The Traveler Listens

I want to be begin this piece of writing with a prayer, which is actually a passage from the chapter The Ferryman from Herman Hesse’s book Siddhartha:

“He learned incessantly from the river. Above all, it taught him how to listen, to listen with a silent heart, with a waiting, open soul, without passion, without desire, without judgement, without opinion.”

I am experiencing a complex whole in Boisahabi Tea Estate. My analytical mind would love to understand this whole in a multidimensional coordinate system whose axes I would like to label as per the various experiences of life here, which in the sense of constructing my analytical understanding can be treated as being independent of one another, and map the entire space of multidimensional correlations. This task is not trivial, but the possibility of even being able to do so is exciting to my analytical mind. However, even as I allow my analytical mind this freedom, I find that I can do so only as long as the prayer opening this piece of writing is alive in me; only as as long as this multidimensional analytical sphere is nestled in the warmth of this prayer’s listening. Its the yin-yang dance of analysis and such listening.  Both are valuable, but when they get untethered, which is existentially bound to happen and not without its own value too, and I am unable at some point to normalize to their yin-yang dance, then I am inflicted by a deep suffering which can last anywhere from the order of a few hours to a few days, till such a yin-yang normalization happens.

This multidimensional analytical sphere is very hard for me to construct right now, and I will try to list the two main reasons that are currently coming to my mind:

  1. Not only are there many analytical dimensions, but each is related to an experience that can take a lifetime to sink into my bones. I sometimes try to accept this limitation and still allow my analytical mind to work, but I often find myself arriving not at states of a causal clarity, but, at best, states of an entangled clarity. While this entanglement has the possibility of being in the realm of the profound and transcendental, as is evoked in the yin-yang dance of the parts-whole, I feel at this point it is more a function of my inexperience. The listening prayer eases my analytical mind when it reaches such entangled states and begins to suffer, and invites my being to experience, waiting and listening, and not rushing the analytical mind. I have this vision of my analytical mind’s clarity rising from a sea of infinite patience, ever ready to dissolve back into this sea from which it rose if its clarity is inapplicable to the context of Boisahabi. I imagine this clarity to be a humble offering from this sea of patience.
  2. Often my analytical mind is not patient enough to rise from this sea of patience, and instead is spurred on my by my fears, insecurities, and vulnerabilities. Sometimes these are as trivial as this cultural pressure to have an opinion and therefore have something to say about the problems-solutions of Boisahabi, or even India at large. And sometimes they are so deep that I do not even understand them. All I see is the symptom of my analytical energy combusting in a ball of fiery passion, of rage or joy, with no value to the context of Boisahabi.

My instinct continues to guide me towards such patient listening and asks me to wait for analytical clarity to rise, of its own accord, from the bedrock of such listening. My analytical mind, when it is in the warmth of such listening, continues to note the parts of this whole — agriculture, commerce, politics, colonial and post colonial India, climate change, trust, relationships (even the personal one of within my family which is entangled with the larger network of relationships), etc. (my analytical mind gets weary in even trying to note these dimensions and I have to summon courage and deep humility to list them, and cannot wait to go back to listening to ease this weariness)– and while it cannot help but play around with various correlations, I try to focus mostly on experiencing each of them from a place of listening. I pray that analytical clarity starts to do the yin-yang dance with its dancing partner of listening because both will be valuable as I try to act-think. Till this happens, or does not happen, I pray that I am able “to listen, to listen with a silent heart, with a waiting, open soul, without passion, without desire, without judgement, without opinion.”