We wake up from a dream and for a very brief moment, we cannot quite remember who we are. It takes rising from the clinging mists of sleep to seamlessly surface back into the familiar, with it’s known characters it’s intricate story lines and the “me” now safely clicked into place, relating to all that. From the self-erasing fog of dreamless sleep we quickly revert to type and lurch back into the daily facade we wear to face the demands of the day…
My facade greets your facade with each of us giving little mind to the truly appalling superficiality of the “normal”. It is only when life vigorously pokes its finger in our “I” that we question what is real and ask who or what the hell am I now?
When I was twelve I won a national children’s art competition. It was just after my father had his “I” changed by life’s intervention – from “farmer” to “priest”. An accident three years previously had me witness my father drive himself seven excruciating farm miles in a blood-slick stick shift to the emergency room. Leaving behind not only his farming career but all the fingers of his right hand.
I was in the aisle of the central hall of the National Art Gallery of Southern Rhodesia with five hundred guests witnessing me in my magic moment walking up to claim the 1st prize when suddenly the voice of the Director came over the loudspeaker saying, “Nooo No. This won’t do. I can’t give you THIS prize! You are far too young to have done such mature work without adult help.”
Well, I was poleaxed.
I froze in mid stride, my mother rushing to gather me into her skirts, my father who had just been ordained, pulling off his “dog-collar” and suddenly donning the “I” of the no-nonsense farmer. Ready to slug it out with fate. My mother prevailed and we fled in a slurry of shame. Never did get that 1st prize I had won all on my own.
Throughout my life here have been numerous such devastating moments, similar in impact to this early one, all just as dishearteningly dissembling of the fragile certainties that I had erected around who or what I thought I was. I call them “cosmic” moments when we are violently removed from the subjectivity of the familiar and thrown without warning up to an alarmingly impersonal height to witness a much broader canvas upon which life is painting itself into reality. We discover in these cosmic moments that life isn’t personal.
We discover in these cosmic moments that life isn’t personal.
We discover that there is a highly provisional self which through consensual reality we cling to – cobbled together out of hastily assembled half-truths, faulty memories, and unconscious presumptions which can be abandoned without regret in the blink of a cosmic I.
We learn the difference between the dreaming self which clings to a personal narrative, a guise which we increasingly wear ever so lightly, and the deeper hidden Self which impersonally resides as an unchanging witness of the broad panorama of life’s play. As we learn to not take the provisional fictive self personally we observe the “me” with the indulgence and compassion of a loving “parent” allowing the child its play, knowing all the while that the “adult” Self never was born to die.
The attached scratchboard drawing was done by me at the age of twelve…