Have you ever gone to your fridge in the middle of the night, opened it, and seen nothing to entice your taste buds? That piece of leftover cake – no, cheese – no, mustard – near, but no. So you search shelves and cupboards and find chocolate, crisps, mints, even healthy nuts and dried apricots – not really. Your taste buds are frustrated, bored to distraction, until you spot a slim tin – anchovies – yes – and a dance breaks out on your tongue. Taste buds have their intrinsic purpose, which requires the freedom of tasting.
It goes to show that senses are in need of stimulation, frustration and elation to achieve their latent capacities. Smell, taste, touch, sound and sight make up our unique worlds – re-evoke places where stimulation or its lack happened before, places where we felt free to play or places where we experienced limitation and longing. Joy and suffering happens through the senses.
Indulged too much, they bring us harm, shut down, they also bring us harm.
Environments push extremes. The sensual overstimulation in democratic cultures results in distortions through opportunism and excess, whereas sensual pleasure in autocratic cultures is often deliberately suppressed, and cruel distortions happen through the abuse of power. ~ Many people dream of ideal systems, even of egoless societies. This is not likely to happen collectively. Such perfect environment would lack the dynamic challenge individuals need to negotiate a functioning balance within, to become human, and with it develop the tolerance that embraces humour and celebrates difference – a tolerance that allows the stimulation-hungry as well as purists to walk their path provided they don’t harm others, a tolerance that does not perpetuate tiresome twists of self-righteous opinions.
Opinions are the bitter children of morality, blind to insight.
Differences express themselves not only at levels of class, religion and tradition, but through our varied sensibilities. An academic may breathe for his research and let his garden go to weed, while his neighbour despairs of thistle fluff spoiling his immaculately kept grass. In turn, the academic may be sound-sensitive and is driven to distraction by a fridge vibrating through the party wall. A tactile person may go nuts over crumbs on the bed sheet. Or, if aesthetics guide your mood, mindless behaviour may fit your kind of hell.
Artists tend to refine their sensibilities towards the irrational golden means of relationships within and without, processes of becoming in their dynamic balance. You find among artists the most tolerant people. If so, they allowed their imagination free rein and creatively employed one or more senses to a degree that gives joy or shocks. It takes a strong and flexible ego to practice as an artist, and it takes an open mind to appreciate the inventive and experiential art that makes us human.
* * * *
Here the excerpt from a life-embracing poem written by Fazal Inayat-Khan, Qalandar, which appears in a book I co-edited, The Heart of a Sufi www.heartofasufi.org.uk
Adam/man, Minerva/woman – a human being in the making – functioning in the world on the stage of life – playing the script of destiny with the delight of indifference and the carelessness of full satisfaction. A being knowing all there is to be known by it, but ever learning; ready to feel all there is to be sensed by it, yet ever discovering new depth of emotions; capable of expressing its deepest and truest inspirations, yet ever expanding its consciousness; sensitive enough to give and receive love in all its forms and levels of becoming … A Qalandar is simple as a child, wise as an old woman, unfathomable as an old man. He belongs to the moment, she responds to every need. He speaks all languages, she performs all roles. They are one …