A Life filled with Reverie:
the state of being pleasantly lost in thought
What if the really real things of our universe, the actual entities,
are like fingertips falling on a keyboard, or snowflakes,
or water rippling across a river and washing back?
Pleasantly Lost in Thought
Do you remember your friend in geometry class who was looking out the window, wondering what it might be like to live in Argentina? She was dwelling in reverie.
I dwell in Possibility--
A fairer House than Prose--
More numerous of Windows--
Of Chambers as the Cedars--
Impregnable of Eye--
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky--
Of Visitors--the fairest--
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise--
-- Emily Dickinson
Those of us influenced by Buddhism find great value in being mindful in the present moment. For us mindfulness is a state of relaxed and alert attention to the world as it is in the present moment. We can be mindful of washing dishes, doing laundry, listening to a friend, and taking walks on a summer day.
Often we see mindfulness most deeply, not in being lost in our thoughts, but in being attentive to sensory detail: to what is here and now, right in front of us, if only we have eyes to see. For us, a most holy saying is: "Have a cup of tea."
Amid our enthusiasm we sometimes forget another kind of mindfulness: a mindfulness that is attentive, not to the details of sense perception but instead to the flow of possibilities within the mind. The attention is not anxious or hurried. It is reverie.
This is a kind of reverie that we are taken into when we hear Satie's Gymnopédie No. 1. It's not so much about this cup of tea in our hands, as it is about the possibility of drinking tea in the first place. Especially if it comes from China, or maybe Argentina.
Reverie is always sensitive to the flow of things: the flow of actual entities in the world and the flow of possibilities in the mind. It is a kind of swimming, and its natural ally is process philosophy: Heraclitus and Nietzsche, Hegel and Whitehead, Lao Tzu or the Buddha.
Process philosophy offers a musical vision of reality. The actual entities of our universe are not substances that remain unchanged over time; instead they are musical notes, played on a piano, that arise and perish, to be succeeded by other notes.
In their unfolding they give rise to different atmospheres and moods. We ourselves are such entities; we ourselves are such moods. We do not stand outside the river of life watching it from afar. The river is in us and we are in the river. Always we are swimming.
In reverie we wander and we wonder. We ask what it might be like to be a snowflake, or a parade of children leaving a gymnasium, or water that ripples alongside a river, or a gust of gold.
And in so doing we participate in the primordial nature of God. This is the side of God that is dream-like: not fully conscious but not exactly unconscious either. It is God before creation, when even creation was but a possibility.
There is a lightness in such dwelling, because the things we consider are not solid objects but rather pure potentialities, real but weightless. We are playing in the possibilities and they are playing in us.
Sometimes in our reveries we begin to ask What if? We begin to wonder what it might be like to take delight in the beauty of momentary events without clinging so fervently to them when they pass away. In a way we become like the children leaving the gymnasium. The familiar clothing of habitual thinking falls away and we fall into faith.
Faith is not dogmatic belief or blind conviction; it is trust in the availability of fresh possibilities. It begins with a circular movement of water or air, with a flickering eddy, with an atom of amber in a fire. It begins in constructive fantasy.
In the healthy spiritual life mindfulness of sensory detail is not enough. It is not enough simply to pay attention to things as they are. We also need the capacity to be lost in our thoughts; to wander in reverie; to be out of sync with constraints of what is, so that we can be attuned to the world of what can be.
Suffer the little children who dwell in possibility, for theirs is the kingdom of love.
-- Jay McDaniel
"The Gymnopédies, published in Paris starting in 1888, are three piano compositions written by French composer and pianist Erik Satie.
The work was possibly based upon the poetry of J. P. Contamine de Latour (1867–1926), who wrote Les Antiques ("The Ancients"), a poem containing these lines:
Satie claimed they were inspired by reading Gustave Flaubert's novel Salammbô. (Orledge, p. 207)
The exact connotation intended by Contamine in using the Greek word gymnopédie remains uncertain. Among the possibilities are:
All this might indicate that Satie and Contamine chose the word gymnopédie perhaps rather for its intangible exoticism, than for connotations of which they were probably hardly aware themselves."
-- Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gymnop%C3%A9dies
Actual Entities as Momentary Events
"Process philosophy is a longstanding philosophical tradition that emphasizes becoming and changing over static being. Though present in many historical and cultural periods, the term “process philosophy” is primarily associated with the work of the philosophers Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) and Charles Hartshorne (1897-2000).
Process philosophy is characterized by an attempt to reconcile the diverse intuitions found in human experience (such as religious, scientific, and aesthetic) into a coherent holistic scheme. Process philosophy seeks a return to a neo-classical realism that avoids subjectivism. This reconciliation of the intuitions of objectivity and subjectivity, with a concern for scientific findings, produces the explicitly metaphysical speculation that the world, at its most fundamental level, is made up of momentary events of experience rather than enduring material substances. Process philosophy speculates that these momentary events, called “actual occasions” or “actual entities,” are essentially self-determining, experiential, and internally related to each other.
Actual occasions correspond to electrons and sub-atomic particles, but also to human persons. The human person is a society of billions of these occasions (that is, the body), which is organized and coordinated by a single dominant occasion (that is, the mind). Thus, process philosophy avoids a strict mind-body dualism.
Most process philosophers speculate that God is also an actual entity, though there is an internal debate among process thinkers whether God is a series of momentary actual occasions, like other worldly societies, or a single everlasting and constantly developing actual entity. Either way, process philosophy conceives of God as dipolar. God’s primordial nature is the permanent ground of value and determinacy and a storehouse for universals, or “envisaged potentialities.” God’s consequent nature, on the other hand, takes in data from the world at every instant, changing as the world changes. A considerable number of process philosophers argue that God is not a necessary element of the metaphysical system and may be excised from the process model without any loss of consistency.
Process philosophy has also been cited as a unique synthesis of classical methodology, modern concerns for scientific adequacy, and post-modern critiques of hegemony, dualism, determinism, materialism, and egocentrism. In this respect, process philosophy is sometimes called “constructive postmodernism,” alluding to its speculative method of system building with a hypothetical and fallible stance, over the alternative of deconstruction."
-- From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Peer Reviewed)