Pondering the magic of containers

by Mark Girard

So I have an overwhelming attraction to two things: striking things to see what sound they make and pondering the magic of containers. Now discovering the percussive qualities of solid objects is an exciting topic, but it is the latter that I wish to discuss.

See, everything is a container of some form or another. I am a container of thoughts, blood, and air; the Sun contains heat, light, and thermonuclear reactions; the Earth contains all of our shared experiences; and the Universe is a container of infinite possibility. It is the label that defines them that is of interest to me. I can say ‘sphere’ and ponder the inherent qualities of sphere-ness, but if I label that sphere a planet it invites a wonderful thought experiment. How big? Is it a gas giant or terrestrial? Does it have life? Do those life forms play drums? It is the strength and shortcoming of our brain that we need labels to identify the objects and experiences in our lives if we are to retain and share them with others. I have no way other than language to express my ideas to you the reader. And the words I choose to construct this essay are in themselves a factor in the challenge of constructing descriptive containers. Even if we share the same language our differing experiences flavor the event in a way where mere words fall short. Even when we are in agreement about the meaning of a word, each of us carries a meta-meaning.

So let us limit our thought experiment to a single object: fire. Aside from its mundane functionality of heat and light, it has been ascribed values that are less quantifiable; properties that are alchemical in nature. If we focus on the property of transformation, we find that the metaphysical concept of change eschews containment. Our differing experiences illustrate the challenge in ascribing descriptive language to magical experiences. Even when we partake in a similar event, say being present around a fire, what happens to me may not be what happens for you. You may have a deeply profound moment of perfect bliss, I may just get bit by a mosquito. Even though we share a moment in time–that of being around the fire–the events that transpire within that container are vastly different. It is precisely the difference of the shared moment that makes it both powerful and meaningful. My connection to that fire is as uniquely singular to me as your experience is to you but it is no more or less valid.

So why is it then that we sometimes choose to diminish another’s spiritual experience as less rich, less potent? Are we elevating our own path as the one with a deeper truth? Are we afraid that we may be unsure of our own connection to that which we consider divine? Could it be that the container that we often create that holds the mysteries of the universe no longer serves but we still cling to what we know rather than face the uncontainable unknown? I don’t have an answer, nor do I wish to find one; for I am a fool on the fools journey and that is a rich enough container for me.

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2 thoughts on “Pondering the magic of containers

  1. I don't have an answer either, but I have always wondered if maybe we do it out of insecurity. By demeaning another's experience, we vainly hope to prop up our own shaky self-image and magnify our personal experiences. How can we ever hope to truly experience magic when we ignore the magic being experienced all around us by others, whether they call it magic, God, or something else?

  2. Rowan I think you and Mark both said true things; and I think most of us do not even realize we are being demeaning or condescending most of the time. Perhaps it is a behaviour embedded in our culture, we live in, specifically the U.S.
    (aka Sue)

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