I’ve been reading and listening to Eckhart Tolle a lot lately. Like I said in a previous post, the book sat on my shelf for years until I picked it up again recently. (I was inspired by the Oprah podcast called A New Earth)
Yesterday, we took Ben to the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. He is obsessed with the creatures of the world, most especially with sea creatures, and it was pure joy to be with him while he sprinted around the museum squealing with delight at every new animal. “What’s deese?” “What dat?” “Why he not moving?”
As we looked around I remembered a lesson from the podcast that I loved. Tolle suggested we try to experience things as much as we can without labeling them with our intellect. To be present, to simply experience nature (a tree, an animal, a flower) without knowing its name (or choosing to forget for a moment) gives us space from the rational mind. We can experience its essence without shutting ourselves down with labels.
The museum was a perfect place to practice this.. There were so many creatures that I didn’t know the names of. Strange, enormous fish with huge snouts, bright orange cylindrical things jutting out of the bottom of tanks (plant or animal?) and even large animals in dioramas like the one pictured above. Without a name, I could simply experience it without my preconceived ideas.
We do with this people all the time… adding them up in our minds, labeling them by race, class, size, etc. We cut ourselves off from the essence of who they are; we do the mental math before we even allow ourselves to connect.
For a moment, I got a window into Ben’s universe–seeing things for the first time, having no name and therefore nowhere to put them–leaving them simply as they are: A wonder, a delight, a wild and extraordinary creature of the world.