I had wondered what the ‘experiential chord’ would be on this trip; arriving for the first time in this vast continent of Australia to spend most of January with my eldest son, our daughter-in-law, and our granddaughter, Alice, now sixteen months old.
‘Experiential chord’ is how I think of what experience does to you–for you, as it assembles the parts of what’s happening into a purposeful theme; much as a guitarist puts together multiple notes to create a chord, which has power and harmony combined, and makes the perfect basis for the song to be laid over it.
The song, in this case, is a very unexpected lesson in the soul’s perception in the physical world. The chord is an unfolding of day by day delight in seeing a young soul come to terms with her relationship with her universe: full of newness, full of wonder, full of Being-in-the-moment.
In the Silent Eye, we define Being in many ways. A commonly agreed one is this: it is that which remains as the object(s) of perception when you strip away the layers of historical ‘lenses’ that we create for ourselves as life ‘thickens’ the delicate beauty of our first seeing.
I’m watching that ‘first seeing’ in real-time. And by this, I mean the mind’s assembly and interpretation of what the senses ‘see’. This is beyond the stage of the new-born’s sensory awareness.
It’s my very good fortune – or the Guitarist’s inclusion of me in the song – that I have this state of extreme beauty before me in the eyes of a lovely granddaughter, whose day (currently) begins when I lift her from her cot bed, sometime around 06:30 in the morning. Alice’s parents work long shifts in a local major hospital, which services a wide section of South Australia with its specialist teams. Our presence here for several weeks allows them a little time off from being both doctors and constantly active parents, as we step in where we can to look after Alice.
The two Doctors left the UK in July and, prior to that, lived in London, so we didn’t get much chance to form a relationship with our granddaughter prior to their departure. So here we are, Bernie and I, on a new continent, forming a new relationship with a beautiful little being who, herself, is forming a new relationship with her world.
It’s a very magical thing to be part of. I use the word ‘magical’ in what I consider to be its real form: being witness to the working of the ‘now’ in all its power and potency. You could also say that’s being witness to the work of the Guitarist, who strikes the chords in all of us, knitting us together into a song in which we can play a lesser or greater part, depending on our inclinations…
Watching Alice, I can see, in minute detail, how the mind of a young human being forms. You can see those lovely brown eyes move slowly as they take in the whole of a ‘thing’, working to delineate its ‘edges’ so that they can see it as a something, an ‘object’, in psychology’s terminology. We don’t usually observe this in ourselves – those objects and their associated feelings have long since crystallised in our layered consciousness by the time we are an adult. It takes a special and deliberate act of ‘undoing’ to begin to see, again, the pristine beauty of what’s before us.
The mind’s knowledge begins with ‘things’. If you don’t have things, if the world is one undivided mass, you can’t assemble relationships. It’s ironic that in adult spiritual development, we look to undoing the negative side of dividing the world into things, particularly the two things called ‘me and it’.
Alice’s perception of things begins when she realises that there’s something discrete there – and that it’s a repeatable occurrence, and therefore important to know. She is now beginning to ask the names of such things. She will point and say, ‘This!’ Then look at our faces to watch us name it.
Names are important, but they are the start of human limitations, too, because they mark the beginning of language’s power over our thoughts. Language is essential to the mind’s development, but it also imposes constraints which are less than the spiritual power of the child’s untainted sense of wonder. For example, language is full of comparisons, so the child comes to learn to define things by the relativity, rather than the full beauty of their ‘beingness’.
That, then, is the nature of the first part of our visit. This isn’t wholly a holiday, though it will contain holiday elements for all of us as the month progresses. It’s a period of time that we are lucky enough to be able to take to help out two young parents who work exhausting shifts to save lives, day in, day out, as we look after Alice for a while.
I’m also fortunate in that the Silent Eye is, administratively, internet-based, so I can continue my work from the ‘far side’ of the world.
I’ll be fascinated to see what unfolds over the next few weeks, as my own story, my own song, gets woven into Alice’s young life by the Guitarist.
©Copyright text and images, Stephen Tanham 2017.