Wednesday, December 22, 2010
What is the Grass: Part One
How could I answer the child?. . . .I do not know what it is any more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?
Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .the produced babe of the vegetation.
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic, And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones…
Walt Whitman, A Child said, What is the Grass.
A friend has been encouraging me to inquire into the nature of my true self.
I am having difficulty with this task that she says is not that hard:
simply look and see.
But, it feels like racing a truck down a railroad track – bone jarring.
However, my friend will not let up and has no patience for a whiner.
So the other morning in the tub I was reflecting once again upon the question, “Who am I?”
I noticed that once again my immediate response was, “I don’t know.”
But then, as always, I wondered if perhaps that’s just a knee jerk.
Are those words really mine?
Or are they just the reflex of a spiritually indoctrinated mind.
So, I asked again, “Who am I?”
This time, new words came and they made all the difference in the world.
I heard quite clearly, “I cannot say.”
When I look inside and see that I am nothing, that is wisdom.
When I look outside and see that I am everything, that is love.
Ah, he couldn’t seem to settle either.
And, I wonder if it’s even necessary to decide; “I am this” or “I am that.”
I will be Whatever I Am with or without an answer chatting in my brain.
… though, I probably will suffer if I haven’t really seen…
if I really do not know.
Sometimes, I am amazed by an emptiness.
Emptiness started within me and spread to encompass what is outside. I’m surprised to discover that it feels very different from nothingness.
Sometimes I feel as if I am no-one. Who am I? - nobody.
Nothingness feels more akin to no-self, emptiness more like an empty glass.
Sometimes there is Silence and that certainly seems like something: an ocean that can drown you. Silence stunningly loud arises out of nowhere with the slightest provocation. A fly pings into the lamp shade and suddenly: The Ocean of Unbounded Silence is Here.
My friend says Silence is no-self. I can see the logic, but, I cannot say, “I’m That.”
Nor do I appear to be the Nothingness, the Emptiness, the Silence. I can be a nobody. And what's amazing is it changes nothing! Life does not require that I be here. Body, mind, talking, work activity carry on just fine. (Which is not to say it isn't a bit freaky.)
Sometimes, I notice what has always been: simple awareness, the screen of consciousness which allows a mind to be conscious of all the this and thats.
Yes. That is who I am, from the moment I was born: that non-changing consciousness, pure awakeness, a awakfulness that remains even in deep sleep.
I cannot call this no-self; I have to call it Self.
I seem a What more than a Who.
And sometimes I lose direct experience.
And sometimes, I do not care if I cannot say.
Somehow in the midst of all this reverie, I came across Walt Whitman.
He seems quite comfortable with not answering the “WHO” directly.
He pours his Self into Creation and ends his poem about the grass with these stunning words:
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
What do you think has become of the women and children?
They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprouts show there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.
All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.