Vastness and voyage of discovery

Teklanika river valley panorama (Source: Wikipedia)

“Normally, we limit the meaning of perceptions. Food reminds us of eating; dirt reminds us to clean the house; snow reminds us that we have to clean off the car to get to work; a face reminds us of our love or hate. In other words, we fit what we see into a comfortable or familiar scheme. We shut any vastness or possibilities of deeper perception out of our hearts by fixating on our own interpretation of phenomena. But it is possible to go beyond personal interpretation, to let vastness into our hearts through the medium of perception. We always have a choice: we can limit our perception so that we close off vastness, or we can allow vastness to touch us.”

Chogyam Trungpa

It’s true that we live in a multi-dimensional universe in which each phenomenon can have more than one interpretation. Perhaps there is a built-in tendency in the human psyche to simplify and categorise phenomena to standardise meanings for everyone in order to achieve some form of order and understanding for the majority, if not everyone. For example, road signs and traffic lights are designed to communicate only one meaning to everyone – red light means stop, orange light means slow down, and green light means go. In the context of traffic communications, there is not much room for any other interpretation. But the very attempts to simplify the meanings of phenomena in some other contexts can limit people’s perceptions.

Like what the above quote says, we all can allow vastness to touch us even as we recognise we live in a multi-dimensional world. We can see the same phenomena through different eyes and come to a broader understanding of the world we live in. Sometimes, our interpretation goes beyond words because words are only a means to an end, and words can only convey so much meanings to communicate conceptual ideas about something. When that happens, we can turn to art, poetry and music, which transcend language barriers and speak to us in ways that are beyond the literal meanings of words.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

Marcel Proust

In some other cases, silence is the best way to behold and appreciate the vastness of universe as we meditate or contemplate on the phenomena we encounter. What that happens, traffic and traffic lights can become to us more than what they are supposed to be. We may see beyond the colours, the motion of vehicles, and the seeming routine and humdrum of transport and communications. The buildings and roads in the cities may become no different from mountains and valleys in a countryside: Same structures, different materials but same origin. Both urban and rural landscapes come from distant stars in their atomical composition, which brings us to my next post about iron and stars.

Blurring of lines between Nature and Us: Buildings and roads in a city resemble mountains and valleys in a countryside.
A view of the Bear River near Fielding, Utah (Source:

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