A few evenings ago, Mary and I went to dinner at a spot which was dimly lit, mostly by candles in wrought-iron carriers. Refurbished colonial structures in Merida tend to have very high ceilings, and often have tables in what had once been open-air courtyards. As our eyes adjusted, we began to speculate about the nature of the space in which we were seated.

Mary was convinced we were sitting indoors, and that the ceiling was painted a velvety ashen blue. I thought that we could be outdoors, with us gazing at the heavens; but I acknowledged that her perception was also plausible, even compelling. Yet there was a hint of doubt which crept into my appreciation of her position, keeping me open to a different conclusion. It derived from a short course of clay roofing tiles protruding from the wall above us, which caused me to feel as though we were seated in an MC Escher drawing. 

For a sensation of vertigo, trace the path of the water, from just behind the waterwheel.

For me, the tiles defied the interiority of the space; but for Mary they remained merely decorative. I could see her point, but I suggested that we should look back on our setting, upon leaving, to see if another vantage point might enlighten us about the accuracy of our differing assessments — the important question being not “Who is right?” but rather “What is real?”

 We were both amused as we left, to gaze thru what we both thought could have been a concrete ceiling, to behold the various elevated structures in the cityscape of nightime Centro Historico.

When our eyes lie to us, we can allow reality to disabuse us of their deception by remaining open to an improved vantage point, if we can rise above our own interpretation. 

The notion of perspective was enhanced yet again, later in the week, when I read a lovely piece forwarded to me from Nonduality Highlights, which had appeared in the New York Times. I’ve excerpted it below. (Reading the entire essay could require a free registration, which is well worth the bother.):

 [. . . ]   I live in this foreground world. I depend on it for my orientation, my ability to navigate through a day. It supports my belief that I am a separate, cohesive individual.

But I’m haunted by the knowledge that foreground can’t exist without background, any more than weather can exist without sky. The existence of the one necessarily implies the existence of the other. Despite this, I restrict my attention to the foreground. I keep my settings on “busy.”

Still, I’m haunted by implications. Something whispers that I’m only living half a life.  [. . . ]    ~Margit Thesthammar



One thought on “MERE BACKGROUND?

  1. A fascinating meditation on reality. I’m always trying to look beyond the foreground, but never really know if I’m seeing the whole picture.

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