Savoring the View Through a Single Pixel

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Christ / Course Ideas

The last half of this year, and the last two months in particular, have reduced the aperture of my life down to such a tight radius that I feel as though I’ve been scanning the field of experience and possibility one dim pixel at a time.  There’s not much plot to derive from such a view– not much context or depth with which to work.  Day and night are shades of brightness, but little more.  Is it night again, or just cloudy out?

Is that the alarm?  Already?  What about dreams?  Do I still have dreams?  Who has dreams any more?  People who can afford to shut their minds off at night and use the time for something besides catching up on the minutes of the previous day and assessing their potential impacts on events six months out… they have dreams.

What can do this to a person?  What forces can result in such a contraction?

Being busy.  Feeling busy.  Feeling burdened.  Being poured from one day into the next like a slinky tumbling half out of control down a staircase that has been lowered down from the sky.  In my case it has been the influx of professional responsibilities that will wait on no man, with financial consequences should they not be attended to in a timely manner.  This may sound wholly unappetizing, but the particulars are not where to focus, as a similar contractive pressure could have been brought on by any number of situations with other types of forcing functions– needing to get the harvest in prior to a turn in the weather, tending to the wounded or dying around the clock in a makeshift field hospital, working double shifts for weeks to fix the electrical grid after an ice storm, being the de facto caregiver for an elderly parent who is losing their rational faculties, being a single parent with children at home and any number of jobs outside of it, or simply having your house blown away by a violent atmospheric outburst.  The mind has a tendency to rank these in some order of severity, but I encourage you at least for my purpose here to treat them equally, as circumstances or inciting factors that focalize our lives, and trim the fat from our wandering minds.

As Jesus says in A Course of Love, our lives are our curriculum.  Life is what’s happening.  Life isn’t what happens when we’re done attending to what needs be done.  That’s a modern notion rooted in images of success and desire that often breeds resistance to what is.

Regardless of how you rate these various circumstances, the main point is that sometimes things get busy in ways we cannot control.  The conceptual life to which we were trying to attend, that version of life we were trying to invent or distill from the one we already had, that one is cleaved from our conscious reach.  We are honed to a functional point.  We find ourselves in continuous service to the needs of the moment.  There can be a certain relentlessness to it, though if we’re paying attention we will also find moments of beauty and grace interwoven throughout– like the way a brilliant yellow moon settling down onto the horizon near the end of it’s nightly journey shone upon me like a great, full eye during a 4 AM commute through a wintry wasteland, catching me off guard and flooding me with a thousand whispering reminders of what lies beyond the single pixel view.

If we’re not careful, these are also the times when we will be ambushed by the sensation that something is wrong.  Something isn’t right is a thought form all too easy to endorse.  Whatever philosophies regarding cause and effect that we carry around inside of ourselves will be badgering us at peak intensity levels to take stock, and take action.  Look!  Here’s a story about a person who created the life of their dreams!  All it takes is a few upgrades!  We, too, can get back on track with the types of lives in which we can flower, make a difference, or follow our passion!  Be all we can be.  We all want to maximize, and take our shot.  No one likes being derailed.  Such responses can hide the deeper meaning and purpose of these experiences, however– can render us insensitive to the holy messages they convey to us.

It is not that the dreams or passions towards which we grow are unattainable or problematic, but that we must be brought to the point where we can see what hinders their realization.  We must be delivered into a face-to-face encounter with whatever hidden machinations aren’t working, so that we can choose anew.  So Life, ever compassionate, presses upon us.  Pressure refracts the ideas of our lives into their individual colors and paints them on the wall for closer inspection.  And as we squirm under the pressure, we see just how strange some of the ideas are that we have carried.  Reduced to a shrunken point of tenacity, we find our anger.  We find out who or what to blame.  We find out about our doubt or shame.  But the holiest of our desires, too, press up from within against the cover-slip our live’s boundaries, like the cytoplasm of the inner life to which our magnified focus has been drawn.  Their beauty and possibility comes into focus.  As we yearn to reach for the fruits of this sanctified fire within us we discover where our reluctance has been hiding.  We discover our fears, and they also are magnified, and become tangible– like a choking heaviness in our center.

