The complete stance, the way of being that recognizes the inseparability of nebulosity and pattern, shows up in characteristic textures. For example: wonder, play, and creation.
These textures may appear spontaneously as qualities of thought, feeling, and interaction, at times you adopt the complete stance. They spring naturally from the dynamic interweaving of nebulosity and pattern.
The previous book page, “Finding the complete stance,” may have seemed unhelpfully abstract. This section on the textures describes what the stance is like, so you can recognize it as it arises.
You can also deliberately enter into the textures, as methods. You can nudge yourself into a texture, as a way of adopting the complete stance in the moment. And you can practice the textures as methods for stabilizing it longer-term. As such, they are parallel to the eternalist ploys and the nihilist evasions. These are all tricks for stabilizing the corresponding stances.
This is the introduction to a series of six pages, each describing one texture. The six-way taxonomy is somewhat arbitrary. You’ll find that the textures blur into each other; and more could be added to the list. Each is simply “how things go when nebulosity and pattern are not divided,” so they are not distinct.
A spectrum of textures
The six textures can be thought of as each leading to the next: wonder → curiosity → humor → play → enjoyment → creation. It is useful to understand this as a causal sequence. It is also useful to understand that it is not actually one.
As a sequence, the textures are ordered from more nebulosity to more pattern. The order is also from least active to most. Denying nebulosity is habitual, so you enter the complete stance initially by recognizing it. At first that is simply wonderment: here’s this amazing feature of reality that somehow you’d been overlooking! Wonder is willingness to allow that perception to persist. Then you notice that pattern appears along with nebulosity; and that provokes curiosity. What’s going on with that? As you start to understand how that works, it seems humorous. It’s paradoxical, surprising, and fun. With growing understanding, you can play with meaningness. You can experiment, improvise, dance with it. Play is enjoyable; you want to take it further. As you discover nebulous patterns, you begin to create, to make new meanings.
As I said, this causal sequence is not true. It’s not false, either. It’s a sometimes-useful way of conceptualizing the relationships among textures that ultimately are not ordered, or even separate.
- Each of the textures depends on all the others, and feeds all the others.
- We’re always already in the middle of things, so we may find ourselves in any texture unpredictably, as circumstances arise.
- Each of the textures springs from the inseparability of nebulosity and pattern, and those aren’t quantifiable. Everything is always entirely nebulous and entirely patterned. “More nebulous” or “more patterned” is nonsense, looked at that way.
We can conceptualize the textures another way, based on taking three as primary: wonder, play and creation. Then we treat the others as aspects of the primaries: curiosity and humor as aspects of wonder, and enjoyment as an aspect of play.
This rather artificial scheme enables parallels between the three primary textures; the three false promises of eternalism; and the three main emotional dynamics of nihilism. These parallels are also somewhat artificial, due to the nebulosity of all these categories, but may make conceptual connections that aid understanding.
Looked at this way:
- Wonder is nebulous patterns of understanding, where eternalism promises complete understanding
- Play is nebulous patterns of control, where eternalism promises complete control
- Creation goes beyond the already-defined into the nebulously knowable, where eternalism promises complete certainty.
In each of these you can see how the texture corrects eternalism by restoring recognition of the nebulosity it denied—while still retaining pattern. So these textures can serve as antidotes to the appeal of eternalism’s false promises.
Likewise, we find parallels for the nihilistic dynamics that deny pattern:
- Wonder is an antidote to nihilistic intellectualization, which tries to stop you from perceiving and understanding patterns of meaningfulness
- Play is an antidote to nihilistic depression, which tries to cut you off from acting on patterns of control
- Creation is an antidote to nihilistic rage, which tries to destroy patterns of meaning.
A further series of parallels relates wonder, play, and creation with thinking, feeling, and acting:
- Curiosity and humor, which are aspects of wonder, are ways of thinking that allow patterns to be nebulous, rather than fixating them
- Enjoyment of the dance of nebulosity and pattern, which is an aspect of play, is the characteristic feeling of the complete stance
- Creation, which conjures patterns from nebulosity, is the characteristic activity of the complete stance.1
- 1. Buddhists will recognize a further parallel with the trikaya. This is particularly clear in the Dzogchen presentation of the trikaya as dang, rolpa, and tsal. Each of these words has many meanings in Tibetan, and so is untranslatable except in context. However, dang can mean “openness” or “clarity”; rolpa most often means “play”; and tsal can mean “creativity.” (I’ve spelled these words phonetically. If you want to look them up in a dictionary, they are gdangs, rol pa, and rtsal. Many letters in Tibetan spelling are silent.)