The Beat Goes On

by Robert Wolfe on February 3rd, 2011

These little brown ants have finished their siesta of some one and a half hours, which began about noon. It's shadier and cooler now. The tentacle has reached out again from the handful of mounded sand that surrounds the entry to their earthen village, and it stretches north to south along the path's edge. They follow one fallen stalk of grass after another, on a microcosmic single-lane freeway. At any given moment, there are about six moving bodies per inch of route, and the route stretches for five or six feet before you lose sight of it from your chair. Given their tiny, relative size this must be a foot journey of many miles in each direction. They are travelling fast enough that it is difficult to follow any particular individual by eye, and so each ant presumably travels many roundtrips per day; none of them appear, from here, to be overweight. You cannot discern that they are carrying any cargo in either direction; these hundreds of commuters are continually encountering one another head on, along a wire-thin stalk of grass, sometimes climbing over each other; given their speed, we humans would doubtless find this cursingly stressful.

You cannot help but wonder what is the source of the direction for their ordered, cooperative and coordinated behavior. Their communal energy is directed to, and from, the cool and dark subterranean mecca, and you would like to be able to look down in there and try to possibly make sense of what is going on. But you could not, even with delicate scientific instruments, unearth and cross-section this community and expect that its organic mysterium would meanwhile remain intact. Unfortunately, when man observes, man inevitably affects that which is observed.

There is, in truth, no observer which can be apart or disconnected from that which is observed. For as long as we view the mystery of existence as a question which can be posed and answered by the questioner, as subject to object, we cannot be one with, or wholly involved in, the question. Asking “Who am I?” is to irreparably sever the “I” from the “Who”. There is no “I”, there is no “Who”, there is only being. The “Who” does not issue forth the “I”, and the “I” does not return to the “Who”. That consciousness which we know as a fragment—the personal self—can never know the consciousness which is wholly unfragmented, or “universal"…the consciousness which transcends individuated intelligence and is your true self and that of the ant.

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