Musing again this week – that’s partly free-flow thinking-at-a-keyboard and partly inspiration from the Muse – the wider consciousness that manages to squeeze into my awareness from time to time.
The Muse turns up in dreams sometimes: In the latest, scales were falling from my eyes in a slightly alarming manner; first a clear membrane slipped from each of them – rather like a contact lens. Then another layer fell from one eye. No pain, but now there was no iris there, no pupil, just blank and white. That scared me enough to wake me up, but when I slept again, I was seeing people differently. At first they looked normal and were most certainly alive, but as I changed my position and viewed them from different angles, I saw gaps in them. There were uneven holes in the covering – skin, hair, clothes – and I could see the sky through them as they stood on a cliff top. The bodies were merely husks – hollow and incomplete. Cast off, perhaps, like an empty chrysalis?
So, I decided, the Muse is pointing out that perception is not as straightforward as it may seem… In fact, like beauty, it is very much in the eye of the beholder.
I had to look that word up: from Old English behalden/bihaldan/behaeldan (depending on the dictionary you choose) meaning be + hold/keep/cling to. Plenty of truth in there; we ‘are’ in our day-to-day 3D existence very much defined by the ideas we cling to. Those, in turn, are defined by our senses – with sight often the most trusted of these.
So I will look at a tree, for example, and see the gnarled trunk, the waving branches, the ripening apples, the goldening leaves. That is the image of ‘tree’ I be-hold; it defines my ongoing perception of the tree. If I use a camera, the image – despite losing a dimension – backs up my be-holding. My camera was made by humans, to view as we view.
My Muse is prompting me, though, to widen my concept of perception. How is this tree perceived by the small bird singing in its branches, by the beetle burrowing in the bark, by the ant or the clump of grass in the meadow below, or indeed by the tree itself?
To any of them, I’m guessing, my be-holding would mean nothing. Those with eyes may see ultra-violet or infra-red aspects of the tree which are invisible to me. Those with different – non-visual – means of perception would interpret it in ways I can’t even imagine.
Is there, for them, a place where tree stops and air, earth or self begins?
For us human BE-ings, the self is a useful repository for our concepts, memories, senses, feelings. It can, though, be limiting. What and where (and even ‘when’) are we when we move beyond that husk and be-hold something wider, deeper, wilder and greater, I muse?