Out of the void, a world begins to take shape. Out of absolute nothingness, forms begin to emerge.
And these emerging forms dance and swirl, and boundaries appear where once there was only nothingness, and “things” appear where things have never been before. The shapes are taking shape, and shaping themselves into a world, a world which has no solidity at all, a world is really only a dance of form, a trick of the light, a play of consciousness, no matter how “solid” it appears to the eye.
But really to call it a “world” is to miss the point entirely: there is only this trick of light, this dance of form, this play of the divine, and there is nothing at all that anyone could ever point to and claim “this is a world”.
And the world is always dancing in the darkness, in the void of all voids. And the world is not separate from the void. Indeed the world is the void and the void is the world, and there is no duality at all. The duality only comes the moment we speak of it. And yet, even the speaking of it is perfectly whole.
And so to say “I am a person in the world” is to fall into delusion and therefore suffering. There is simply no separation between me and the world, only the illusion of separation, an illusion which is inevitable for a “self”. Because a self is inherently partial, fragmented, separate. Otherwise, how would he know himself as a self? To know oneself as a self there must also be knowing of oneself as separate, distinct, divided from the whole. For a self to be a self and to know itself as a self, there must be “the other”.
And “the other” haunts the self, it torments it. For the self can never be the other, can never know the other, can never escape from the other, and yet can never exist without the other. The other is always other, always alien to the self. And the message of the other is this: “Dear self, you are not whole, and you will never be whole! As long as you have breath in your body, there will be a longing for completion, oneness, God, call it what you will! I guarantee it!”
Because as long as there is the other, there is a self, and as long as there is a self, there is the other. They arise together. They live and die together. And as long as this is the case, the longing for completion (the human project, so to speak),will always be there.
And yet (and here’s the rub) the longing for completion can never be satisfied here on earth, nor could it ever be satisfied in the “beyond” (because the “beyond” is just the “beyond” for the self, and therefore offers no respite).
And so the poor old self, living in a world that is always “other”, longs for completion, a completion which it can never ever reach, no matter how hard it tries or doesn’t try.
And yet although the self longs for completion, it also fears completion more than anything, because completion is death. Death of the self is not something the self could ever want, because the self is nothing but the striving for the preservation of itself.
Yes, it is the void that the self fears most. The void is seen as the ultimate loss. Nothingness, death, emptiness. And yet the world is nothing but a dance of the void, and so the self is always, inescapably at war with existence itself. In avoiding death, the self perpetuates the very suffering that it is desperate to escape.
But what the self does not and cannot realise is that death is not the enemy, it is liberation, freedom, the end of all suffering.
But the self does not actually want freedom. No, it wants to exist. It wants choice. It wants to make its mark, it wants to be something rather than nothing. And so it invents “free will” and “responsibility” and “self-esteem”, denies the void at the heart of all things, and tries desperately to “establish” itself on earth. It pretends to forget that it came from nothing and will return to nothing.
But all things are impermanent. All things on this earth must die. That is a certainty. And the self knows that one day it, too, will die. And the self could never, ever know when that day will come. It comforts itself by saying “one day, one day, but not today!”.
For the self, death is always a future event.
But the universe screams death from its every pore. Death lurks around every corner. Non-being permeates being, goes right to the core of it. In every moment, death is a possibility. Indeed, life is not even possible if death does not permeate it, go right to its centre.
And deep down, the self knows this, knows it full well. It knows full well that it came from nothing and will return to nothing. It knows the game of being “something” is only temporary, only a momentary distraction (and to the universe how momentary a single human life is!).
Yes, deep down it is known: this life is a dance, a fleeting, fragile dance. A precious, moment-to-moment manifestation of utter emptiness.
To the self, life will always be a problem. But to life, there was never a problem, ever, and the self is just a minor inconvenience. Life knows no problems, because life has no past or future (and therefore no present) in which to have problems.
To life, there is only this: what is presently happening, beyond all words, concepts, ideas.
