I’ve written before about how hiking trains me to come to attention.
Today I’d like to get a bit philosophical and ask a dumb question: “When we come to attention, just who is it that comes to attention?”
Obviously, we will answer, “It’s me.”
And like a young child, I ask further, “Who do you mean by me?”
This is one of the ancient Big Questions that mankind has puzzled over since eating the apple off the tree in The Garden.
And the answer that has been given by the wise has been even more puzzling.
Consider Albert Einstein’s answer. He’s not best known for his philosophy, though it was his philosophical thinking that brought him to his Theory of Relativity fame.
“A human being is part of the whole, called by us the ‘universe,’ a part limited in time and space.
He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical illusion of consciousness.
This delusion is kind of a prison for us, restricting ourselves to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.
Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Wisdom of the Ages
Einstein isn’t alone in giving this answer. Take a glimpse of an ancient scripture from the East that said essentially the same thing but in more poetic words.
“Of a certainty the man who can see all creatures in himself, himself in all creatures, knows no sorrow.
How can a wise man, knowing the unity of life, seeing all creatures in himself, be deluded or sorrowful?
The Self is everywhere, without a body, without a shape, whole, pure, wise, all knowing, far shining, self-depending, all transcending.
There is a golden stopper in the neck of the bottle. Pull it, Lord! Let out reality. I am full of longing.”
When we come to attention we know what it is to be present, though it is impossible to describe.
It seems to me there is a hint in the very words we use, when we say we ‘come’ to attention. Come to what?
Isn’t it something like coming to something that is perhaps “out there?”
Maybe even “in here?”
Maybe like space or time, “everywhere, always?”
It’s just a question that comes to mind – often when I am alone hiking on a trail. What about you? What do you think?
By the way, the quote by Einstein was sent to me by Eknath Easwaran’s Thought for the Day. It’s a free daily thought from http://www.easwaran.org/
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Then, too, if you’d like to enjoy some cabin reading, try my book, Backpacker & Hiker’s Handbook. Lots of chat about hikes and backpacking. Good fun.