Sunday, October 19, 2008

Reality and impermanence

As a keen landscape photographer I've long been aware of how light in all it's various forms and flavours can shape the way we perceive reality. Now with Photoshop we have another dimension apart from how the photographer can present a scene in ways to draw attention to a particular point, or feel.

Without saying much I'll leave you to ponder what stories could be attached to this image...
reality400-1.jpg

... yet if I offer information such as "those rocks in the stream are among the oldest in New Zealand" then depending on your background that may, or may not change the relationship with the image.

And these rocks in Fiordland maybe nearly as old...
reality400-2.jpg

... yet although being the easiest example I can offer you of something that appears permanent [because of their mass and age], they are not permanent. By this I mean they're comprised of minerals, and even space between atoms, electrons or whatever. On analysis they are not what they appear to be!

Unless heat is applied rocks can be weathered to sand grains by our ancient sea...
reality400-3.jpg

... if we apply such thoughts to our lives, literally ourselves and the phenomena about us, we have to accept that our perception of reality is not quite what it seems, and that not one thing we perceive is permanent! It's tempting to draw the conclusion that we live in an illusion, but that's not quite the answer either.

What I see about me is a lot of suffering in the world and a lot of fear, and I can't help but believe that a lot of it comes about because we think we're permanent! Well we may or may not make grains of sand if you subscribe to a cyclic existence, but we'll make "dust" for sure at some point [which may or may not be the end point - this too depends on perspective!]. If we keep that thought in our minds, we'll find we handle day-to-day life in quite a different way and relate to others with more compassion and love, as we become more aware that an ethos of permanence is an illusion that enhances feelings of suffering [and ego]. Possessions will become less important, greed will diminish as we can't take these things with us.

Do we know the lives these people led, long ago in remote Fiordland? Yet, they probably thought their perception of "I" was important once. Apart from their names, about all we can assume is they endured a lot of moisture, and suffered the loss of a child...
reality400-4.jpg

When I was a young man I tended to see people and objects in life as permanent, and even got pretty immortal feeling while climbing, but my reality slowly changed, like just after this unprotected traverse near Mt Cook a spring snow avalanche swept this rock clean, just after the photo was taken, and before our very eyes...
reality400-5.jpg

... back then I saw the process of life as sort of permanent - this reached a peak during marriage and parenting. But the former showed it's impermanence to me in the form of divorce. Through this epiphany, and the wonder of child birth now I see literally everything in life as dynamic and shifting. Actually when I consider the fact that nothing is established in it's own right, but dependent on what cannot be identified [what is beyond particles in particle physics, will probably elude us forever, and the space between!], I'm then left with the conclusion that a lot of our reality is based on our thoughts.

If we're attached to someone or something we build up feelings that enhance them both and overlook faults. Conversely what we dislike or hate, does not seem so bad if we ask ourselves what our feelings are based on, then examine what this hate or dislike is dependent on! If we're honest with our studies we have to accept all is not as it seems, and much depends on what our attention is drawn too, in the quest to satisfying self!

The answer seems to be to detach, by taking the focus away from self, and reposition it towards helping others with love and compassion, thus letting the beauty and magic of our existence shine through in a more enlightened way...
reality400-6.jpg

...to be continued, and with thanks to the Dalai Lama for the inspiration above

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