The Stream

For Kim on the death of her husband, Mike

Take my hand and listen closely.  Think of a woodland stream.  Now scale this up to a gigantic river—a river encompassing the whole universe.  Some physicists regard the universe as just this: one great, fluid “movement.”

Let’s substitute the word “stream” for the word “universe.”

Within the stream—whose substance eludes us—exists everything there is. Sub-universes. Galaxies. Black holes. Suns. Planets. Oceans. Redwoods. Piping plovers. Mountains. Rain. Small smooth stones. Loons. Chipmunks. Trillium. Peonies. Jelly beans. You get the picture: Everything.

David Bohm, the physicist from whom I’m taking the stream analogy, called it the Holo-Movement (“entire movement”). Everything we perceive is but a projection within the Holo-Movement.

Shift your thinking to that woodland stream, again. Stand at the edge and notice how the water is constantly running. Paradoxically, even as the water constantly moves, it stays in the same place. As you look at the eddies, riffles, and other fluid dynamics, note how they each have shape, form, and even function (e.g., a cascade), and each seems to be stationary.

Bend down nearer and pick out a single standing wave—say, a riffle in a series of rapids. Concentrate on it. It doesn’t move. It holds its position. It is a “singularity” within the stream—a visible, singular projection and expression of the stream. I want to emphasize: Even though it doesn’t move, it consists entirely of the movement of the stream through it.

Did you notice that, as we were talking, the standing wave collapsed? For some reason the stream changed its movement, ever so slightly shifted its course—and the singularity  you were watching was reabsorbed into the entire movement.

That singularity is Mike.

You, too, are a singularity.   So am I. So is everything, from galaxies to jellybeans.

I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

—Walt Whitman, “Leaves of Grass”

The singularity we call “Michael” appeared in the stream 50 or 60 years ago.  Although this isn’t entirely accurate, for he was always in the stream, because he is the stream. Some days ago the singularity we know as “Michael” disappeared from view, to be fully incorporated into the stream. Interestingly, that’s all he ever was, despite outward appearances: He was always the stream pouring through a shape, a form, an appearance.

You were the love of his life. Now take this out of the past tense.  You are the love of his life. As the love of his life you know him as he really is: the Stream. He is not vanished; he is pouring through you as we speak. He is pouring through the rest of his family and friends. He is pouring through the places he loves. (Yes, he pours through me as I write these comforting words to his beloved wife.)

Who, then, am I? I am the whole dream and expression of Mike and you and Nina (my wife) and so on. And I am the whole dream of redwoods and spotted sandpipers and loons and mountains and mist and bog orchids. The older I become the more I realize I am all the parceled-out minds of the great mind—the stream. As I grow older, the more I disappear as a singularity and more I become resorbed into the stream.

Someday I will disappear as a singularity. When this happens my hope is that no one will notice. Why “no notice”? Because by then I hope to be so much a part of you and Nina and a host of people—along with loons and beavers and spotted sandpipers and mountains and brooks and fireflies—that none of them will notice.

Mike? It took only five minutes of being in his presence for someone to know he was consciously, deliberately, joyfully and blissfully the stream.

I’ll make it easier to understand: Mike = stream. The good news is, he knew that. The good news is, he still knows that. The other good news is: Kim = stream. Even more good news: The stream joined the singularity of husband & wife in eternal love and companionship, with emphasis on the word “eternal.” Your love for one another, your life together—none of this was accidental or ephemeral or transitory. None of it is “over” or “ended.”

Now look up. Look around you. Look into faces of those near you as you read these  lines. Think of people you know. Look at the sky. Listen to the wind. Look at the forget-me-nots in my garden last spring. See and hear Mike in all these—for the simple fact that he is in all of them. He always was. (It’s simple biochemistry, my dear.)

Mike is a lens of life. A lens of reality. A lens of the Holomovement. That lens remains with you and your lens remains with him—you need to know this, too.

These passages will help you grasp what I’m talking about. First, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke.

from that which you desired, you’ve been released
to something that you have.

