The Space Inside Things

Claudia and I care for her mum now, so we don’t get out much. Small shopping trips together are highlights in the week.

Sometimes we go to the farmhouse store in a small village near here. They have delicious eggs. I like to see the goats and the swabian pigs, which are corralled near the store entrance, greeting visitors, fussing, rooting and climbing around in their muddy pen. The fruit and veges in the store there have a clean vibrancy that the supermarket produce doesn’t always have.

Spanish produce market. Photo by  Ja Ma

Spanish produce market. Photo by Ja Ma

There's a dangerous road to the farmhouse village, narrow, skirting the edge of the forest, with lower alluvial farmlands, where a car could tumble down, on the other side. Claudia says there have been a lot of deaths, including people she knew from school, speeding along the winding road. The road is potholed and broken up by trucks using it to bypass the congested freeway.

At the farmhouse, we bought eggs, beetroot, a gnarled celeriac and a handful of the salad leaves they call ‘mouse ears’. I bought two kinds of apples. We got dark honey from the Black Forest flowers.

On the way back from the farmhouse store we stopped at the factory shop of a giant bakery. The smell of the bread and cakes was intoxicating. I persuaded Claudia that we should pause there for a coffee.

The shop was full of factory workers on early lunchbreak, queued up for coffee, staring blankly at the cakes. So there was a whole group pf people who jumped together when I dropped the glass of latte the shop worker handed me. Glass and coffee shattered in a loud mess on the concrete floor. ‘We are never coming to this shop again,’ Claudia said, mortified. It was just loud enough for me to hear, as the worker graciously mopped up the mess.

Not to be disturbed: the quiet professionalism of the bakery. Photograph by  Roman Kraft .

Not to be disturbed: the quiet professionalism of the bakery. Photograph by Roman Kraft.

It is embarrassing, how much glass I have broken recently. Last month I broke a wine glass in the sink. One of Claudia’s treasured Christmas ornaments, a bear made of fine green glass, exploded into a million pieces when I picked it up, when we were decorating just before Christmas. And then the night before last a plate slid off the end of the sink onto the kitchen floor, irreparably shattered. I was on the other side of the kitchen, astonished.

“It’s never one of these ugly things that cost two euros fifty for a set of six,’ Claudia said with a wry smile when she was drying an ugly mug yesterday. ‘It has to be the Villeroy and Boch that mum’s had for forty years.’

Claudia takes better care of things than I do. She really feels for the work and money that’s gone into the thing. Sometimes, I admit, I have had trouble understanding the fastidious care she gives things. 'They're just things, after all,' I'd say.

But, in the midst of all this glass-breaking I had an intriguing vision the other night.

Now, I am not a person who has visions all the time. I’ve had perhaps a dozen visions in my life, probably six that I clearly remember. I've never been diagnosed with epilepsy and haven't had any mind-altering chemicals for at least three decades.

Here’s what I wrote in my journal about the vision. It was an unusual one in that Claudia was there with me.

An interesting vision last night. I will recall as much as I can.
I saw and felt CJ and me together but each individually surrounded by objects, valued material things.
They were ordinary, if beautiful, things, the kind of things we own: well-made tools, machinery, clothing, objects d’arts, books. As we looked at these things and were aware of them around us, there was a shift. It was like the change in focus on a long camera lens, or the change in lighting on a silk screen on the stage.  I could feel the shift as much as see it.
In this different dimension the things around us were transmuted into vibration. They were composed of vibrating, shimmering particles.  There was space in between, inside the things. They still had their colour and outline but were composed of oscillating and entwining specks.
There were further transmutations. Different materials would reveal this kind of particulate existence at different increments of the process. At one point the timber chair and wooden handles on furniture and tools revealed this transparent character. Then there was a little shift again and everything metal was expanded into its quivering form.
Die Seine bei Courbevoie by  George Seurat  1885.

Die Seine bei Courbevoie by George Seurat 1885.

Further along the spectrum, or at a different focal point, some of the vibrations that made up the things revealed that they had consciousness. So the chair or the book or the hammer became a being, like animals (including humans) with fully developed individual consciousness. They didn't talk to me or get up and walk. But I could tell by the change in feeling I had for them. I felt drawn to them, as one would to a bird or a dog. It was like The Sorcerer's Apprentice meets a Seurat painting.
It was very interesting – a demonstration of how we could be surrounded by consciousness in everything, just as the old people say.
Perhaps the experience will help me appreciate the way CJ values and cares for material things.
It makes me wonder what it means for me, too, that one of her treasured light glass ornaments shattered into a coloured spikey sand when I picked it up to carry it out of the room on Christmas eve. (I speculated that it might been the change in temperature from a very cold room to the warm hallway). And then last night when I was washing her parents’ fine wine glasses one of them was fatally cracked.
I need to be more careful with delicate old things.
A vision of intertwined snakes led to the discovery of benzene's structure. Pic by  David Clode .

A vision of intertwined snakes led to the discovery of benzene's structure. Pic by David Clode.

It was as vivid as the image of interlocking snakes that came to August Kekulé by the fireside, which led him to discover the shape of the benzene ring, the foundation of organic chemistry. Except that I didn’t discover anything new for the world.

The physicists have been telling us for more than a century now that molecules are mostly space between whirling particles that behave in strange ways the physicists and others strive to observe and describe.  The vision was an opportunity, just for me, to see what this idea might mean. I am grateful for that. The concept has previously escaped my imagination.

What do we call the spaces between particles? What qualities does this 'space' have? I've read some layman's particle physics, but I don't remember this. Maybe we don't know. But there's something there, I'll bet. The space between the particles is having an effect on the particles and vice versa.

And what about the idea that everything has consciousness? Indigenous people have always understood this. I don't believe the plastic bags under the kitchen bench have consciousness. But I could believe it of the exquisite old wooden table on which I type.

Energy arc from the central electrode of a plasma lamp. Photo by  PiccoloNamek .

Energy arc from the central electrode of a plasma lamp. Photo by PiccoloNamek.

Claudia’s mum forgave me for being in the kitchen when the plate flew off the sink on Tuesday night. ‘People like me, who do no work, never break anything,’ she said with a half smile, belying her daily struggle for existence, from the bed that is now most of her world.

In the kitchen, I admire the celeriac as I prepare it for roasting.  Looking out the kitchen window, through the cherry tree branches to the valley of village houses and fields, I find reality mysterious and endlessly interesting.

We’ve been back to the bakery store. Embarrassment, foolishness and carelessness can be forgiven if the right vibes are around.  And I am being more careful, I hope, with delicate old things.

Thumbnail of blue and gold lights courtesy freestocks