“The more we have the courage to walk new paths the more we must remain rooted in our own tradition, open to others who let us know that we are not alone and permit us to acquire a wider vision of reality.” - Raimon Panikkar.
Bright sunlight filtered through the curly leaves of the contorted hazel tree to cast green-gold dapples over the Grove. I’d been meditating for a while, trying to fend off the hen which kept pecking at the beads on my sandals. And the dog whose nose was edging ever-closer to my cup of tea. Ah, blessed solitude. No wonder the Buddha didn’t have a menagerie with him beneath the Bodhi tree.
Or maybe he did, hmm?
My fluffy and feathered buddies follow me around the house and garden, constant companions who demand to join in with everything. They tread the same ground beneath the same sky as me, but who really knows how a chicken, cat or dog views the world? How do human lives seem to them - magical, perhaps? Godlike? Bewildering? Largely irrelevant so long as regular food and an affectionate cuddle comes their way?
Take the hens, for example; their whole universe consists of this garden. The concepts of motorways, trains, space exploration or Gucci handbags are totally beyond their range of experience. They don’t need to know this stuff to survive. They’re perfectly happy without these things. And if they were to experience them, they’d react by evaluating potential danger then figuring out if they could eat any of it. That’s pretty much all they’re interested in.
Our cats have a broader world view. They come and go as they wish, their territory ranging beyond our legal property. They explore other gardens, know other cats, and in Jazzy’s case we strongly suspect she has a second home as she’ll vanish for days then stroll in, dry despite the rain and not in the least bit hungry. They hunt, they kill, they laze around in the sunshine, they groom their fur until it gleams, they demand attention on their terms. Their idea of reality is very different from that of our hens. Their awareness of possibilities is much greater.
The dogs are different again. Their activities are more controlled, and they certainly are not allowed off our property by themselves. But their experience of the environment is far more advanced than that of the cats. My dogs know various woods, the beach, the sand dunes, several parks and the village. They know their own way home from any number of locations - in theory, at least; I’ve never put this to the test and never will. They know how to have fun and to play, to be cheeky and obstinate, and how to bark like crazy when the postman arrives. They demand cuddles and a big fuss even if I’ve been out of the house for only a short time. They react to us a part of their family. Their experience of life is very different from that of a cat’s. They know it’s a much bigger world, filled with far more potential.
What, then, of our world? Is my experience of the world the same as yours? Of course not; we know different people, have seen different places, done different things. Our minds work differently; we’ve memorised different kinds and levels of academic knowledge and encountered situations which might sometimes be similar but will never be entirely the same.
We may have both walked round the same city, but we’ll probably have chosen to visit different aspects of the city. You’ll have seen things and encountered people which I didn’t, and vice versa. Your expectations will be exceeded, met or left wanting in ways which don’t effect me, and vice versa.
As our experience of the world differs, our worlds are not the same.
How much potential experience do we miss? I’m thinking of the video in the post directly below this one, which illustrates this point so clearly.
I’ve been fortunate enough in life to meet a number of remarkable people who’ve helped me to become aware of experiences or potential which I’d previously remained asleep to. I haven’t tended to share this aspect of my life, and yet maybe I should - to a degree, at least; there are some things I’ll never share. My legendary insistence upon personal privacy is one reason, and one that’s entirely rational.
However, while sitting in the Grove after meditating, I began reading through some of the writings created by one those remarkable people I just mentioned, and one section seemed to glow on the page. This passage was about the author’s intention to embrace change - and the author freely admitted to feeling both unnerved and enervated by their own new freedom from old bonds. It’s an attractive prospect. Wider visions, and the desire for them, hold ever increasing appeal.