We reach the point then– the sacred fulcrum at our center– from which new forms of experience are possible.  Jesus suggests in A Course of Love that when we are free our hearts will be the cause of our experience, but that so long as we remain trapped within the thought system on which illusion rests, we experience the illusion and the suffering.  What our hearts know and desire is unable to fully arise as the cages of our thought systems establish the boundaries and parameters of the possible.  When we ask to break free of these cages, then I think sometimes we are dragged into this slow motion world.  Everything slows down so we can pick the lock…

Today, in a brief window of time in which I’ve been able to rest and allow my vision to stretch out a bit, I find I am immensely grateful for the past few months.  Yes, in moments I have wanted to abandon the ship of circumstance, or at the very least make a righthand turn.  Yes, I have been confused and disappointed, uncertain and overwhelmed, contemptuous of my own stagnating efforting at times.  But it has also whittled me down, and brought me to intimate contact with something that’s always present, even in a single pixel of reality.  Ask for Love, and you will be obliged to take a tour of the ways you distance yourself from it, and you may find your life is reduced to a single pixel you can square off with.  Inspect that pixel very carefully, for you may find Love looking back like a full moon flooding every corridor of eternity with soft light.

We do well to remember in times like these: one healed pixel is all it takes…  We don’t need to fill an entire screen.  Just one pixel will do.  For there is only one pixel, anyway, and it is everywhere…  Always…

21 Comments

  1. Interesting perspective Michael. I tend to think of narrow focus as not useful. Maybe that’s part of the block; accepting and keeping the focus on the pixel of challenge in the moment?

    Thanks for your continued wise and unique ponderings on life. Happy Holidays to you and yours.

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    • Thank you, Brad. Happy Holidays to you and yours as well!

      The thing about passing through the various states we all navigate is that our resistance to them is so very often rooted in the notion, perpetually bubbling up within us, that things would be better somehow if they were different than they are. And we miss, as a result, the fact that things, exactly as they are, have been choreographed in precisely the ways most suited to fulfilling our deepest desires. Even when they appear to the contrary. For if you’re like me, once you let your deepest desires do the talking, there are one or two items that arise that need to be resolved in order for the order to be filled. We have to meet the Terms and Conditions of that which we seek, and this is not because of any oppressive whim of God or karma or guilt or whatever. It is simply that peace and truth can coexist, and peace and falsehood cannot (as an example).

      We resist the moments that either show us what our favorite falsehoods have won us, or that are bringing us along a course to the realization of that which is beyond our falsehoods. Either way, to resist what is arising in answer to who we are and are seeking to become, is different I think, than letting it’s work develop within us, and offering our transformative response to it.

      Sometimes we are pulled in countless directions. I think it’s never wasted time, however, if it brings about a deeper understanding.

      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for your thoughtful and wise comments. I resist much of my life. Intellectually, I understand and will see if I can open to allowing the moments to show me where I’m blocking my deepest desires. I had a couple of insights reading your response.Thank you Michael.

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  2. Dear Michael,

    We must be traveling through similar vistas right now. In the midst of a major shift in responsibilities at my job, my experience ranges from utter delight to a sense of overwhelming doom in which I am found out to be a fake, not really capable of all I am now responsible for.

    But, then love does find me as a willing particpant in an ever-shifting role in the play of life as it is given and received. I can feel how the intensity of this time challenges me to consider new ways to respond to my own feelings and to those of others. Love is always the answer, and perhaps new challenges offer opportunity for more compassion, forgiveness and love, for both ourselves and those around us.

    Love,
    Debra

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    • Hi Debra,

      Yes we must be navigating some similar waters. I know exactly what you mean about being “found out” when it comes to fulfilling a new or expanded portfolio of responsibilities. But what a great opportunity at the same time to express who we are in circumstances that call for an expanded presence, for accountability and vulnerability, for supporting ourselves and those around us.

      Love makes it all possible… At the same time, it can be daunting as well. I think new challenges draw us out further, compel us to express more of ourselves, and place us in new positions with new vantage points from which the view is not always the same as it seemed before. All good things…!

