Sometimes, when one is moving silently through such an utterly desolate landscape, an overwhelming hallucination can make one feel that oneself, as an individual human being, is slowly coming unraveled. The surrounding space is so vast that it becomes increasingly difficult to keep a balanced grip on one's own being. I wonder if I am making myself clear. The mind swells out to fill the entire landscape, becoming so diffuse in the process that one loses the ability to keep it fastened to the physical self. That is what I experienced in the midst of the Mongolian steppe. How vast it was! It felt more like an ocean than a desert landscape. The sun would rise from the eastern horizon, cut its way across the empty sky, change in our surroundings. And in the movement of the sun, I felt something I hardly know how to name: some huge, cosmic love. —from The Wind up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.++++++++++
I did not know what it was at first. I had not experienced a feeling like it before. It was not love. It was not affection. It was not even tender – but it was warm. A warm feeling, a warmth I could not locate, I only knew that it was there, somewhere within me and that it had all of my attention. I am somebody who likes to label things, labeling helps to keep me sane, to organize my life by storing information in boxes to put away into the back of my mind so that the path in front of me is clear.
However, this did not work with that warm feeling. “Warm” was only a guess anyway, and it was not a complete description, there was more to it, so I could not just put it into one of my boxes and move on—I had to give it more attention, I needed to sit in it, accept that it was there in that moment and that it was there for a reason. It was like a hungry dog that won’t go away unless you feed him or kick him in the butt. I did not want to kick that warm feeling in the butt, however, so I fed it with my curiosity and attention.
What was it trying to tell me? What was its role in my life? Did it ask me to take action? Did it announce change within me?
I opened the blinds of my window, allowing the moonlight to light my room, hoping that a literal illumination would transform into a figurative one.
A lunar ray touched Sarah’s face, revealing that sleep was giving her the peace that I was lacking.
My mind continued with its quest to try to unravel the mystery of my new state of being. The questions did not stop. Why was I feeling this way? Had she caused it? Had we caused it?
Then finally, I remembered that good old trick, that trick that one should use in such a situation but that we tend to forget because it just is too good to be true. I wondered: “What would my grandma say about all of this?”
The answers came with ease. She would say: “The moment you are not able to give your feelings names anymore is the moment you heart has started to open.”
All of a sudden, the path in front of me was clear and I fell asleep.
My favorite landscapes, as a kid, were polar opposites. On the one hand, there was the frantic and busy State Street in Chicago. I was a little midget to the grown people and screeching cars. And I loved it. It pumped my adrenaline. It was a collage catering to every sense, from garish colors to cheap perfume. Women wore so much makeup that it almost fell off. And I admired how they could walk with their high heels. Everyone was in a hurry. I was lost in the chaos, and yet I felt completely at home.
Somewhere I had heard about dope, and how if you ever messed with the stuff you'd be addicted for life. One day, walking around on State Street, a man pinched my arm. I was convinced he had given me a shot of heroin, and that I was now a doomed addict. I knew that the shot would wear off, but I also knew that with the shot came the knowledge of where to get my next fix, so far.
In the summers we went to a little beach town in Oregon. There was a vast ocean there, that went on all the way to the horizon. The beach was deep and long, and the sand sung as you walked in it, due to a special crystalline structure. The little town was as different from State Street as a place could be, and yet I loved it just the same. I could hide in each of these spaces, and I didn't have to say anything. I could get lost in the immensity of either space, feeling both a complete stranger, and back to being in the womb.
How lucky to be able to experience man and nature, if there is to be a distinction. In the end, I am a small invisible dot on an infinite landscape—part of the whole—a whole as immense as I am minuscule.