As I lay on Whitstable beach on Saturday, watching clouds constantly forming and reforming in the sky above me, I found myself thinking, yet again, what a loose approximation for reality words and concepts are.
There is no such thing as a cloud. The word is an apparently convenient way to refer to something that is constantly changing. This is obvious with a cloud, but it is also true of ourselves. The cells that make up our bodies change at a bewildering rate and those cells are mostly made up of space. Even the apparently solid cells are made up of particles that are themselves mostly space. The distance from the nucleus to an electron (which itself doesn’t really orbit its nucleus but exists in a so called electron cloud with only probable positions – a bit like the cloud we started with) is approximately 1325 times this distance from the earth to the sun! This is why Buddhists refer to emptiness!
This is also why I bang on about our very fixed ideas of reality being totally made up. The words I choose to describe the reality around me, even the separation of the word me from reality, are nothing but concepts. And like the clouds my concept of reality changes. Thoughts pop in and out of my head without my bidding or control. Emotions and moods form and dissipate just like the clouds above Whitstable.
No cloud ever stays the same, ever, even for the briefest second. I never stay the same, even for the briefest second, and nor do you.
And then we make up stories about “I am a…”, “You are a…”, “We are…”. We expect reality to conform to our stories and get upset when it doesn’t. Very upset. Existentially upset. We pick fights over the fact that your story differs from mine.
What struck me about all this is that for years we have banged on about change as if it wasn’t the way the world was anyway! We have so deluded ourselves that the world around us is fixed, predictable, and controllable, that we have to pay “change experts” to realise that it’s not. And what those people invariably give us is yet more delusion about a planned transition to another apparently fixed reality!
Change and complexity have been seen as outside of the norm. As if simplicity, understandability, and a fixed stable world were real and anything else is unreal. But the next time you feel stuck or trapped in this delusional reality, this cage of your own making, remember the clouds over Whitstable. It might help a little.