Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Saturday I rode the ferry into the city. Every conversation around me buzzed with naming landmarks. "There's Angel Island." "That's Sausalito...Alcatraz...the Golden Gate Bridge..." It struck me how the mind is obsessed with establishing its coordinates on the terrain of life. As we pass through a day we are constantly naming. "She's a vegetarian...he's an architect...we're creative...they're ignorant..." Furthermore, those coordinates reflect arbitrary naming expressing the beliefs of our culture. "That neighborhood is beautiful... that house is boring... that car is hot...that dress is not... Wanting to know where we are and what is important is understandable. Yet, it narrows our vision and shuts out possibilities of experience and limits creative connections.

When the ferry docked, I wanted to see what would happen if I looked through my mind's obsession with naming for a while. It's difficult to describe this using words which by their nature involve naming, but here goes. On Saturdays, the Ferry Building and the surrounding area are teeming with a farmers' market. There are a lot of people to see, foods to smell and taste, and sounds to hear. Rather than naming this vegetable, that fruit, this guy and that woman, I opened my senses to simply receiving impressions of form, color, sound and smell. Preconceived distinctions became transparent and walking through the scene became a flow of matter and energy. The meanings of words became less important than the melody and rhythms of their music. Where objects were places and people stood took a back seat to the shifting composition of their relationships to one another. The substance of how things occupied physical space was eclipsed by how they shimmered as bundles of energy. Instead of an exhausting trek through a frustrating crowd, it became a mystery walk of discovering new treasures in familiar territory.

After a while, my mind's obsession with naming climbed back into the driver's seat. With it, the usual dissatisfactions and longing for something else returned.  But, stepping out of the coordinates of naming for a bit was a great escape from self-imposed limits. It was a great reminder that things are much more than we make them appear to be.

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