The visual horizon is filled with a large blue planet, covered with luminous swirls. Just as the spaceman moves a little further away from the ship, suddenly, like a starburst, several small meteorites strike through space, noiselessly, and the thick white hose, consisting of a number of links between man and ship, is cut. The astronaut slips slowly wallowing away into dark space. The radio link continues to deliver messages for a while. The man no longer answers. He now becomes a celestial body himself, a lump of ice floating on the waves of gravity. Until one attracting force becomes dominant and he falls faster and faster towards the source of that force.
Hours have passed, sometimes agonisingly slow in moments of pain, sometimes imperceptibly fast and full of events. Now the baby is stretched on its mother’s belly. The father is offered scissors and instructions: there you must cut. The umbilical cord proves to have a strangely gentle resistance to being cut. An interaction that will remain forever as a memory in his fingers. The midwife then does the finishing touches on the mother’s side. The father lovingly holds the baby to his chest. Outside, the sun is scorching.
Those were two very short stories of a connection being broken. That is no longer there. No longer connected. The baby is no longer connected to the mother. The astronaut no longer connected to the mother ship. The latter is fatal. Even the baby is not yet able to survive in the new space he now lives in. He is laid down and breastfed, both material breast milk and
life-giving father-mother ether. In the womb, he was like an organ of the mother, or perhaps vice versa. Utterly one. Living from one blood. That safe space, his origin, he has now left. He has landed in a vast space where he can breathe by himself. Very gradually, his blood will evolve and become his own. Carrier and expression of his soul in the making. In which there is an imprint of what came before, which he experiences as a deep and constant longing for the origin. A longing for a unity that is closer than any connection he will make in his life.
So there is in that fledgling soul an urge to stay alive and a longing for connection, as the best achievable surrogate for the remembered state of existence-in-unity. Put differently, if we assume a soul that spans multiple incarnations: the soul rouses in its manifestation, in its instrument, a longing for the unity with the origin she has lived. The body, the instrument, has its own drive to stay alive. These two movements together (intertwined like an umbilical cord) are the drivers of just about everything in our human lives, in our individual and collective realisations, our culture, our civilisations. The longing for connection and bonding, attachment, leads to a reality that can be told in a somewhat longer abstract metaphor.
A sphere is a figure in space. A sphere is bounded, ending in a surface of innumerable points. All these points have one property in common: they are all exactly at the same distance from the centre of the sphere. This means: when you move across the surface of the sphere, you do not move even one step closer to its centre. For ‘sphere’, the word ‘bead’ is also used further in the text. A point is an infinitely small sphere: if you keep reducing the radius of a sphere, the distance between each point on its surface and its centre, if you make the sphere shrink, you will at last be left with a point. The centre point itself is a point and therefore a potential sphere.
A hologram is a whole-image, a three-dimensional picture. By playing with a special form of light, interference of monochrome light, one gets an image, a pattern, each point of which contains the total image. This is so because that point of light is created by the interaction of that one ray of light between the original and the image, with the total image. In an ordinary photograph, each point of the image corresponds to one point on the original. In a hologram, each point of the photograph contains something of all the points on the original.
Now take, imagine, a human being, you yourself, with your material body, with your psychological substrates, your mind, your feeling, totally, completely you. This complete human being is like a sphere, hard, not malleable. The sphere has grown like a pearl does: each time a new layer settles on the old surface, each new surface a little further from the centre. What you call ‘me’ is the outside, the current outer surface of the sphere: an infinite collection of points, each exactly the same distance from the centre.
To meet is to touch at a single surface point. More is simultaneously not possible. Each new meeting of people is like the tapping of two spheres, at a different point each time. Something, a precipitate of that contact, remains on each of the two spherical surfaces, stretches a thread between them. A sad encounter, a loving caress, passionate loving, homicide. Never do we come closer to each other than that one or a few touching points in a succession in time. But each time we draw a thread between you, and you and I and he and she. And that goes on for centuries. Together we knot the beaded net of our prison, each meeting a new thread.
We are alone, you and I, separated, in the impossibility of knowing each other, of meeting each other completely. We live in a world where there seems to be too little of everything: we have to fight for our share and for something more on top. To be stronger, we make associations. We try to connect the few together to pursue a common goal. We then meet regularly, we keep in touch. We deliberately strengthen the threads that bind us together into solid cables. You can also find these in yet another view of people in connection.
