Stone-sitting & Head-landing by Dirk Schmidt

A stone KNOWS where the ground is. Go ahead, take a look, tell me if you observe a stone just hanging about, mid-air, totally confused about where to find the ground. I submit, it simply doesn't happen. Take a stone, and drop it: It will find the ground, absolutely. I know. I've tried it. Even in outer-space, in the midst of vacuum and void, across fathomless stretches of emptiness, a stone will always be right in the middle of being pulled SOMEwhere, in SOME direction, by the gravity of SOMEthing-or-other.

Just HOW, exactly, is this information transmitted? There's some strange form of communication, seemingly, between the ground and the stone, of what we'd call mass and velocity, although I doubt either the stone or the ground think of it in those terms... And upon even further investigation, you'll notice this: There is no distinction for the stone between knowledge and action. They are one-and-the-same process. Why, the very instant the stone knows where the ground is, it gets a-move-on, pulled head-long into action by the gravity of the situation. In actuality, its actions are perfectly co-ordinated with whatever it senses, whatever it knows, and when it's meant to fall, it falls. Is it aware of this?

My mind has this abstract notion: For all its complexity, for all its mangled mesh of nerves and flesh, it is simply a stone. The gravity of millions upon millions of years of evolution compels it to eat, to sleep, to mate, and so on. It makes up names, complexities, abstractions, all in order to hide this simple truth from itself. It tricks itself into thinking, oh, I simply must be more than a stone, falling in a vortex, imprisoned by the whims of a gravitational field I don't fully understand...

I once read that you may place an amoeba in a petri dish. Everything is swell in that little petri dish, and the amoeba is just hanging out, feeling right at home; that is, until you place a drop or two of acid on one side of the dish. This single-celled organism, somehow sensing this unsatisfactory turn of events, gets the hell out of dodge, and high-tails it over the the NON-toxic side of the dish. Again, it is also demonstrating a perfect co-ordination between sensation, knowledge, and action.

Now, the difference between amoebas and humans is only some exponentially ridiculous number of cells, a great many of which are specially organized into a neural network with more connections amongst themselves than there are atoms in the universe, or stars in the sky (or so we're told...). I'd say, you'd be surprised at how small a difference that really makes. Our brains don't just simply DROP with the gravity of a situation. And so, never expecting that inevitable drop, when we DO get dropped, we're caught totally unawares.

A cat, though, has life figured out in this regard, and is always expecting a fall. If you drop it, it will land on its feet. It's true. I've tried it. I wonder how many years of evolution it took before the ones who were landing on their heads got bred out of the gene pool? Whatever the number, it probably took nine times longer than it should have... Yet here we are, humanity, the most evolved species on the planet (or so we're told...), and what are we up to? Head-landing. We LOVE landing on our heads. We simply ADORE it. We're silly with it, giddy with it, really. We'll land on our heads all day long, and then get up the next morning for another round.

But there it is, the silver lining: maybe one day we will learn to land on our feet. Even if it takes us nine times as long as a cat, which is eighty-one times longer than a stone. You see, the stone ALREADY sees no difference between knowledge and action, and also sees no difference between its head and its feet. It's all the same to a stone. It doesn't possess the fault of head-having, or make the mistake of being too brainy for its own good. It doesn't separate sense from knowledge. The only stone-sense is non-sense.

Yes, non-sense is nonsense, and it's actually the only one of your senses that you can fully trust. I say again: What's the good in making sense? The STONE doesn't make any sense. It just knows-and-acts-and-becomes, all in one fell swoop. There's all this sense-making around, and it's all a big bundle of head-landing. If you don't believe me, drop a sense-maker from some height, and just see how they land. Oh, I suppose they'll land on their feet once in a while, accidental-like. Drop them again, just to be thorough. Get a nice, large sample-size of dropped sense-makers, and then do the math. Don't be shy. Play with the variables. Drop them from roof-tops, cliff-sides, and mountain-tops. Give them various degrees of spin, at various velocities. Shoot them from cannons. Whatever it takes to fully convince yourself that the sense of sense-making makes no sense.

Yet there our brains go, all our little neurons firing to-and-fro like busy little bees, churning the chaos and non-sense of this blossoming-and-blooming world process into digestible-and-delicious honey-coated saccharine-sweetness, building up hexagonal-hives of inter-connected-conceptual-construction: A more ordered-and-patterned reality, for sure, but just as certainly LESS real than whatever the REAL “real” really is. It's really twisted, if you think about it. And then we go and on about it, and act on it, as if we know what-the-hell is going on. Head-landing. That's the thesis right there.

The problem is, we're always caught up in thinking, but we're not thinking about the thinking. What's more, we never stop to think that non-thinking, every now-and-again, might actually be a kind of thinking, a stone-sitting-sort of thinking, a primordial link to a knowledge-action-potential that is a unified process of knowing-and-becoming. The stones and the amoebas and the cats are really too modest to say so, but I can see it sometimes, if I happen to glance over at them, and catch them gazing at me... Have you seen it? The half-curious, utterly-disbelieving momentary stare that would be called smug, if it weren't so damn non-judgmental and utterly free of pretension. That right there is the non-confused, complete contentment of a stone-sitter...

Photograph by Roy Hamric