A friend who has moved away used to visit in the summer bringing me her herbed vinegar in long-necked, amethyst-colored bottles with simple garland and fruit designs. One does not usually think vinegar when remembering someone fondly but somehow those bottles have come to iconize the brief times we spent together.
How I perceive events, how others too appear to perceive events especially events we’re privy to together and divergently describe them, endlessly fascinate me. Not that by dwelling on the observable nature of perception understanding would necessarily purify its objects for me because nothing approaching human seems powerful enough to be its alembic but because the faculty of perception itself seems so at the core of what we call experience that any attempt to see it in action feels somehow right, even a responsibility for anyone interested in what makes us human.
To purify perception is antithetical: by its nature perception is subjective, a phenomenon of the inner self, mind sailing into its native harbor, its home port, its own part of the sea where it naturally belongs.
Mentioning those summer gifts to my friend, I heard back from her: “Oh, if I’d known you loved my purple basil and garlic vinegar, I’d have kept you supplied!”
Friends, mirrors of our different worlds, provide tiny escapes from perceptions that bind us in ignorance. Relationships are so beautiful because they add to our otherwise hermetically closed worlds that we can glimpse other worlds outside it, beside it: we don’t have to live alone as we do; we connect.
Awareness of the operation of perception may be end in itself. It’s not necessary to rid ourselves of experience. Imagine life stripped of perception and it’s life without meaning! For perception infuses an impersonal world momentarily with our presence and presence is, like it or not, what creates meaning.
I raise herbs on my tiny deck facing the lake so concocting herb-infused vinegars is no great feat but my vinegar would not be anything like my friend’s. Perception would have been so far from the icon I remember. It’s the old lila of Hindu philosophy, so is nothing new.
As humans we are immersed in the sea of our own making and perception is one of its creators. To be human is to live immersed in our unique “seeing,” our own karma-mediated perception and intoxicated we identify appearance as reality. Should we avoid intoxication?
Without the intoxication of perception would life still be the delight (and terror) it is to live?
So we take the entire spectrum of experience as it is, consoling ourselves when we’re located on an unpleasant point to see we’re moving endlessly on a slippery slope, now down but later up again, motion that distinguishes us for being alive, being human.
“It won’t be the same,” I wrote my friend, “but I’ll do it anyway. For the sake of our friendship, for the sake of what is gone.”
Indeed we might like to keep our friendships where they were when they showered us with grace and abundance but letting go too is human. Letting go we turn the carousel round: what goes up comes back down, what is gone returns. Maybe not in the form we recognize at once but it all comes back.
Merry Christmas to all and to all friendship, love and return!