Wednesday, February 22, 2006

in the beginning

My roommate showed me an awesome toy last night that I think embodies the secret of the world. "Have you ever seen this before," he asked me, pulling two small, metallic objects from the table. I took them from his hand. They were identical metal pieces, each shaped like a pyramid. "You have to put the two pieces together and make a single pyramid," he told me. "Easy," I said, and showed him the pyramid I made. "No," he said. "It has to be a pyramid. A flat bottom and three identical sides pointing up."

I played with it for a few minutes. "Are you sure this is possible?" I asked him. He promised it was. Sometimes he'd look over and tell me I was close. I had no idea what I was doing.

It hit me a few minutes later. The pieces were totally symmetrical in shape so to get them to fit together I had to place them in perfect assymetry. Like if you were to look in the mirror and raise your right arm only to see your left arm lift itself instead.

It really did strike me as the physical model of absolute truth. Two imperfect parts combined to make an intrinsically perfect, yet broken whole. Like the yin and the yang, except these pieces were not necessarily opposite, but rather exact replicas of each other, with subtley different features.

It struck me that everything could be defined like this, starting from the idea of humans being created in god's image. We're so caught up in the idea of distinct opposites creating balance in the world. But that seems so improbable to me. I can't rely on the idea that there are two perfect types in the world, pure dualism. I'm much more inclined to the idea of one. One with different features. One split, then reconnected. One broken, then fixed. One fixed, then broken. I relate much less to an idea of opposites than to one of a complete singular whole reflected and divided into different features, but still maintaining a complete singularity.

A few years ago my friend Steve and I were painting on a giant piece of cardboard on the floor of my bedroom in Montreal. It was a perfect night. Music playing, candles lit, warmth and friendliness and happiness and home everywhere. We were painting just to paint. I put a red dot somewhere to the left of the middle of the board. Steve added long, fat lines of yellows and red. I pulled in shorter strokes of blues and whites. Feathers. Scales. We created a bird-fish swimming in the ocean of the sky.

I started blabbering on something about how maybe we didn't actually exist, something about the metaphysical nature of future turned present turned past turned nothingness. The lighting was very nice, and looking at the bird-fish, I saw nothing clearer than a microcosmic image of the macrocosmic idea of one and nothingness all at the same time. So I kept blabbing. Something about how maybe human beings - all material objects, in fact - were one physical ball of matter divided only by energy forces to create the image of separate beings all sharing a single material force.

My boss at the time, at the bookstore, told me I was a materialist. I agreed, but I don't think in the way he intended. I started thinking about God as a material force in itself, as the material force. And if everything - people, plants and table tops included - were all various parts of that material force, then by definition we were all composites of God. God being a convenient name to apply to the idea of oneness and creation. The only idea. And we were all composites of the only idea. Which meant if we were part of it, then we were it. We were God. A spiritual definition of a material reality. Non-duality.

I told this to a Jewish woman once who was trying to tell me something different, and she came right out and called me a heathen. So I stopped telling her. I didn't feel like a heathen. I felt like this idea resonated a truth of Judaism, the truth of one. So what if it also resembled a truth of Buddhism, and of probably hundreds of other philosophies I just haven't learned about yet. It resonated to me the truth of God, the answer to the dichotomous relationship of fate and free will, of the one and the many, of submissive creation in the image of the divine. We are all assymetrical mirror images of each other, extensions of one another rather than opposites.

It struck me that what this woman viewed as heathenism was my idea that I was part of God. I think maybe she called me a heathen after I said something along the lines of, 'so that means we are god.' Or maybe it was when I said that since the Clifford books were written by a human, a.k.a, composite of god, then that book was as divine as any.

I've toned down that thought - or at least my description of it to random strangers. But I still feel as much a part of the divine as I did back then. I am an imperfect part of a perfect whole that is broken yet singular. I am one part of a giant one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ali, it's clara - is this you?? I hope it is - randomly googled you because I was worried (given current events). I would love to get in touch. I have a temporary email at - should be checking it for a week or so. Hope to talk to you!