When people talk about vision, and I mean this in the imaginative, not ocular sense, it’s usually associated with an energetic expansiveness, and with good reason. Vision opens a window onto vistas of understanding; it “takes us to the mountaintop;” it’s insight in the form of stories, pathways, explanations, and insight is exciting, liberating, fulfilling. Those ‘aha!’ flashes are creative ejaculations: they’ve a touch of the orgasmic in ‘em.
Vision has a shadow side, though, and it’s one that the human psyche seems bizarrely ill-equipped to deal with. When vision transitions from inspiration to explanation (or, to put the same thought differently, when breath is transformed into knowledge), our spirit closes around it. The object of our attention moves from “alive” to “true,” and truths of this sort can be pernicious even if they have merit. They become another received truth in our storehouse of explanations for how things are, another piece of straw in the nest of our narrative certainties. From this point forward, they all too easily become battering rams that we use to pile-drive our way through our daily challenges.
When we rely on reified explanations in this manner, we surround ourselves with walls that impede our access to reality. We may feel more in the know and in control, but this confidence comes at a cost. We are less present to the present moment, less attuned to the exquisite, subtle melody of the unfolding now.
Sometimes we need that big bad wolf to blow our piggy house down.
Evolution seems to have cursed us with a blind spot about that moment of reification. We are predisposed to set up shop in the storehouse of our stories and get shuttered to the aliveness that is the goal of every authentic spiritual path. How do we dislodge this pattern? Not easily, to be sure, and when we do succeed, it is by reminding ourselves to be on on the lookout for that moment when we become so attached to our story that we hug it to our bosom and set up house around it. This is the moment to watch out for—the moment of forgetting that all is fiction except for the present moment, which we can strangle with our certainties, or live into with the enthusiasm born of each breath.