online: 25 october 2002

25 october 2002 the predicament of the gods

15:54 I look out from my room at the clouds moving quickly to the east and the blue sky not moving at all. I look also at moving shadows on the wall - an abstract film made by the wind moving tree branches outside my window and by sunlight projecting fuzzy shadows of branches and window bars on a plain white wall.

Now the film's stopped as a cloud moves between sun and tree.

We can see the universe in everything - but it is easier to do so in this coincidence of sun, cloud, wind, tree, window and white wall than in say the cup of tea and the wristwatch on the edge of the table to my right.

It becomes easier to see the universe, the whole of everything, in those manufactured objects if I think of the earthly clay that became the cup, the iron ore and the buried oil that became the wristwatch, and the felled tree somewhere that after its death became the table. Also the intelligence that formed them.

What a brutal process, but one I've spent much of my life with (manufacture and design - but perceiveable I hope as improvement?)

And now there are a few raindrops appearing on my window - though the sky is still mostly blue and the clouds are still sunlit.

I've been reading today of human life seen as suffering, as inevitable progress towards death, and of spiritual practices (of Buddhism) as the only way to escape or to transform this negative picture... but I don't believe the picture - it seems to me to be incomplete, to omit everything that makes life a joy, a greater thing than you and me...

Is it that Buddhism, and perhaps all religious theories, are anthropocentric, based on a human self-centeredness? I've only to think of art, or of poetry, or of scientific knowledge of nature, to see beyond the supposed absolutes of human perception, facts or accidents of nature as they are...

...but before I wrote 'of scientific knowledge' there came a sudden rainstorm, turning to hail, which hid the sky and even the nearby roofs and chimney pots and spouted out of a drainpipe by my window (revealing that a recent repair to a blocked drain was not effective)... and now, a few minutes later, the storm is gone and blue sky is again visible - and stationary.

Yes, I am not convinced that life is suffering, nor that people are originally sinful, though I am inclined, with Spinoza and the Zen Buddhists, to try to see life as non-dualistic, as inherently more connected, and less certain, than are any of our theories, religious, philosophic, scientific or common sensical. This is art - and it's inexplicable thank goodness.

Let the gods laugh - at their own predicament. The rain has stopped.

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© 2002 john chris jones

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