Only this and nothing more.
And the dear old self emerges out of the nothingness, and believes what it wants to believe, and pretends to choose, and plays at working and works at playing, and really this self has no reality whatsoever, it has no substance, no permanence, no “existence” outside of thought.
And a thought is just a thought.
And the thought arises out of the emptiness and falls back into it.
And really, nothing ever happens.
And the world doesn’t even matter.
And the overwhelming mystery of life, the sanctity of it, the preciousness of it, the wordlessness of it, the silence at the heart of it all, is untainted by the world, by this apparent self, by anything at all.
There is a purity the self will never know.
The vastness annihilates me. It literally destroys me. Walking through these empty streets, the vastness is there, consuming everything, every thought, every sensation. And yet the vastness is not separate from everything that is arising: the glow of the streetlamps, the shadows of lovers walking arm-in-arm, the rumble of night buses, the sound of footsteps on the cold pavement. And once again the secret that is so utterly obvious reveals itself: I am nowhere to be found, and I am everywhere. I am nothing, and yet I am one with all things, because there are not really any separate "things" at all.
Now, thought is silent, and yet the miracle reveals itself, all around. There is nowhere that the miracle is not. The miracle is this, this and this too. Not the idea of it, but the obvious and undeniable present actuality. Who could deny these present sights, sounds, smells? Who would ever want to?
I am annihilated in this, I am dwarfed by the vastness, I am made totally insignificant by the smallest detail: the little cracks in the pavement, the flicker of a streetlamp, a dog barking, the trees rustling in the evening breeze. Every little thing puts an end to me.
The eyes dart about, and with each movement of the eyeballs there is a new world, an undiscovered country. Nothing is the same from one moment to the next, which is to say there are no "moments" at all. Only this, only the utterly obvious revealing itself now, now and now.
And thought is not there: thought comes afterwards, thought is always an interpretation in hindsight, a useless addition, after-the-fact. Thought is dead - this is alive. Thought is of the past - this is so clearly present. This obliterates the past, this destroys it totally. How useless the past is! How useless are those little stories, the ones about "me and my life"! They too are annihilated with every footstep, with every breath. Every moment new, every moment fresh, every moment a revelation, a miracle beyond all words.
And so, I walk alone, homeless, faceless, hopeless, without a past, without a future, without beliefs. And yet these things may arise, and that is fine. These things may arise, and if they do, who cares? Really, who gives a shit? Whatever arises, arises. Whatever happens, happens. And we only suffer to the extent that we don't want what happens to happen.
But beyond all ideas of suffering, beyond all thought, beyond any idea of “liberation” or “enlightenment” or “awakening”, beyond all beyonds, those streetlights are flickering, and the wind is picking up, and there is hunger, and the body moves towards the bus stop, and presumably it's time to go home.
Consumed by the vastness, there is no longer anything to do, nowhere to go, no possibility of anything whatsoever. There is only this, as there always has been. Nothing has changed and everything has changed, but even that is saying too much. Nothing can be known about this. Nothing can really be said, although the words come again. And that's wonderful. Wonderful because it can't possibly be any other way.
Tonight the silence consumed me, and the silence was everything, but in the silence a world arose, and yes, it was an apparent world, but what an apparent world it was! An apparent world, apparent to no-one.
Although, in the story, I have walked through the city a hundred times before, this night was the first night I had ever walked through the city, no doubt about it. Tonight, the city was new, it was truly an undiscovered country. Nothing was known about it. Nothing. And so it wasn't really a "city" at all, not at all. It was everything. It was the universe in its fullness. And it was nothing. A vast emptiness, an empty vastness. And I was fully annihilated by the vastness, and fully present too. And there was no contradiction, none whatsoever. Contradictions arise only for a mind seeking something.
But there is no mind, and no search.
Only this, extraordinary this, undeniable this ....
.... and nothing more.
