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Reply To: Unformulated Experience

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David Filippone

    Photo: ‘Spaces within Spaces’ by Myriams-Fotos – Pixabay

    Here’s another post related to the one above…


    “To look at the emergent future, the one that actually takes place as distinct from future imaginations, we could start with simple sensory experience of the present, focusing at the edge of ‘now’ just as it ‘moves’ into the future, the border where old gives way to new. In direct experience, new things are happening every moment. A sound, a motion, a sensation appears. Not everything is new, however: There is also a sense of continuity. Something stays the same and something changes, all in a very precise ratio.”
    ….’Sacred Dimensions of Time and Space,’ Tarthang Tulku, p. 87

    Practicing the TSK vision, I sometimes settle down and consider the fundamental power of mental space that permits thinking. I observe ways in which current mental objects of perception could be said to depend on space for their existence.

    I sometimes notice a momentary horizon of arising when there is an experiential feeling of ‘ABSENCE’ within which a filling-in of interpretive meaning unfolds; a process of understanding, subtle ignitions that seem like lightning-fast flickering. For instance, I might be conversing with a friend or family member, listening intently to what they might be trying to convey. Behind my eyes, I seem to alternate listening with theorizing, like testing what is being told to me against my own experience, as if examining the validity of the incoming information. Reflexively without trying, like blinking, I see how the teller and the told ‘fits’ with the space I hold open for meaning, to sort of fill-in like a pooling of understanding. In this sense I sharpen the meaning I derive, but in the process of sharpening, I recognize at the same time narrowing my perception.  You might say, by identifying and naming, I also limit it.

    So I was fascinated to read in the book, ‘Unformulated Experience‘ by Donnel B. Stern, refers to among other things, some ideas lifted from philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer p. 213-14 (emphasis added)

    “What is understood gains its meaning as much from what remains unarticulated as it does from the words themselves. Each piece of understanding is surrounded and given meaning by ‘the infinity’ of the unsaid. Even around each word, giving context and relation, is a circle of the unexpressed.  To understand is not only to grasp what is said, but also to be so much a part of the tradition of the speaker [the milieu of the unsaid] that one also grasps the relation to what is said to all that is NOT said.

    As an example, Stern tells the story of… “[A] Chinese teacher of American literature living in a rural area of China who could speak with a respectable degree of familiarity with certain modern American novelists, but when the topic turned to New York and Manhattan skyscrapers, he could not understand how they could be taller than the two-story structures of his own village. It was not so much that he refused to believe this fact, but rather that there was no way for him to make sense of it. It just could not be anchored in his own tradition.”

    So regarding inquiry into my thinking process, it occurred to me there was the open absence, or knowing capacity that my perceptions arose within, and there was also, in the process of deriving meaning, spaces I created to be filled in… ‘place-holder’ spaces that acted as thought-openings to be used as meaning takes shape within them. Space within space within…

    It occurred to me in a visceral way that the opinions I hold are also composed of space, not fixed, frozen or unchangeable identifiers of me, they are more open, there is more space to me than I normally assume… more absence than content can anchor… at the edge of the future, the not-known is constantly operating… Allowing for the not-known OPENS closed thinking… it permits one’s own depth to be plumbed…