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Black Boxes I’ve Known

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      Michael Gray

        Photo: ‘Black Box’ by Xandra Luijks – Pixabay

        Our ‘knowing’ is fresh, sharp, and spontaneous.  It never needs to reduce the virgin quality of experience to something that is ‘known’, and therefore unworthy of closer attention and appreciation.”.  Time, Space and Knowledge, page 253.

        I sit reading the book that rescued me half a lifetime ago from my wanderings in a desert of low expectations.  Those low expectations have always been directed at myself and my capacities as an individual.  But I sense what is more important is the capacity already present in everything that allows me to see and feel without any special effort.

        My eyes alight on two black boxes on the other side of the sun-room where my computer work area is set up.

        These black boxes are not the kind that capture the last words uttered in the cockpit of a 727 before it plunges into the sea and comes to rest on the ocean floor, with everyone on board dead.  They are both Dell mainframes.  One is plugged into the power grid and connected to the internet.  The other, after a decade of faithful service, became confused about the stream of electrons that drives computer technology.  Like an old horse pulling a milk wagon that increasingly slips on the cobblestones, my old Dell lost its ability to connect to the internet and to activate my microphone for Zoom meetings.

        When my old Dell lost its ability to cast electrons out across the world-wide-web, it might as well have plummeted to the bottom of the sea.  So, now another black box has taken on that role in my life.  Neither of them has shared its secret world with me.

        I expect we all have our black boxes, whose operations are closed to our inspection.  But, as long as they continue to send packets of information in our direction and out across the vast blue sea in which we float along, we may not really care how they operate.  As long as they help us to accomplish what we have become accustomed to doing in life, we keep using them.  Whether we’re playing a U-tube video at a family dinner or struggling to use TurboTax to get our tax return in before the deadline, we are willing to trust them to do our bidding; although it may be more accurate to say that we are doing their bidding.

        Even our bodies are black boxes, until they stop working or cause us pain. Then we’re very interested in knowing how they tick and how long they’ll keep doing so.  The entire world can be viewed as a field filled with things we can’t fix once they stop working.

        The TSK vision offers a trenchant vocabulary to describe this predicament: we are by-standers interacting with a field full of “outside-standers”.  And like by-standers at the scene of an accident, what we report is often not very accurate.  Yet, what choice do we have but to try to make sense of the dramas that constitute our time on Earth?

        Whether we find it in contemplation, beauty, or caring for our loved ones—both our own well-being and the future of our world depend on how we relate to the black boxes on which we rely.  Especially important in our complex society, is that we appreciate the inherent intimacy that pervades this entire field of seemingly separate things.  Whether we know their individual secrets or not, we are all present in a unified stream of Being.

        As we engage the circumstances that arise in our lives, the tools we harness in order to flow along with those circumstances are also part of a mysterious wholeness.  All those individual entities–each harboring its own secrets—are united within a great spaciousness and are swept along together in the same sweep of time that carries us.

        Developing a wider perspective, even a bit, allows us to appreciate those presences that are bobbing along alongside us, like the heads of dolphins skimming through the waves.

        Only by using the higher Space, Time, and Knowledge can we be fully receptive.  Only in this way can we live up to our special status as human beings, and begin to unlock the wonders of our world of experience.”  Time, Space and Knowledge, page 255.

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