      Much Love
      Michael

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  3. We have ventured from New England, leaving behind the dark ‘”wintry wasteland”, and have hurled ourselves to the Florida Keys. I was most definitely swirling in the functional point, like an old record repeating itself every day, and suddenly a sun-kissed hand of a talented DJ has paused me. Zoop zoop zoop, on the turntable, giving me a few good scratches, and I have shifted from some played-out, stuck song into Rapper’s Delight. At least, this is how I feel. Now I am here, in the place that feeds my soul, where I know I want to be, not for margaritas and lack of life’s normal chores (though these are added bonuses), but because this place resonates with my insides.
    And yet, it is temporary, just a glimpse. I treasure every humid breezy moment, and I wonder how to make it all fit together. How to keep the ‘life is my curriculum’ and staying present without ‘resisting what is’ in their proper places while also reaching for new realities, new opportunities.
    I can feel myself healing here, very much like Humpty Dumpty, being put back together again. I am feeling that it may all be a dance. The feels good and the feels-not-so-good, the functional honing and the slightly absent minded relaxed wandering, the dreamer and the doer. I am working toward these little spirits becoming dance partners rather than opponents. But, if they must spar and wrestle around with each other, perhaps they can bow when they are done.:) At the very least, they are all being tossed into the ocean for a saltwater baptism.

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    • Sounds wonderful, Andrea! Yes, they are all dance partners. They transmute one into the next as we follow their lead and swirl around the sun. Lining them all up in their floaties for a saltwater migration seems like a great way to keep everything on level terms. Lifted and tugged by the waves, we are brought instantly to the present, and our thoughts about what might have or should have are rinsed clean.

      We all have our paths, do we not? There is sweetness in reveling in what we have been given to walk, in sharing the discoveries along the way with others, and in the fullness that comes from embracing all that our particular walks bring us. I am thankful for your note, because for a moment I had a flash of a sunny beach, and I was right there… And it was good…

      Beware the deceptively perfect looking Christmas Griswold turkey… 🙂

      Have a great holiday!
      Michael

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  4. This is very beautifully crafted Michael; and concisely captures deep truths. Perhaps the primary one here is the concept and actuality of suffering – how this phenomenon is very much the cloud with the silver lining, so to speak. This sounds all too facile, even asinine, at a time when so many children have had great suffering inflicted upon them; and we must remove such circumstances from this particular discussion, if not being able to erase powerful thoughts of the same, which I am sure we all share. Yet in the normal run of events, where suffering in some degree or other obtains much of the time, however subtle or gross, it always brings with it the opportunity for our growth in understanding, as you demonstrate in your excellent piece.

    We see the cloud forming above us, we ascend and absorb into it; yet we miss spotting the silver lining on the way in. It is only as we exit, or are perhaps some distance from it, that we detect what begins as a mere glint and which increasingly displays a fuller lucent power. Suffering, or ‘dukkha’ as it is known in orthodox Buddhism, is considered a gateway to liberation; that is, when it is fully comprehended. For it to act as any such gateway, we need to understand its origins (why the cloud forms), to apprehend its sustained arising (what occurs within the cloud) and to observe its passing away (our exiting the cloud). In passing through the gateway, we note the cloud’s lack of enduring substance, its ultimate emptiness despite the form it presents.

    Suffering is of course a relative concept and may be applied in any and all circumstances in which contentedness does not obtain. So, its presence is very subtle at times, and embraces also mild feelings of dissatisfaction, and even its subliminal agency too. This, I think, is where we can often become lost in the cloud. We see it as an acceptable atmosphere as we are so accustomed to dwelling there; we know that we can endure it. The situation becomes as if a teacher were to address an un-listening student, one who thinks that mere attendance will result in their graduation. In the end, the teacher must grab the student’s attention, shake her by the shoulders and force her to absorb the lesson. It isn’t a pleasant experience, but rather a necessary one at times.

    Have an excellent holiday season Michael, peaceful, healthy and contented.

    Hariod.

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    • Thank you, Hariod, for such a lovely and thoughtful response, which adds both dimension and clarity to what I have attempted to describe. You have given it a zoomed out view that I think reveals the silver lining quite nicely.

