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THE SIMPLEST INSTRUCTION

§ August 27th, 2009 § Filed under Chapter 08: The Simplest Instruction § Tagged , , , , § No Comments

The view from Mather Point, "at the edge where there is no I or not-I."

The view from Mather Point, "at the edge where there is no I or not-I."

            In one of our 4:00 a.m. sessions, See Do let me understand the significance of his name. The explanation was that it is the simplest instruction: to see, and then to act.

            By seeing, what is meant is to really see. To understand. To be able to see what is before you, clearly, without distorting layers of judgement or prejudice. And by in front of you, what is meant is more than what is positioned physically in front of you. It also means that which you can see that lies ahead. What you can see that is coming to you next.

            This seems so simple, but it is the greatest gift.

            In my home hangs a large photograph I took over fifteen years ago at the edge of Grand Canyon, at Mather Point. I have always loved this photo because of the unusual quality of light recorded that day and because it captures the scene from the immediate foreground just a few yards from my feet, down and then out into the canyon, out to the horizon, out to The Palisades of the Desert at the far east end of the canyon rim over seventeen miles away. Near the top of the frame is the top rim of the canyon, at what is eye level to where I was standing.

            The unusual quality of light comes from the fact the photo was snapped in winter, in February, as I recall. And the shadow areas in the scene have a light covering of snow. The sky was carrying a thin haze, allowing the sun to fill the scene with a slightly softened light, not the usual high-contrast cut of mid-day sun in the high desert. This softening has a subtle effect on the scale and distance of the view. It’s not postcard-like, but more painterly, with the pale yellow-ochres of the capstone layers of sandstone dominating the immediate scene, then russet red and rust across the local side canyon walls below Yucca Point, three miles distant, out to the blue and violet tinted stone monuments and crags at the horizon.

            The sunlit areas are bright, as the shot was taken in early afternoon, but the shadow areas are white, with their clean layer of snow. The effect is to enhance the dimensional relief, as the brain has to look into the scene and assimilate all its clues. The result is engaging, sculptural and captivating. I can look at it endlessly.

            The view is down an insignificant side canyon into a larger side canyon just east of Mather Point. Down below, framed by near vertical stone walls is a natural red stone obelisk rising near the far wall over three thousand feet below. Its blunt form rises over two hundred feet straight up.

            Throughout the scene are also scrub juniper and pine trees of various sizes adding green. And life.

 Below the photograph in the frame I have mounted a poem by Czeslaw Milosz titled THIS ONLY. It reads:

            A valley and above it forests in autumn colors  

            A voyager arrives, a map led him here.

            Or perhaps memory. Once, long ago, in the sun,

            When the first snow fell, riding this way

            He felt joy, strong, without reason,

            Joy of the eyes. Everything was the rhythm

            Of shifting trees, of a bird in flight,

            Of a train on the viaduct, a feast of motion.

            He returns years later, has no demands.

            He wants only one, most precious thing:

            To see, purely and simply, without name,

            Without expectations, fears or hopes,

            At the edge where there is no I or not-I.

            Since I had this framed and then hung it in my home, not six months before these events, I have almost thought of this photograph as my personal altar of sorts. I regularly read the poem and look into the photo. And I have been drawn to return to this spot. I have always felt there is something there for me to receive.

            I wanted to return to Arizona, Sedona, Grand Canyon and be the traveler in the poem. To stand at the edge and be able to see.

            In that July, a little more than a month before meeting See Do, I did return with my daughters. And was able to feel it. The “joy of the eyes.” It is a magical place for me.

            So to “see,” this “one, most precious thing” is a true gift. But it is what we must strive to achieve in ourselves all the time. It is the first instruction.

            The second instruction is “do,” as in act, based on what we see. We must see what is in front of us, and then act accordingly. We must take the action prescribed, in what we see, to help us get what it is that we want. We must own it.

            This is his name, See Do. And it truly is the simplest instruction. The best we can create of life unfolds from our ability to carry out these two seemingly simple acts.

            Now when I think of the name, I am reminded of what to do. To work to see clearly. And to act upon what I perceive.

            — continued

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