Living most of the year here in the mountains, I am reminded every day that I and my kind are not the only inhabitants of this place. I try to be observant to these others but I find that they are almost always already aware of my presence before I know they are with me. We are bound together by our awareness of each other. And my relationship with them, and with the others of my kind, is much more intimate than I usually understand. My outbreath finds its way, mixed with other air and other substances, into the lungs and leaves of the life forms near me. And the opposite is true, I breathe the air of the others. My body temperature warms the space around me, attracting insects, and, very likely, microbes of many kinds. And the impression my feet make as I walk through the tall grass creates a passing disturbance, causing the grasses to labor to again find their vertical position after I have walked on. One of the great sciences is ecology, dedicated to an understanding of these relationships. Like the other sciences, the knowledge of ecology is derived from the wonderful capacity that humans have for thinking, for analysis, for the organization of observed behaviors into patterns of relationship. The facts that form the basis for ecology are from the physical level, from the level of our bodies; these are truths derived from and describing the reality of this horizontal level. The nature writer, Neil Claremon, once wrote that reality is an aggregate of the perceptions of all creatures.

The efforts of most of us reading this are are often dedicated to something else besides understanding the natural world. It is to become aware of our connection with the substances and energies arising from a level other than ours, not horizontal, only on this level, but a level on a vertical axis. Unlike science, it is an investigation that cannot be undertaken by the part of our mind that forms words and ideas. Perhaps years ago an intuition that all was not as it seemed led us to begin our search for a different kind of connection, to search for it, understand it and experience it. There  are latent within us capacities that could be used to explore this connection and to enlarge and deepen it. From Plato and the Gnostics, to the alchemists of the middle ages, and on to the present day there have been efforts to undertake this exploration. The development of a certain quality of self-awareness leads to understandings and capacities that we can employ for this investigation. After many years of work on oneself one begins to see that Mr. Claremon’s words could be restated. One might say that reality is an aggregate of the perceptions of all the manifestations of the universe. Perhaps these words might be one of the many thousand definitions of God.

Arising from this epiphany are other understandings. We see that loneliness and isolation are only a product of a misunderstanding, arising from a lack of perception of the truth of this connection. And we see that all harm is self-harm and all sacrifice is self-sacrifice. We come to the place where we understand that it is attention that is the means of actualizing these connections, and that real attention comes not from us, but from elsewhere. A life lived in recognition of these connections, both vertical and horizontal, is a life to be wished for and pursued. It becomes, finally, a life well lived.

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