Stepping Stones to Freedom

Enlightenment is always an elusive goal

It had been a hot summer day. Mr. Babushnik had been sitting on the park bench and several of us were lying on the lawn, enjoying the blend of cool grass and warm air. And though it was a sleepy afternoon, when one would not normally engage in great philosophic debate, a simple question crossed my mind. And before I knew what I had said the question popped out:

R: Are you enlightened?

Mr. B: Heaven's, no.

R: Well, if you're not then who is?

Mr. B: Beats me. Maybe we should start searching.

R: But where would we begin to look?

Mr .B: Well, I think right here would be a good place to start. After all we certainly couldn't start over there…

Mr. Babushnik waved his hands, indicating a circle of trees on the far side of the lawn, before continuing:

Mr. B: …because we are not there.

I sat up and with a simple astonishment, said:

R: Well, that's obvious. We're not over there, because we are here.

Mr. B: The only place we could be, in fact. The real problem you see is that once we go over there we are still exactly here. Because what was there, then becomes our here, and what was here then our there. Really quite simple wouldn't you say?

Of course, Mr. Babushnik had that special twinkle in his eye. And though his lips would never betray it, there was always a sense that deep inside he was barely suppressing a smile. Yet he could never hide the bright light in his eyes. It was the only way to even know that perhaps he wasn't as serious as he seemed. But still to this day I can never be sure.

R: I'm confused.

Mr.B: So am I. As well you should be. Because I must say that whenever I start looking for anything, I certainly can't know where I am going unless I know from where I am coming. So, the first step, I presume, is to establish the here of where I am.

I took a deep breath and try to understand what I had just heard. Though in a sense I began to realize for the first time I could play the game as well.

R: Is it hear the where? Pulling on one of my ears…Or is it hair we wear? Now I pulled on a lock of my hair…  Hear the wear? Pointing to my ears as I tugged on my shirt… Or where the hare? As I pretended to look out over the grass for an imaginary rabbit.

Mr. Babushnik looked at me quite sternly. Though in my heart I knew he was quite pleased. For it seemed to me that he was indeed quite happy that at long last he might have someone who could play his game.

Mr. B: That's exactly right. Quite brilliant. For, when you truly know where you are, which is the here, the here of where I am, you have at least a semblance of where the search begins. Then, just maybe, you can determine the where of there. But then comes just as an important question: who will search and reach the here, that was formerly the there, and from where the former there was the here of the very beginning.

I was quiet for the moment biting my lip, but inside, my mind was whirling about, trying desperately to follow the hopelessly impenetrable logic. Thus, I had no choice but to fib:

R: Makes sense to me.

Mr. B: Yet, we can make this truth even simpler.

R: Really?

Mr. B: Oh, yes indeed. For, if you can determine what is the who, and then from where the who is coming from and to where it is going, we can then at last fathom the there. For, can there be a what of a who unless we understand the larger of the there and the here? So, is the what the larger part of the who? And, then it is also very important to understand whether the who is the I or is the I the underlying principle of the who. Now, this where it gets interesting.

R: Yes, I'm all here.

Mr. B: Once the there becomes a here, immediately appears a new there. And the who must travel from the here to the there to only find another here and then both a further there and the older there...over there. As you now see, there can never be a here without a there for there is no meaning of here without a there, the versa vice of there without a here.

R: Isn't this just linguistic goo?

Mr. B: Heavens, no! It is when the crisscrossing of the there from the who and the here from what has been untied, that there inside resides another tie, and once severed the entire world comes tumbling down. Yet for a brief moment, and by that I mean for the briefest, and I mean the merest mote, you hover above the here, unfettered and free.

R: And then what occurs?

Mr. B: Why, you crash down to earth. And, with that I think we've established once and for all that there can never be an answer to such a question as to whether you or I or who is enlightened or not. 

I shrugged and Mr. Babushnik at last allowed himself to smile.

Mr. B: And, then there is, of course, the why.

And with that we were all quiet. I lay back on the grass and closed my eyes. Yet from that day on I was convinced that Enlightenment was a double edged sword—truly nothing more than a passing fancy, yet, in its nothingness, the underlying experience of who we truly are.