It's Big Banging14 October 2010
What if the Big Bang wasn’t just something that happened millions of years ago but is something that is happening right now? Perhaps the Big Bang can be thought of as less of a noun and more of a verb, so that just as the river is flowing, existence is Big Banging. This would certainly alter our relationship to life. Though it would seem problematic to constantly find oneself in an entirely new universe as each moment passes, instead, such a perspective might actually help us to cultivate a profoundly beneficial looseness and openness.
Ever-present, ubiquitous novelty
A reflection that I often like to consider is how the present moment consistently expresses a quality of unambiguous newness. Though it may not be always overtly obvious, close and careful attention to the specifics of any given instant of time can reveal aspects which are totally unprecedented. Sure there’s also always something of the familiar, I most certainly wouldn’t deny that, but there is also something about this unique moment that has never quite happened in this way before.
The stereotypical novel experience occurs, say, when you hear jazz for the first time, or have your first adventure of flying. They are experiences that can be described by others in great detail, but nothing compares to the actual real-time, implicated, moment to moment unfolding of your own reality. It is to encounter that which we can have no previous conception of, that which we cannot predict, nor imagine. Newness, by its very nature, breaks out of all our previously held ideas, it is something that will from then on require a new categorisation, we will need to spend time with it, come to terms with it, assimilate it and ultimately perhaps, get used to it.
Yet, we need not encounter the rarer clichés of novelty in order to consume sensory data of an order that could be defined as new. Look closely at what is happening right now and it is possible to perceive that which has never been experienced before. What will your next thought be? Watch carefully this particular mix of sounds, sights and feelings. What will the precise nuance of your mood be in the next moment? This isn’t the dramatic novelty of historical first times that you’ll tell your kids about, but nevertheless it is newness in its truest sense; that which has never been experienced before.
The Big Bang
Ever since I learnt of the extraordinary event we call the Big Bang, I’ve always treated it as an impossibly mysterious happening; what can be more profound than the original, primordial event that brought all that we know and will ever know into existence!? Yet the more intimate I’ve become with the everyday immediacy of my experience the more I’ve also become aware of the miraculous cascade of reality here and now. There’s a real sense, profound and sublime even, of existence arising moment by moment, in utterly uncontrived freshness; why and how does that happen and continue to happen? It’s precisely the same feeling, accompanied by exactly the same questions, as I have with regard to the Big Bang. Where does the newness of this moment come from? How is it possible for something to arise from nothing?
From this perspective, it strikes me that the significance of the present moment is just as relevant as the Big Bang itself. It would seem that the magical conditions present at the beginning of time, were less a one-off, and more an integral aspect of what existence is doing, right now.
There are many varied and widely discussed definitions of awakening and I will not attempt a concise version here, but for the sake of a working interpretation I will tenuously describe it as; the radical ability to respond to circumstances unimpeded by, and without recourse to, previously held biases and preconceptions. The awakening event itself, that many people report, is the first deep and personal realisation of this way of being as a living possibility. Now, rather than awakening being a deep insight into a mysterious other-dimension-to-reality, reserved for a privileged few, we can reflect on the commonality—which I feel is certainly not coincidental—between ubiquitous novelty and the radical ability to respond unimpeded by preconceptions. That which enables us to creatively engage with our lives in a way that is unburdoned by the dogma of either our own beliefs or even those of a worldview, is precisely that which also ceaselessly brings forth an element of the unprecedented into every moment. We are able to respond creatively only because life itself is a constant creative process.
So much of what causes us angst in this life is simply neglecting to relate to individual moments in a way that honours their uniqueness. Somehow it is easier to attempt to place our experience into either the category of something that has happened before, or something that we have read or heard about. Thus our responses are, at best poorly tailored and at worst, completely missing the point; we expend energy attempting to solve a problem that doesn’t actually exist. Therefore, the reason that awareness of the constant newness present in all experience—which I would suggest is just another name for awakening—is useful, is that it enables us to create responses to our life that are perfectly nuanced to the precise nature of the situation we are facing. Rather than trying to fit the stock square pegs of habits and dogma into the uniquely square-_ish_ holes of our day-to-day lives, we can customise our own one-off, snug-fitting pegs, that slot perfectly without shortage or excess.
Though I am happy to concede that thinking of the Big Bang as an ever-present, continuous process might be a little extreme and impractical, I am most reluctant to similarly relegate my notion of awakening. Awakening is fundamentally not a one-off event from which a human being bursts forth into a universe from which they cannot descend. If each moment really is a Big Bang into an utterly different universe then we would be wise to sympathetically cast aside all of our previous conceptions, for they will all now lack any bearing on the circumstances we now find ourselves in. The metaphor of Big Banging is useful to the extent that it can inspire us to a superlative level of open-mindedness. So often we need that encouragement to meet life again, as if for the first time, to peer deeply into that which we so take for granted. What is this that is happening right now? Do you really know what is going on?