We live in a communication age. Much of our technological ingenuity is aimed at making our ability to meet space-independent: a global telephone network, local and international computer networks: the nets that express our bindings are physically and visibly realised in satellites, fibre-optic cables and copper wire. Two salient features of these communications are:
– To achieve technically perfect connections, the information to be transmitted is digitised. That is: our contact is split into a series of yes’s and no’s for certain lengths of time. So our best connection has become the ultimate duality between 0 and 1. Maximum separateness.
– Limited to earth, our connections can more or less transcend the dimension of space. As for the dimension of time, our limitation is the speed of light.
And each encounter draws a new thread.
The sphere, our image of man, has a centre, a potential sphere, a sphere in the bud. All these sphere centres are like points of a hologram, of a whole-image. They are part of a whole reality and each centre carries that total reality within itself, unseparated, in a continuous total encounter. The centre point essentially has nothing to do with the outer sphere. Every point of ‘I’ is surface and therefore equally distant from that centre point. However much my thinking and feeling moves, it is a movement across the surface, it does not get one step closer to the centre.
Our lives are lived along all those, sometimes ancient, threads of the glass bead game. One time the spherical surface is of shining gold, another time black as coal. What does it matter? We chase on along the threads of the net, from encounter to encounter, from life to life. After we die, there is a sediment, a concentrate of our life, left on the sphere and all those other threads… and over that will come another new surface.
Ties on the outside are story threads. They tell the story in which we may learn lessons in this life. They tell of all those hopeless attempts by people to find the Other – the centre – through all those relationships with another, even when it seems to be the other. We find connection where we seek unity.
Our outer shell, our body, is a part of the earth. We have grown in the womb of a human woman, by merging, building earthly elements from her blood. Our food are the fruits of the earth. A celery tuber grows by absorbing dust from the earth that surrounds that tiny seed. It is a piece of shaped earth. These tubers we eat and non-usable elements we give back to the earth. The matter of our planet circulates through our bodies. Eating, breathing, feeling, thinking. Humanity as a whole, and all that time-space world we know by life and death, is the outside of the earth, a spherical surface. A stone spherical surface, trapped in the inertia of time.
Until, exhausted, we give up in our prison, in our network, fighting the net or baking sweet rolls in prison. Until we hang limply in the threads. In that moment of temporary silence, there is a possibility of breakthrough, of light from the centre reaching the surface, through all those threads that reach deep into our subsoil.
Very likely we do not perceive the first touch and throw ourselves right back into the struggle. But life is patient and endlessly merciful. It leads us in the glass bead game to yet another experience, to new moments of stillness.
In the end, we perceive the touch of light. Our perception turns from a search for encounters to silent introspection. And we see: the threads of an immense net, our being caught, threads that reach under our self-surface, into our deeper self. We live on, increasingly knowing, feeling, seeing the reality of not being free. With the occasional experience of light within. Zealously we want to hack away, cut those threads within ourselves. Alas, our thinking tools snap, our loving feelings stick in the web.
Life is patient and full of grace. The whole moving of the beads game can lead to insight, will lead to understanding. To awareness. We learn from life to see that it is not we, but the light from the centre that loosens the threads, burns away, dissolves. If we are actually willing to let go. And with every thread that disappears, a point of the surface of the sphere disappears. There is a bit less of me, a hole in our little world. A ray of light, something of the whole world shining through us. The light falls on the network. The light unmasks the world and recounts the totality it holds. It unites – from our surface point of view, in reality there is unity – with breaking light from other people, other small worlds. The surface of the sphere becomes more and more transparent, colourless, pure. I exist less and less. The vehicle, the carrier, the sphere becomes a carrier of light, completely transparent. Only with a few threads still tied to the net, to work in this world, to let the light of the centre shine into the world. As long as this is possible.
A transparent human being is like a hole in the world. On the stone spherical surface of the big world, then, a point is gone, is totally open. Eventually, when the last human has dissolved his small world, the crystallisation of the big world will also have disappeared. Then there will be a new world. A sacred earth. Man.