Let’s look at things around you. What can you see? If you stay in the living room, you could find items like a sofa, a small table, books, magazines, picture frames on the wall, and the like.
If it is in the morning, you have breakfast, and there are things as a cup of coffee, a piece of toasted bread, a glass of water, and the like.
If you open the book, you can see a series of words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs on pages. They consist of ink and paper. But then, understanding them, you can enter and experience the world of the book, or you can hear the author’s opinions.
Looking at the sky through the window beside you, it is sunny, and you feel a few clouds are greeting you together with birds chirping.
At the same time, there are a series of thoughts popping up in your mind. These are positive or negative, like various issues on your job, family, relationship, life, and God.
What are those things on earth? There are a variety of things around you, even inside you. You do appreciate them sometimes. Or, you get annoyed from time to time. What are those things indeed?
Now, let’s think about a newborn baby. Does he or she experience the same things? Suppose you are a newborn baby; how would you perceive the world around you?
While you are in the living room? But you don’t know what it means. You see a series of objects like a cup of coffee, a glass of water, a small table, books, and magazines. But you don’t know what these things mean to you.
You don’t know any single letter in the book to experience other worlds and opinions inside these books.
You see the sky, clouds, and birds through the window. You would sense the light shining from somewhere around together with the gentle sounds of birds chirping and winds blowing.
What are those things? You don’t know. The world is in chaos as if there is no distinction yet from one to another. If one doesn’t mean anything to you, it does not exist for you. At most, it looks like nothing more than pebbles.
You are supposed to see and experience a variety of things around you. The world should be colorful, even dramatic, if and when these things mean anything to you. However, as a newborn baby, you don’t have any means to understand the fabric of these meanings and values.
What you see and experience is the vast sea of meaningless and countless pebbles.
That reminds me of one childhood memory.
In Japan, there are many old temples and shrines. There are long pebble pathways from the gate to the main halls in the typical setup, covered by the natural woods. We have to walk through mindfully. If we visit these temples in the offseason, we can experience the meditative silence and serenity in the pathways.
As a small child at that time, however, my interest was in the countless pebbles on the path. As if walking on the beach, I felt like pebbles moving with a series of sounds at every step. It was almost like the ASMR experience.
Looking down at each step of my walk, everything I saw was a series of endless pebbles and their rhythmic sounds as if the entire world melted into the vast sea of mere particles and waves.
If someone asked me at that moment a question like what the universe is, even questions like:
- What is life?
- What is God?
I would answer to the person, innocently exclaiming, “Mere pebbles!”
Walking through the long pebble pathway hypnotized me as a small child. For me, the world was simple at that time, not different from the chaos that a newborn baby experienced.
At that moment, suddenly, another sensation reminded me. My mother was holding my hand, saying, “Don’t look down. Look forward when walking! I am holding your hand tight.”
After all, the world consists of countless pebbles. So does the universe. What we experience in our everyday lives is nothing more than the grid of meanings covering up these pebbles. Ferdinand de Saussure has pointed out that our understanding of the world and the universe is merely a system of differences derived from the signifier and signified distinctions.
Without the clothes of languages, the naked reality is nothing more than pebbles. We call them quantum particles and waves.
Everything and everyone is a series of pebbles. In the beginning, there were particles and waves from the Big Bang. Probably, that is the ultimate truth. However, that is not only what you are supposed to experience at the end.
Like a toddler looking down his or her steps indulging in pebbles, suddenly, we feel the warmness of the hand our parents are holding tight, telling us gently.
Look forward when walking!
Image by Albrecht Fietz