Vastness, Sacred Architecture, & Resonance I read your post, “At the Mountains of Meaningness,” last Friday. Over the last week, the themes expressed in your post have seemed to resonate with my own experience, causing me to see patterns where otherwise I might have ignored them. First, I happened to be reading about new excavations done at Stonehenge, revealing additional buildings and stone circles spread out around this ceremonial complex. The exact meaning and purpose of Stonehenge may be lost in the mists of time, but it is undeniable that even today, many people find the site inspiring. People still gather there to watch the sky, and claim to have religious experiences. What struck me this time, when looking at the photographs, is the VASTNESS of the huge stone pillars, in the middle of an absolutely flat plain that stretches in all directions. People living miles from any mountain have erected a symbolic mountain substitute - a vast stone architecture that dwarfs the people standing next to it, and draws the eyes upward toward the sky. Immediately when I noticed this, my mind was drawn back to an insight brought home to me in high school - that the medieval cathedrals were thought to mimic nature, with the huge stone columns stand-ins for trees, and the arched vault a mirror of the heavens. In Stonehenge, you can stand and see the real sky; in a cathedral, you can only see an imitation of the sky, but your mind might still be drawn to the idea of “sky.” A day or two after seeing your post, I started reading “The Salterton Trilogy” by Robertson Davies, a Canadian novelist I greatly admire. On page 9 of my copy, I found the following sentences: “The Catholic cathedral points a vehement and ornate Gothic finger toward Heaven; the Anglican cathedral has a dome which, with offhand Anglican suavity, does the same thing. St. Michael’s cries, ‘Look aloft and pray!’; St. Nicholas’ says, ‘If I may trouble you, it might be as well to lift your eyes in this direction.’ The manner is different; the import is the same.” (I won’t trouble with a proper footnote, since this quotation will be easily found in the first few pages of any copy of “Tempest-Tost,” which is the first volume of “The Salterton Trilogy.”) A mountain is superior to a cathedral; it is more sublime; in nature, it is easier to experience oneness with a greater whole than in any man-made artifice, no matter how grand. The experience is “purer,” or less subjective; like the two cathedrals in Salterton, each expressing the maker’s mood or intention, any human architecture of belief - whether expressed in word or stone - is just an interpretation of something bigger; like a photograph of a mountain, taken from a particular angle and in a certain light, not the real mountain itself. In the “The Salterton Trilogy,” Davies goes on to say, a few lines later: “More than is usual in Canada, Salterton’s physical appearance reveals its spirit. As well as its two cathedrals it has a handsome Court House (with a deceptive appearance of a dome but not, perhaps, a true dome) and one of His Majesty’s largest and most forbidding prisons (with an unmistakable dome). And it is the seat of Waverly University. To say that the architecture of Waverley revealed its spirit would be a gross libel … the university had the misfortune to do most of its building during that long Victorian period when architects strove like Titans to reverse all laws of seemliness and probability … .” Davies might be saying, in effect: The farther one gets from Nature (the true mountain and the sky), the more imperfect are the social institutions reflected in these clumsy copies. “Dome’ takes the place of ‘mountain,” but even the seat of justice does not have a true dome; the seat of learning has no dome at all. Running on a mountain path, as described in your post, sounds like an excellent way to renew your connection with “the great other.” Not all of us have that experience; many people, like myself, live miles from anything that could be called a mountain. It so happens that I hurt my knee a couple of years ago, and I’ve been away from yoga. Just last week – a few days before reading your post – I happened to dust off an old VHS tape: “Yoga for Meditation,” with Rodney Yee. My knee is still stiff, and it won’t let me get into most meditation poses; “Yoga for Meditation” is an instructional video for absolute beginners, so I decided to try it again. I ran the segment of the tape called “Mountain,” which starts as a standing meditation. Almost the first words on the tape are these: “Feel the grandeur of the mountain … .” I’d heard those words at least a dozen times before, when I was first beginning to learn yoga, but they took on a new significance after reading “The Mountains of Meaningness.” I want to thank you for your timely and well-drawn post. It pulled together threads from my recent experience, and reminded me to look outside the shoebox of my own self-contructed thought architecture – out into the mountains, and the mist, and the sky. Mostly that’s what I wanted to say, but I have a few more (less reverent) thoughts to share. These are in the way of being “silly serendipity.” I mentioned that I was revisiting my old exercise library – particularly, my instructional yoga videos. Unfortunately, these videos are all on VHS tape. One of the tapes jammed in my VCR, and my “back-up” VCR, that I’ve been keeping on a shelf, turned out not to function – possibly because my cats have been using it as a springboard to launch themselves at the windowsill. In consequence of the malfunctioning VCRs, I was led to buy a new TV stand for my exercise room; this one has doors, so the cats can’t jump on the VCR or DVD player. I bought one of those kits that you put together yourself. I put it together the day before yesterday (almost a week after reading your post). As I hammered the first couple of nails, I experienced that same lack of consciousness of the boundaries between self and other that you cite from Heidegger’s example; there was my hand, the hammer, and the nail, and it was all one single experience. As soon as I became consciously aware of my state of unconscious awareness, the unconscious awareness vanished; and I almost hit my thumb with the hammer. I was unable to fully recapture the experience, and as a consequence, several of my nails were driven in crooked. I’m not a member of the Christian faith, but I was partially educated as a Christian, so I’m aware of the metaphor of “Jesus as carpenter.” If Jesus was a truly enlightened being, like the Buddha, I would have to assume that most of his nails were driven in straight. A more famous metaphor is “Jesus as fisher of men” – the disciples being fishermen in the sea of Galilee, going out in actual boats, with nets, and hauling in actual fish for the dinner table. Christian evangelists see themselves as “fishers of men” – which brings me to the Seventh Day Adventists who knocked on my door yesterday. They were very friendly and polite, and wanted to draw my attention to some Bible verses showing that Jesus abolishes Death. If you are familiar with the Christian faith at all, you are probably familiar with the phrase: “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” This quotation is attributed to Jesus, and it suggests that human beings who have faith in Jesus will be resurrected after Death – in Heaven, rather than on Earth. Just as a mountain is superior to a dome, and the sky (or “heaven”) is superior to the vault of a cathedral, it occurred to me that any Resurrection or Rebirth promised by human beings would have to be inferior to the real thing – much as Zombies would measure up to souls supposedly elevated to Heaven. I did not discuss these ideas with the Seventh Day Adventists, who would have been confused and offended. I brought it up here only because I enjoyed your previous post (on another site), “Can we hunt p-zombies with fMRI?” and I couldn’t resist bringing it up again. My goal is to offend neither Seventh Day Adventists nor Buddhists, but only to have fun and learn the meanings of things; please don’t take it amiss if I’ve strayed a little off-topic at the end of my reply. Best wishes!