— Rilke

“You’ve been released/ to something that you have.” This is as true of Mike right now as it is of you right now. There is a crushing sense of loss—except both you and Mike have been released to something that you have. Focus on the word, “have.” You might change it to, “you’ve been released/ to something you are and always were and always will be.”

Next, this, likewise by Rilke.

Death is the side of life that is turned away from us: we must try to achieve the fullest consciousness of our existence, which is at home in the two unseparated realms, inexhaustibly nourished by both. . . . The true figure of life extends through both domains, the blood of the mightiest circulation drives through both; there is neither a here nor a beyond, but the great unity. . . . Transience everywhere plunges into a deep being.

Bohm called it the Holo-Movement. In his Duino Elegies, Rilke calls it the Open. T.S. Eliot called it the Still Point. Huxley, Mind at Large. Eliade, the Mysterium Tremendum. Eiseley, “Some ancient, inexhaustible, and patient intelligence.”

In the Four Quartets, Eliot wrote, “That which is only living/ Can only die.” Again, profound. That which is conscious of itself merely as a shape in the stream, can only die. Mike is different. Mike was always more than “only living,” as you are too. This is what drove him, propelled him, gave him life: the consciousness and errands of the stream. For this there is no “past tense.”

The nothingness was a nakedness, a point

Beyond which thought could not progress as
He had to choose. But it was not a choice
Between excluding things. It was not a choice

Between, but of. He chose to include the things
That in each other are included, the whole,
The complicate, the amassing harmony.

—Wallace Stevens

Kim my dear, choose “to include the things/ That in each other are included, the whole,/ The complicate, the amassing harmony.”

But out of all secrets of the river, he today only saw one. This one touched his soul. He saw: this water ran and ran, incessantly it ran, and was nevertheless always there, was always and at all times the same and yet new in every moment! Great be he who would grasp this, understand this! He understood and grasped it not, only felt some idea of it stirring, a distant memory, divine voices.

“You will learn it,” spoke Vasudeva, “but not from me. The river has taught me to listen, from it you will learn it as well. It knows everything, the river, everything can be learned from it. See, you’ve already learned this from the water too, that it is good to strive downwards, to sink, to seek depth. . . . You’ll learn that other thing from it as well.”

Quoth Siddhartha after a long pause: “What other thing, Vasudeva?”

Vasudeva rose. “It is late,” he said, “let’s go to sleep. I can’t tell you that other thing, oh friend. You’ll learn it, or perhaps you know it already. See, I’m no learned man, I have no special skill in speaking. I also have no special skill in thinking. All I’m able to do is to listen and to be godly. I have learned nothing else. If I was able to say and teach it, I might be a wise man, but like this I am only a ferryman, and it is my task to ferry people across the river. . . .”

In a friendly manner, he lived side by side with Vasudeva and occasionally they exchanged some words, few and at length thought-about words. Vasudeva was no friend of words; rarely, Siddhartha succeeded in persuading him to speak.

“Did you,” so he asked him at one time, “did you too learn that secret from the river: that there is no time?”

Vasudeva’s face was filled with a bright smile.

“Yes, Siddhartha,” he spoke. “It is this what you mean, isn’t it: that the river is everywhere at once, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the rapids, in the sea, in the mountains, everywhere at once, and that there is only the present time for it, not the shadow of the past, not the shadow of the future?”

“This it is,” said Siddhartha. “And when I had learned it, I looked at my life and it was also a river, and the boy Siddhartha was only separated from the man Siddhartha and from the old man Siddhartha by a shadow, not by something real. Also, Siddhartha’s previous births were no past, and his death and his return to Brahma was no future. Nothing was, nothing will be; everything is, everything has existence and is present.”

Siddhartha spoke with ecstasy. Deeply, this enlightenment had delighted him. Oh, was not all suffering “time,” were not all forms of tormenting oneself and being afraid “time,” was not everything hard, everything hostile in the world gone and Hesse overcome as soon as one had overcome “time,” as soon as “time” would have been put out of existence by one’s thoughts? In ecstatic delight, he had spoken, but Vasudeva smiled at him brightly and nodded in confirmation. Silently he nodded, brushed his hand over Siddhartha’s shoulder, turned back to his work.

—Hermann Hesse, “Siddhartha”