This morning, the eyes opened, and there was a world. Incarnation. Spirit made flesh. There was something new under the Sun, something that had never been there before, something that could never be there again. A world had been thrown out of the Void, something had emerged from nothing. I looked around. There was a room. Curtains, a cupboard, a stack of books, a chest of drawers. Two feet dangling off the edge of the bed.
This was a new world, an undiscovered country. Nothing in the history of the Cosmos could compare to this.
How could any of it be possible? How could there be something? Anything?
The duvet was thrown off the bed. A body appeared: the first body, the first man, Adam himself. Two legs, two arms, and the rest. A miracle had occurred! Creation ex nihilo! But it was a dynamic, restless miracle: the body moved, first to eat breakfast, then into the bathroom to wash itself, then to the door. Nothing could stop the miracle from unfolding. The miracle was everything.
Outside, there was a bitter wind that chilled the face. The body boarded a bus. That is, I boarded the bus, but there was no I, and no bus, and certainly no body that could possibly board any bus. But still, I boarded that bus. And on the bus, the miracle continued. I looked around. There were others, others like me! Arms and legs and torsos and heads with funny little scrunched up faces, some smiling, some gazing into the middle distance, some filled with the sorrow of the world. But they were my brothers and sisters, all of them! We were all the same, there was nothing to divide us at all, absolutely nothing. One family under the burning Sun, bound together in more profound ways than we ever could imagine.
We were all one, which is to say there was nobody at all on that bus, nobody at all. And yet, there were those bodies, that was undeniable.
And I got off the bus, and walked around the town centre. Humanity throbbed. Thousands of people packed into shops, bustling around bus stops, chatting on benches, drinking coffee from little paper cups with fancy logos. Lovers embracing, husbands and wives quarrelling, bus engines roaring, children playing hide-and-seek.
What were these creatures? And how was it possible that I had woken up this morning as one of them? What had I ever done to deserve it? I caught my reflection in a shop window. Oh, the miracle of the human face! The miracle of arms, of legs, of a unique appearance distinguishing me from the others, whilst at the same time binding me to them forever...
And though we were all wrapped up warmly in our winter clothes, I knew that the miracle went even deeper. Under these clothes that marked us out as seemingly separate individuals, there were things that bound us inherently to each other, things that marked us all out as of the same blood. Dirty things, shameful things, secret things. Penises, vaginas, breasts, sweat, urine, blood, pus. Cancers, incontinence, missing limbs, growths, deformities. We tried to cover these things up, but today I could see through the disguises, today I saw our common humanity, and it was almost too beautiful to bear. I saw the lies and half-lies and half-truths and props and masks that we used to divide ourselves from each other, to hide ourselves, and I saw how these things only ever served to make us more human, to disclose exactly that which we sought so desperately to hide. Yes, today I saw through all of that, I saw to the heart of what it meant to be human, of what it meant to be alive on this day; on this day of all days.
And what I saw was nothing more than what met the eyes, and what I heard was nothing more than what met the ears. What I saw was so obvious, so painfully obvious, so obviously present, that it was perhaps another miracle that we all didn’t see it, all of us, all of the time.
And yet, that day I really saw nothing, for there was no I to see anything at all.
It was growing dark now. The body was becoming tired. There was hunger and thirst. I boarded the bus back home. Still the miracle, still the miracle. Always the miracle.
A key in the lock. Light switches flicked on. Shoes off.
Today I lived my entire life, without remainder, and now there is nothing else to do, nowhere else to go. It is night-time, and I find myself back here, in my bed, where the world first appeared this morning. Perhaps a world will appear tomorrow. I don’t know. For now, just this is enough. Just this is the miracle.
Today I lived my entire life, but it has already faded into memory, back into the Void from whence it came.
Today I lived my entire life, and as I lie here beneath my duvet on the verge of sleep, no less comfortable than I was in my mother’s womb, I am ready for death, the Womb of all Wombs.
But for now, there will be sleep. And tomorrow, there may be a world.
And the eyes close, and the world dissolves.