Seeing the Waterfall

Image: 'New York Movie,' by Edward Hopper

[Image: “New York Movie,” by Edward Hopper (1939, oil on canvas; in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. (Found this image at WikiArt.)]

From whiskey river’s commonplace book:

What’s Not Here

I start out on this road, call it
love or emptiness. I only know what’s

not here: resentment seeds, back-
scratching greed, worrying about out-

come, fear of people. When a bird gets
free, it doesn’t go back for remnants

left on the bottom of the cage! Close
by, I’m rain. Far off, a cloud of fire.

I seem restless, but I am deeply at ease.
Branches tremble; the roots are still.

I am a universe in a handful of dirt,
whole when totally demolished. Talk

about choices does not apply to me.
While intelligence considers options,

I am somewhere lost in the wind.

(Jalaloddin Rumi [source])

…and:

While we usually think of it as our mind, when we look honestly, we see that the mind follows its own nature, conditions, and laws. Your mind is like a puppy. You put the puppy down and say “Stay.” Does the puppy listen? It gets up and it runs away. You sit the puppy back down again. “Stay.” And the puppy runs away over and over again. Sometimes the puppy runs over and pees in the corner or makes some other mess. This is how our minds behave, only they create even bigger messes. In training the mind, like training a puppy, we have to start over and over again. Frustration comes with the territory. Nothing in our culture or our schooling has taught us how to transcend ordinary consciousness and reach for the dizzying heights of cosmic truths. You simply pick up the puppy again and return to reconnect with the here and now.

(Helen Palmer [source])

…and:

What do we see when we look at the mind? Constant change. In the traditional scriptures the untrained and unconcentrated mind is referred to as a mad monkey. As we look for ourselves, we see that it is like a circus or a zoo in there. The parrot, the sloth, the mouse, the tiger, the bear, and the silent owl are all represented. It is like a flywheel of spinning thoughts, emotions, images, stories, likes, dislikes, and so forth. There is ceaseless movement, filled with plans, ideas, and memories. Seeing this previously unconscious stream of inner dialogue is for many people the first insight in practice. It is called seeing the waterfall. Already we begin to learn about the nature of mind. Its constant changes are like the weather; today it rains, tonight it may snow, earlier the sun was out. Sometimes it’s muddy in the spring, and then the summer comes and the winds come. In the fall the leaves go; in winter the ice forms.

(Jack Kornfield [source])

…and:

riddle:
What is the last thing that a fish would ever discover?

answer:
water

Not from whiskey river’s commonplace book (nor from whiskey river itself):

Edward Hopper’s New York Movie

We can have our pick of seats.
Though the movie’s already moving,
the theater’s almost an empty shell.
All we can see on our side
of the room is one man and one woman—
as neat, respectable, and distinct
as the empty chairs that come
between them. But distinctions do not surprise,
fresh as we are from sullen street and subway
where lonelinesses crowded
about us like unquiet memories
that may have loved us once or known our love.
Here we are an accidental
fellowship, sheltering from the city’s
obscure bereavements to face a screened,
imaginary living,
as if it were a destination
we were moving toward. Leaning to our right
and suspended before us
is a bored, smartly uniformed usherette.
Staring beyond her lighted corner, she finds
a reverie that moves through
and beyond the shine of the silver screening.
But we can see what she will never see—
that she’s the star of Hopper’s scene.
For the artist she’s a play of light,
and a play of light is all about her.
Whether the future she is
dreaming is the future she will have
we have no way of knowing. Whatever
it will prove to be
it has already been. The usherette
Hopper saw might now be seventy,
hunched before a Hitachi
in an old home or a home for the old.
She might be dreaming now a New York movie,
Fred Astaire dancing and kissing
Ginger Rogers, who high kicks across New York
City skylines, raising possibilities
that time has served to lower.
We are watching the usherette, and the subtle
shadows her boredom makes across her not-quite-
impassive face beneath
the three red-shaded lamps and beside
the stairs that lead, somehow, to dark streets
that go on and on and on.
But we are no safer here than she.
Despite the semblance of luxury—
gilt edges, red plush,
and patterned carpet—this is no palace,
and we do not reign here, except in dreams.
This picture tells us much
about various textures of lighted air,
but at the center Hopper has placed
a slab of darkness and an empty chair.

(Joseph Stanton [source])

…and:

Right now, all this dashing and searching you’re doing—do you know what it is you’re looking for? It is vibrantly alive, yet has no root or stem. You can’t gather it up, you can’t scatter it to the winds. The more you search for it the farther away it gets. But don’t search for it and it’s right before your eyes, its miraculous sound always in your ears.

(Lin-Chi [source])

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