      I agree wholeheartedly with you that suffering is suffering, no matter how small. I would even suggest that it runs the other way, too: suffering is suffering no matter how large. Our penchant for ranking “levels” of suffering, while on the one hand seems an obvious way of viewing things, occludes our recognizing that suffering derives from the same foundations regardless of its apparent scale, and thus the release from it is hinges upon a realization that may be applied consistently to any circumstance or difficulty.

      With the latter comes, I think, the heartfelt, knowable realization that the release from suffering is indeed available.

      Much Love to you my friend, and best wishes as well during this holiday season.
      Michael

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  5. I read your words before starting out on a trip, dear michael, like A, which has given me time for musing upon them. I have been so aware of a change in my ability to be present after I turned in my grades for this just past, demanding semester. I was also dwelling on Hariod’s post about presence on our rainy, foggy drive. When I don’t have the work of grading essays, I see that I am lingering in the smallest of moments in a much clearer way. I feel this vacation is giving me such a gift of contrasting states, to figure out how the feel the freedom in every moment, not just in spaces carved out for vacation. During each semester, I know that I do see the small moments and try to be in them, but they are felt with a constriction of work still undone flavoring and pulling from my thoughts. Oh, a Christmas eve blessing, May we learn to stretch out in the moments, as they are served up – without the constriction of our thoughts! Amen. Thank you for the beauty of your luminescent words. m

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    • Yes, it is amazing isn’t it!? How a little shift in spaciousness, a removal of the pressures of what must be done and the enjoyment of a little bit of time that is ours to do with as we please makes all the difference… I have found road trips can be particularly conducive to inspiration, since it makes the perfect excuse to let a coiled mind stretch out in all dimensions, accompanied by a favorite play list.

      I have felt throughout this year the same tug of moments by other moments, the nagging pull that clouds our ability to be 100% present with what is happening. So, a heartfelt Amen to your Christmas Eve blessing. Hope the rest of your vacation is wondrous and light.

      Michael

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  6. God made the clock.
    The clock makes God.

    Funny how viewing life through each of those perspectives expands and contracts our ability to be ok with not being ok as we can experience feeling overwhelmed and “trapped” or lost within time (at times) which it seems we cannot control.

    Your beautiful writing made me think about the nature of the ideas of functional holography… 3d objects encoded on 2d film. I have been considering the dynamics of the human life that can be lived if we deeply contemplate the perspective that we are 4d beings currently encoded in 3d bodies experiencing pixelation that time provides.

    If we think about human life as being a biological holographic film festival of God where we are the Oscar award winning features playing, these pixel experiences become gateways rather than limiting destinations, and my oh my what fun can be had! (The lights dim in the theater as Michael passes Maren the popcorn tub with extra butter- yum yum!)

    Living each moment of life is then done withing a rolling freedom in a state of (and I quote from the wise canon otherwise known as Wikipedia 🙂 ) “tolerance to noise, robustness to lesion, superposition and ability for zooming in and out”. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_holography )

    Yes William, all is a stage (I think Life As Improv scores blog title gold 🙂 ) and we are faffing about trying to make it seem so real that we forget it is supposed to be a bit of projected theater fun!

    Much love to the Best Actor Oscar winner Michael, in his academy award winning performance of man managing pressure at work from Best Actress Oscar winner Maren, in her award winning performance of the empty, quiet fall/winter woman looking at impermanence and the feeling of apparent loss in time.

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    • Wow! Good stuff, Maren! I followed the link to the wise canon otherwise known as Wikipedia and saw that Eshel ben-Jacob was one of the scientists behind the functional holographic method. I look forward to reading more. I know of him through seeing a talk he gave once at a scientific conference on water, and through seeing some photographic images that were in Seed magazine once (I believe) of his work with bacteria. He is a pioneer in many ways. The work with bacteria showed how water carries information to which living organisms respond.

      It has been a pleasure working with you on this film, and I look forward to the time (God is in moments, and moments are in God, and clocks just stand watch) when your travels through the holy land of impermanence and seeming loss bring you to the border, where angels will be waiting to take notes on your acceptance speech.

      Much love returned-
      Michael

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    • Hi Meg, thank you so much for the note and the heart-touched echo. Your prose is always so rich, I take this as a great compliment…

      Happy New Year!
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

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