Here are the questions that I try not to solve but understand these days… and they are not even real questions (they often bring out something “orating” in us) but just juxtaposed words:
listening, awareness, presence
centripetal and centrifugal rooms
Without being formally religious I have always enjoyed churches. For some reason music often “tastes” better in a church than in a concert hall (which also is a kind of church, even though some people work hard at changing that).
I prefer empty churches. The other morning I sat myself down in a beautiful, empty church. What a relief! It was like my soul getting a big, soft hug. My eyes, too. So much beauty to look at. The order helps, of course. Disorder is like dirt to the eyes and the aesthetic sense. And then the paintings, colors, candles…
The spartan, ascetic kind of churches seem to say: “No, we are not giving you any eye candy! Nothing of beauty to rest your eyes on HERE.”
Well, this was a more generous church.
I also sensed something else. A kind of invitation… to be there. I was already there, of course, but rooms differ in their there-ness. Some rooms are present, and invite you to be present. I avoid the fashionable word “mindfulness”, but this was an invitation to mindfulness.
Or, better, to mind-emptiness.
When I write this I am sitting with my laptop in a cafe. That can be nice, of course, but this is a very different room.
What am I invited to here? To be a consumer, to drink coffee, eat a sandwich or a cake. (Yesterday I complained about the music: don´t you have something less monotonous? “Sorry, we don’t control that. The music comes from Mood Media” So, a stream of muzak with no remote control in our hands…)
No, back to the church.
My experimental science “domainology” is about understanding rooms and spaces. The way I see it there is a kind of room that has proliferated like hell. (I choose that word — proliferated — intentionally, since it sounds similar to “profit”, which it has created galore.)
I would generally call that room a “waiting room”. That sounds real boring, but our modern waiting rooms are spiced up, made hip and fun. And through the great modern invention of our times – telecom – they have turned into a different kind of room. They are no longer about waiting but they have the same relation to the church as a waiting room: you don’t go there to be there.
That church the other morning invited me to be there, even to be myself. There are other rooms, an archetypal/ typical example is the internet cafe, that invite me to chat, make a phone call, surf the World Wide Web. They inspire me to forget where I am, my actual surroundings.
The cafe I am sitting in, with music streamed from Mood Media, is like that. This is a centrifugal room.
Of course, talking about internet cafes is a bit old-fashioned, when so many people have their internet connection at home, or practically anywhere.
What this actually means is that the internet cafe is no longer a room, but a function.
— I go to a fancy restaurant and somebody is sitting there and working with a laptop = internet café.
— I search out a beautiful park to be close to mother nature, but what do I hear…? The familiar sounds of Skype and Facebook jingles = Internet cafe.
— I go to a library, a classic “silent room”, and hear from the adjacent room the constant inflow of SMS = internet cafe.
— I go to a concert hall, look to my right, and what do I espy? The Tweet seats! = internet cafe.
Here we have come full circle, in a way, because the concert hall is a close relative to the church: a room for meditation, going within, listening within, being just there.
This would be full circle, where it not for the idea of Tweet seats, which means that the concert hall is ALSO going to imitate the function of internet cafe, will be if not a centrifugal than at least no longer a centripetal room.
The invitation “be here, only here, now” is more and more seldom heard. For where are the doors closed to wi-fi, mobile phones and laptops, the instruments of telecom (distant communication) and centrifugality?