In December 2006, after my eight-month-long contemplative Sabattical had finally borne fruit, I became fascinated by this statement:
This is a copy; this is not original.
There seemed to be something nearly mystical about that sentence, which I will refer to hereafter as Tiactino. At the time I did not appreciate how much ground Tiactino covers, but in this article I will review some of my discoveries about it.
Tiactino could be called a concept. That is to say, I could explain to you what it means. But that is trivial; you can probably figure out most of that without me.
The important aspect of Tiactino is what I might call the non-concept of it. That is to say, its important aspect is the mental actions it points to and excludes, none of which are concerned with understanding the actual sentence. Indeed, the literal meaning of the sentence points directly away from that which I am attempting to illuminate.
I apologize if all that sounds confusing. Let me also tell you that I've heard the non-concept explained by various sages and gurus, and they've been far less clear. I can sympathize with their challenge; this is nearly impossible to talk about because it deals with the internal churnings of the mind. So mere explanations are inadequate and extremely misleading. I must demonstrate in such a way that you find yourself in the state of mind to which Tiactino is pointing.
Ready to go? Okay, let's continue.
During my Sabbatical people sometimes asked me what I was seeking. I'd tell them that I was “Looking For Reality”. Yes, I said it With Capital Letters. I didn't actually know what it meant, though. All I knew was that I needed to do it. And the non-concept of Tiactino turned out to be part of the answer.
To move towards the non-concept, let me ask you to consider this question:
How much of what we perceive is really new, and how much is second-hand?
You are reading this article on the assumption that I wrote it and that it represents my thoughts. But this is a copy on your computer screen, not the original work. It could have been altered. It seems that I'm typing this sentence here but did I actually type it or did somebody else hack into the copy and rassle frazzle beep?
Okay, that was silly, but I hope it woke you up a bit so you're ready for the more serious examples. Because in a way this is all about being awake.
Proofs of Non-Concept
In your imagination, walk out the front door of your home and look around. What do you see in your mind's eye? The neighborhood, of course. How many times have you seen it? A hundred times? A thousand, perhaps? How about a million? Would you believe ...
less than ten?
Look: I asked you to see it in your mind's eye. If you can do that, then obviously you can mentally model your neighborhood quite well. If you actually walk outside and look around, will you be seeing the actual neighborhood or your model? I say that each time you go outside you're not really seeing what's there.
If you want proof, I have it. At least, I can prove it to some people by asking them to recall a particular kind of mental experience. I do not know how many people have had this experience, but I've come to suspect that it is quite common. Here's how to set it up ...
Go on a long trip, away from your neighborhood. Drive a long, long way away — hundreds of miles — to an unfamiliar area. Take in the view. Stop for a meal. See the sights in a distant town. Then head back home. Don't forget to admire the scenery!
When you return to your neighborhood, it will look strangely different — both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. If you've ever noticed this phenomenon, you may have wondered why it happens. Well, here's why:
It looks different because you're looking at it the way you looked at the unfamiliar town. Your long trip has temporarily broken your mind out of the habit of scanning your neighborhood by looking at a few key landmarks.
You are, in fact, seeing the neighborhood for the first time. Again.
I hope you recognize the mental phenomenon I described above, because it can wake you up to the meaning of, the non-concept of, Tiactino.
Most of the time we live in a world of copies. We eat a sandwich, but it's not a new sandwich. It's an old sandwich because we've eaten countless sandwiches in our lives. This is just another one of those. This is nothing new. This is a copy; this is not original.
We hear the sound of a bird outside. But we don't hear it the way we did when we were four years old. It's just a bird! Just another bird. This is a copy; this is not original.
We get a hug from a loved one. Our mind is elsewhere. Hugs are nice, but we've had lots of hugs. This is a copy; this is not original.
We read an article that gives a series of examples and we start to skim ahead. We get the point. It's all obvious, now. We don't need yet another example. This is a copy; this is not original. We fully expect that we won't miss anything important. We might be wrong.
Where is Your Attention Now?
If you pay attention to what your mind is doing, you may start to notice that it is short-changing you. Instead of delivering fresh, new experiences you are getting predigested experiences instead.
There are countless facets to this phenomenon. I'll give a few examples below.
We label objects, people, events, and more to compress their reality into a word and/or phrase and/or image and/or feeling and/or notion. (And so on.) Having done so, we cease to fully experience their reality. (This is how prejudice and bigotry operate, obviously, but that's just the tip of the iceberg named Tiactino.)
We become accustomed to a particular activity and it ceases to amuse us. We continue doing it, hoping to get back the original thrill, but now we're modeling the process as we do it. It's no longer new; it can no longer deliver the original joy. Rusty old amusement! Tiactino!
We listen to a political debate and hear the Bad Guys spewing their usual nonsense. Who cares? There's no need to listen carefully. Let's just pick up on one error and the rest will be the same old thing. Tiactino.
We read article after article, but we don't hear what is being said, because it's just one more article by one more kook. We believe we already know what reality is, so why bother looking at it? Tiactino.
A friend meets you on the street and asks, “Did you get a haircut or something?” You inform him that you now wear glasses. Tiactino, buddy! Wake up! He looks at you as if for the first time. He appears to notice the glasses.
Some people out there will know precisely what I am talking about. It's hard to explain, but they will recognize it clearly from what I've written above. Then there are those who will think they recognize it but merely understand. Their moment will come! And, of course, some people will think this is rubbish.
If and when you get what Tiactino is pointing at, you'll know with certainty what I'm talking about. You won't merely agree that I'm correct; I'll be irrelevant because you'll know. You won't need me at all. And then you can start to reconnect with reality, as I did in December 2006 ... after decades of stupefaction.