who courts language as a lifestyle and then foolishly expects it to conveniently relocate when he is practicing the art of contemplation.
Contemplation, is, for me, not so much an act but a subsidence, a slipping into, where, as Alan Watts puts it, “One does not listen, but simply hears all sounds that are emerging from the silence without making any effort to place or identify them. And where “One does not look, but only sees light, colour, and form playing with the eyes, as they too emerge moment by moment from the void”. And where thoughts, “…If they arise, are merely watched without comment as they come and go”. The good of contemplation, as he notes, is contemplation, not some future result that it may bring.
So by bringing the phrase home, to reckon on this ramble around it, I have somehow flunked the contemplation ritual. And let me tell you it’s not the first time. Having nifty ideas settle briefly like butterflies comes with the neighbourhood I inhabit. Damn it all. But the point is this:
Traveling under an assumed identity is what we all do, here in the flesh, being born and growing old. Who we are is not our public identity. That is who we are pretending to be for this plan of this incarnation. We each are the result of a spark of divinity clothed in attributes carefully tailored to suit our present needs. And those needs include the needs of those intimately entwined in our lives. We act out our roles to the hilt, and doing so enables not only our fears, ambitions and desires to be expressed and exercised, but allows those around us to react in any way they see fit, which usually involves their fears, desires and ambitions.
We are secret exiles from our real selves and home, sent out to explore the antipodes of consciousness in the lands of constant turmoil and threat. We are so accustomed to traveling under assumed identities for the sake of gathering useful information, we completely forget that our masks are firmly in place, are not being held on the ends of sticks at the fancy dress ball and that the data we collect as we move about communities and landscapes is constantly being processed for later easy access.
We forget because we agreed to forget, signing on the fleshy line, swearing allegiance to the lore of DNA, so that we could have the further benefit of learning, learning which is, as Plato suggested, remembering. Learning to remember and remembering to forget. Practicing in the palace of puzzles.