The Mystery of Things

Today I went to an open house for a Buddhist retreat center in-the-making. A respected sangha (Buddhist community) had purchased “The Mansion” as it had been previously called (a very large building with many rooms, and a wonderful top floor perfect for a meditation room). They were aiming to raise over 2 mil. and had already raised about 800,000. Of course they were seeking more donations, and with that in mind were arranging tours of the building and grounds.

So I’m thinking again of Glenn Wallis’ essay on “Making Decisions,” and about what constitutes the lived experience of the individual, the community, and the institution.

I’m thinking of the comfort of institutions and programs, and I’m thinking of how much we trust them. I’m wondering — how far can I trust poetry and art to take me? How far shall I trust myself?

The mystery of things, where is it?
Where is the thing that doesn’t appear
At least to show us it’s a mystery?

What does a river know about this and what does a tree know?
And I, who am no more than those, what do I know?
Every time I look at things and think about what men think about them,
I laugh like how a brook sounds cool on a stone.

Because the only hidden meaning of things
Is that they have no hidden meaning at all,
It’s stranger than every strangeness
And the dreams of all the poets
And the thoughts of all the philosophers,
That things are really what they seem to be
And there’s nothing to understand.

Yes, this is what my senses alone have learned:—
Things don’t have significance: they only have existence.
Things are the only hidden meaning of things.

–Fernando Pessoa (Alberto Caeiro)