When I was a boy I lived on a farm. My dad was a farm labourer until I was sixteen. After many years working in the fields and living in tied cottages – accommodation tied to the job – he got a council house and became a milkman. I spent most of my childhood out in nature. I hated school and was instinctively repelled by any sort of institutional control. I loved the freedom of being able to play, to explore and to experience.
Childhood is, of course, just a temporary condition. The mind grows up and the expectations of others increases until freedom is something we talk about but rarely experience. And maybe that is as it should be. We can’t remain a child all our lives, can we?
Maybe we shouldn’t create a division between childhood and adulthood. A single life is a single life. We’re not butterflies who were once caterpillars. We don’t, at the end of childhood, retreat into a cocoon to emerge as a different creature. Birth to death for us, is one long flowing stream of activity. Our muscles grow and develop, our bones grow and develop. Our entire body throughout our lives constantly changes. Our minds too. We are one long thought-line encapsulated in a physical body starting from a single thought in childhood until our very last thought.
Maybe body-mind is another dichotomy we shouldn’t engage with. The two seem so intrinsically interlinked as to suggest they are, in fact, the same thing. Maybe the mind extends to the tips of our fingers and the ends of our toes. Maybe our bodies occupy our imaginations as much as they do the world.
Our mind-body experience of reality is linked to the passing of time. Our sense of being is stretched out in one long, thin thread of consciousness which we grasp only moment by moment. Reality itself becomes thin and restricted. Whereas, in truth, it is infinite. An infinity that holds and expresses infinite potential in every one of our restricted moments.
What if we have built the world wrong? What if we need to get out of the box of our understanding? We get told by scientists of all persuasions that we need to abandon our religious superstitions and beliefs because they were based on an old, flawed understanding of the world. Maybe we now have to accept that what replaced that old understanding is now also flawed.
I believe that we live in a reality that is not modular but infinite. We shouldn’t be putting our understanding into boxes but setting it free. Our understanding should be confined to poetic and creative language (and thought) because they are best equipped to deal with the true nature of reality.
Forgetting our past does not erase it. Remembering our past does not bring it back. We embody every moment we have lived every moment of the day. We are all those people we were. I’m still that boy on the farm, I’m still that boy who was cruelly bullied by my classmates. I’m still that boy who wants to build balsa wood boats and ride his bike all day. But I’m also all the other bits of me that have lived and experienced since then.
It is difficult to experience the world in a non-modular way because our ordinary language, and particularly our scientific language, organises everything into boxes fragmenting our experience into blocks. We need to get out of the box and practice un-thinking and un-speaking. Let experience be.