Suppose a person named Emerson, of whom you’re familiar (and avoid), is in an elevator that you enter. “Oh great,” you think without pleasure. This is the last person you want to meet, but it’s too late to turn around. Emerson smiles brightly. You do likewise, but dimly. In Emerson’s eyes you see the sting of your dislike which makes you dislike even more. It’s not that Emerson is a bad person—just boring, an innocent, a nerd.
Stepping into the elevator, you assume the position: facing the door watching floor numbers count down—14…12…11…. And you think, “Why is this elevator so slow?”
Hawaiian music comes from a speaker in the ceiling. “That’s Gabby Pahinui singing “Hi`ilawe”,” says Emerson. “Oh, really?” you feign interest, roll your eyes and then, something remarkable happens.
In a beautiful voice Emerson sings “Hi`ilawe” in English,
“All eyes are on Hi`ilawe
In the sparkling lowlands of Maukele
I escape all the birds
Chattering everywhere in Waipio.
I am not caught
For I am the mist of the mountains.
Nothing can harm me at all.
My world is so very small
With my waterfall I can see
My rainbow calling me
Through the misty breeze
Of my waterfall.”
The song ends and you are hit by silence and stillness. Time is suspended between now and later, like the elevator that is suspended between up and down.
A fog of indifference lifts. Emerson’s lack of guile disarms social defenses. In an instant you know yourself and forget yourself. You see and hear—not as “you” seeing, but as “seeing” itself—as a body-and-mind seeing, you grasp things directly (see also Enjoy a Perfect World).
You feel giddy and silly as you and Emerson laugh. You wake up to the moment. You feel the space around you as if it’s a ghostly solid connecting everything together. You feel yourself inside a body that has an outside appearance that’s inside an elevator that’s inside a building that’s outside on a street and inside a biosphere.
And you wonder: “If everything has an inside with an outside that’s inside something else, where does it begin? where does it end? The experience of experiencing yourself experiencing feels like an awakening!
In school Emerson was voted least likely to succeed. Like the Invisible Boy in the movie Mystery Men (1999), Emerson is invisible because no one is looking. It’s a power developed after years of being ignored.
And a new thought occurs: Why not be nice to Emerson? It won’t hurt. Maybe it’s from the music or the wine you had with dinner (or the Mai Tai before), but right now you feel a loving warm glow for all the Emersons in the world.
So you smile. It is your gift. You give generously with your teeth.
You realize that you are not a mind attached to a body and neither is Emerson.
You are just two human beings in a world dancing without moving as you fall through space in Hawaiian time.
You once saw Emerson try to talk to people. Emerson quoted the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer who said, “The ox does not butt because it happens to have horns; it has horns because it intends to butt” (A Perplexed Philosopher, p. 154). People looked at one another as if Emerson were a talking houseplant.
Unfazed, Emerson held up a pen saying, “I don’t write because I have a pen. I have a pen because I intend to write! It’s a matter of will that I am what I do! I don’t enjoy being Emerson because life is enjoyable. I enjoy being Emerson because it is my intention that life be enjoyable! All that we are and will ever be is an intention. We fly in jets because people contributed intelligent effort towards that intention. With intention and will, we devise ways to make our want happen.”
Someone said something stupid (and it wasn’t “I love you” like Frank and Nancy Sinatra) and everyone wandered away talking about their day. Emerson stood like a statue listening to a song no one could hear and then went invisible.
On the ground floor as the doors are opening, Emerson says, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” and then, without being given permission asks, “Do you enjoy being you?”
Of course you do! (Don’t you?) What a stupid question! You have to enjoy being yourself! If you don’t enjoy being you, you can’t enjoy! (Can you?) It’s like what the great Sammy Davis Jr said in song, “Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong. Whether I find a place in this world or never belong. I gotta be me! I’ve gotta be me! What else can I be but what I am?”
In this world increasingly crowded, where people become traffic and virtual reality is deemed more desirable than the physical, in anonymity we assimilate into social functions like machines in a hurry as we crush nature and lose a sense of being in the world.
That we split reality between observer and observed isn’t obvious. We’re often on auto-pilot, thinking thoughts that may or may not be stupid, but sometimes—on vacation, while washing dishes or doing nothing, in a relaxed moment—we emerge from being babies in a baby world to feeling aware of our self being here in this world!
Much of life’s unfolding is beyond our controlling. One thing happens, then another, and another, in an interconnected chain of consequences like a Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) machine, until one day, without awareness, nothing happens and you stop waking up.
Today we plant donut seeds in the form of Cheerios. We do what our Mamas and Pappas told us when they sang, “Do what you want to do. Go where you want to go” (“Go Where You Wanna Go”).
Today we celebrate you! We celebrate you, not to be egotistical, narcissistic, solipsistic or to show you how equally equal you are with 7.5 billion other people (according to a Worldometer).
We celebrate you “being in the world” so that you can feel as happy as Tommy (aka Roger Daltrey in The Who musical) singing “I’m Free” after he’s healed from not seeing, feeling and hearing.
Sensory awareness is a key. Sensory awareness isn’t about holding something like a key as a means to the instrumental task of opening a door. Sensory awareness is to be drawn to a particular aspect, like a key’s shiny metal, its cool texture, or lovely “Click” when it opens a door.
Sensory awareness is when you take a call from nature and hear yourself hearing. Everyone has sensory awareness, but not everyone engages in sensations thousands of times a day, but such is the intention of a lover of wisdom. Sometimes all it takes is an absence of hurry.