Welcome to day 14 of 31 Days of Apocalypse, Now, a month of posts about apocalypse, revelation, uncovering what’s been hidden. Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may only peripherally seem related. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.
“Contemplation” is interpreted with a Buddha and a stone labyrinth at the Path of Life Garden in Windsor, Vermont, a favourite spot of mine.
The Path of Life is a walk in landscape, beside the Connecticut River, through some elements of human life, beginning with the Tunnel of Oblivion, and then Birth, followed by Adventure, Learning, Wisdom, Hope, Creativity, Union, Family, Community, Solitude, Ambition, Sorrow, Forgiveness, Joy, and ending with Respite, Contemplation, Death, Re-Birth, and the Gateway to Eternity — which is the Tunnel of Oblivion, walked through the other direction. I like the circular nature of it.
Contemplation derives from a form of the Latin word contemplari, meaning “to gaze attentively, to observe,” and before that from com-, intensive prefix + templum, which means “an area for the taking of auguries.” In other words, to contemplate meant to mark out a space for observing the flight of birds in the sky, as an augur does. So it’s always had a sense of mystery and magic, temples and omens — augury is the practice of reading omens from bird flight — and its meaning now as religious or spiritual musing, meditation, and reflection reflects that. Entwined with those notions is the sense of giving attention to something, gazing at it, examining it. It’s not, I’d suggest, unlike apocalypse, meaning to uncover, to disclose, to reveal. When we uncover what’s been covered, whether intentionally or not, we tend to give it our attention, really look at it, weight its worth.
Listen, God love everything you love – and a mess of stuff you don’t. But more than anything. God loves admiration. … I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. — The Color Purple, Alice Walker
People leave their treasures — or whatever they happen to have in their pockets — on and around the Buddha. Maybe it’s a kind of homage, maybe it’s meant to be prayerful or wishful like lighting a candle in a Catholic church, maybe it’s just something that feels right to do. I haven’t left anything yet but I like to examine what’s hidden there, turn over cards, pins, coins, see what’s concealed underneath. If nothing else, looking at what’s left with the Buddha reveals something about what people find valuable, worth offering up, or perhaps it tells us the opposite, what they find easy to leave behind. I wouldn’t be surprised if people left items that materially or symbolically used to hold value for them, earlier on their path of life, but that no longer do.
Here’s some of what’s been bestowed on the Buddha in the past three years:
After spending time uncovering and contemplating the Buddha’s treasures, I like to walk the labyrinth, with its meandering but intentional path, a journey to our own center — who knows what will be uncovered there? — and back out into the world … or possibly into Death, as that’s the next stop on the Path of Life.