That’s the title of the song I’m listening to right now, from a CD I’m becoming fond of. It reminded me a little of the idea of ‘exchange of self and other’ in Buddhism, which something like a Buddhist Golden Rule.

“For any given level of analysis, there is the appearance of ‘object’ only because a very precise ‘focal setting’ or perspective is maintained.” Tarthang Tulku, Time, Space, and Knowledge

This idea of focal setting is important in TSK, and yes, it’s very similar to a perspective. I think the main difference between talking about a focal setting and a perspective is that ‘focal setting’ emphasizes some precision in talking about perceptions. When we talk about perspectives on things I think it usually tends to be more general, often connected to specific schools of thought or positions. With focal setting, the emphasis is on how a specific idea or ideas change your perceptions.

So, I could have a very self-centered perspective. Often I, personally, do. My concerns are at the center. Now, in terms of focal setting this could be talked about in a slightly different way: my experiences would change depending on if-
1. My focal setting was based on seeing the self as a definite psychological entity formed by certain experiences and drives.
2. My focal setting was based on mulling over the past experiences of the self.
3. My focal setting was set on seeing the self as insubstantial, with my experiences as part of some ‘nonexistent self’ or ‘Higher Self’.

All of these settings are ‘selfish’ in some ways. The ‘focal’ part of the equation highlights that in experience, we do tend to focus on certain things and bring our experiences into those nets, or into those Venn diagrams. I think the term might come from photography, at least in some vague way, so part of the metaphor is that if you focus the camera in certain ways, you’ll get different pictures.

“What we perceive as solid or opaque ‘things’, produced by a given ‘setting’, define what we perceive by contrast as the ‘space’ of that level.”

So this is a succint description of what is happening in the beginning of the space section. We go through life focused in certain ways, perspecting in certain ways, I hope that’s not too silly a turn of phrase, and this develops some results: different kind of solidity and space. So, the theory goes, changing one’s perspective or focal setting changes what appears as solid, and what appears as spacious.

Interestingly, space seems to be the side we’re on. From Buddhist teachings I’ve encountered, and in TSK, space is seen as good. Of course, this is oversimplifying, but the bias does seem to be there. Why are we destroying everything for space? What I usually write is that people tend to see things as more solid or real than they are, so these teachings try to push in the other direction, as a sort of counterbalance.

Maybe another answer, and maybe one I’ve said before, my memory is so poor sometimes, is that it’s all a way of working with the mind. I read a book a little while ago about Buddhist “madhyamika” theory, where the author emphasized that these very intellectual teachings were all for the purpose of freeing beings, of liberation. I think this is the same idea. The process of working with space is not like deity worship, exactly, although there are connections, but it’s more like a meditation in itself.

Which doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a daily sitting practice. You should have a daily practice!

Quotes used with permission from Dharma Publishing. Books available from Dharma Publishing.


About jakekarlins

Aspiring writer and artist, dharma practitioner, yogi.

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