“Astonishment is the proper response to reality.”

Terence McKenna

There’s a certain feeling—a feeling that’s also kind of an experience and an idea and a way of seeing. This feeling is central to my perspective and my shifting identity, my perpetual becoming. And I always want to articulate it, but I can never seem to find the necessary words.

Everything is happening. This is all actually here.

That almost gets at it. I mean, it works for me. Contains the meaning I wish to convey. I could say it that way and it could be that simple … if language weren’t so subjective and flat and insufficient.

The problem is that most people would read those eight words and see something banal or uninspired or even meaningless and would move on to another something in milliseconds.

When really I suspect that those eight words constitute the most astounding and un-process-able and soul-shivering and speechlessness-inducing fact, when seen from a certain non-default perspective—an almost out-of-body, all-encompassing perspective, the perspective of an infant or a god, a perspective which, as Emerson wrote, “see[s] the miraculous in the common.”

Heaven in a Wild Flower

But the only people who would read those words and feel The Fact in that way are the ones who are already in on the secret, the un-swallow-able monolith of a truth—that this is all really existing right now.

The problem is that language can only conjure in your brain an understanding based on what you have consciously or probably more often unconsciously determined certain words to mean. You assume you’re absorbing someone else’s ideas when you read, but much of what you’re doing is constructing your own interpretation of what the author may or may not have tried to contain within the arrangement of words. And there is necessarily a fathomless gulf between your interpretation and the real, raw subjectivity that the author tried and failed to transpose precisely onto blank whiteness. I would argue that this remains largely true even in the context of “non-fiction” or “scientific” writing which purports to deal in objectivity, but that’s a discussion for another day.

In short, language does not and cannot transmit the meaning that a particular arrangement of words actually had for the person who generated and arranged the words. Language is always, to a great extent, a mirror.

Bark-Clad Earth-Claw

Everything is happening. This is all actually here.

Things exist. We—instantiated, tangible, intricate beings—are weaving and roaming about on something we call “planet”—a rock that is both large and small—in an endlessly spacious hollow of existence in which innumerable objects are hurtling through eternity at incomprehensible speeds. Paradoxically, we seem at once to be individual, separate creatures and also attributes of a single process, a great sea of absoluteness that we probably cannot know objectively and from which we cannot be extricated.

Location: The Void

You can’t fathom this. I can’t fathom this. Maybe you and I, if we’re brave, can begin to imagine this picture of things, begin to pull back from our personal narratives and self-interested modi operandi to glimpse beyond the veil of egotism, to feel one iota of the terror and awe and ecstasy that this seamless magnitude would surely excite in any who could become somehow a stranger to it and then be re-introduced, who could receive the knowledge of its existence for the first time. To be alive! To live! My God! All is here! All is here!


For many, though, I fear that these words would seem only a feathery description of normalcy, of “life,” a state of affairs long ago accepted as the foundational factoid, the same old, the unquestioned aquarium. Yeah, life’s a thing and it’s pretty wild, whatever, everybody knows that, shut the fuck up.

No, bro, no. See, I don’t think you get it. I think if we all really got it, really knew the what-the-fuck-ness of this mystery in our bedrock, we would all simultaneously stop—stop chattering, stop complaining, stop politicking, stop attention-seeking, stop consuming, stop rushing down the streets to our made-up jobs and imaginary Very Important Tasks—and for maybe like six or seven hours just peer around, baffled, startled, repulsed, euphoric, mortified. Maybe we’d start sniffing each other or making out sporadically or kneeling before the fat, yawning sky weeping tears of overflowing and indeterminate pathos.

Where are we?

I don’t know what would happen. Eventually we would of course have to get back to doing something because of certain biological imperatives represented metaphorically by the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy. Things would roll onward, yes, sure, I guess. I suppose they must. And maybe they wouldn’t be all that different. But maybe the consequences wouldn’t be the point. Maybe that moment of collective awe would be the zenith—the universe’s climactic soaring sighing orgasm of self-celebration and self-realization after untold millennia spent employing biological mechanisms to gain self-awareness and eventually maybe touch itself under the covers at night a little bit. Maybe all events after that fated, impossible moment would be unpredictable. Maybe reality would collapse in on itself, finally liberated to the point of being able to transform into something entirely different and inconceivable. Maybe we’d all start laughing and then derive further humor-tinder from the shared joke, igniting and elevating our collective guffaw to the level of spasm and convulsion, everyone on Earth writhing on the ground in unison, shrieking uncontrollably at the unbearable absurdity of embodiment and the ridiculous unknowable aeons it has thus far entailed.

I don’t know. I suppose we probably would get back to doing our necessary and idiosyncratic human somethings. But maybe we’d get back to doing our necessary somethings a little differently. Maybe we’d all move a bit slower, take unplanned detours. Maybe we’d all actually see more of the people we brush past or briefly interact with in the theatre of the day-to-day. Maybe there’d be a sudden widespread surge of desire to live in quaint, remote cabins complete with bonfires, ample libraries, starry nights, loving cat- and dog-friends.

Love (+ a Cabin) is All You Need

Everything is happening. This is all actually here.

Maybe we’d all dispense with most of our possessions and give all superfluous wealth to the global poor. Maybe everyone would feel irresistibly compelled to phone their parents and profess profound basic gut-level love as tears gushed deterministically, geyser-like. Maybe we’d become way more interested in trying to see things through other individuals’ reality tunnels, realizing that each perspective might have something unique, interesting, and/or nourishing to add to our understanding of that which cannot be understood. Maybe we’d all become much more empathetic, kind even, realizing every other feeling, thinking animal is grappling with this same existence and the inevitable suffering it entails.

I don’t know what would happen. And I’m not even going to intimate that we’d all be “better” for it.

But maybe we’d be more honest. Maybe we’d see everything a bit more clearly, or at least see every thing and every person as necessary and okay and even valuable on some core level by virtue of its being an aspect of this—this, well, living mystery that sprawls, ocean-like, limitlessly through space and time.

Everything is happening. This is all actually here.

It really is. And seeing that truth in a certain way has meant everything to me. Life! All! You! Me! Here! Now!

I love you. Look at your palms.

“Talk of mysteries! — Think of our life in nature, — daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it, — rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! The solid earth! The actual world! The common sense! Contact! Contact! Who are we? Where are we?”

Henry David Thoreau

If this post was jazzy, you’ll absolutely love The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley, which addresses this same topic within the context of Huxley’s experiments with mescaline.

Follow Jordan Bates on Twitter @_jordan_bates.