I’ve always enjoyed hiking in forests while talking with friends, walking and talking. You’re not necessarily looking at them; most likely you’re concentrating on the path or the sunset or the forest. They might be a few steps ahead or behind, it doesn’t matter. You hear their voice and you respond with a voice a little louder than usual, so they can hear you. You don’t know exactly where their voice is coming from, it seems to come from the sky. It’s the same with your voice; it leaves your body in a 360 degree arc. You only know it arrives at its mark because of the responses it calls forth.
Anyway, after a while, something magic happens: it’s as if you’re having an open dialogue with the Universe.
I first heard of this in Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad, in which Maslow is recounting a long story on the deck of a boat, surrounded by a crowd of listeners. As sunset turns to darkness, all you see of him is his lit cigar. The speaker has become anonymous. As if the world itself is telling the story, the words come from everywhere… and nowhere.
Later, this feeling I had of talking to “no one in particular” moved out of the forest. It started appearing in city walks, then in those discussions where I was in one room and the person I was talking with was in another. As if I was talking with someone offstage at a theater.
Then it started leaking into other conversations, at which point I started to wonder: Are we really talking with “other people” as much as we think, or are we mostly talking to “the world,” with “the world” itself responding? It certainly feels like that sometimes. When we permit these conversations to expand out towards the universe, they begin to take on mythical proportions.
In fact, I would say that – seen from a certain angle – it fells less like 7 billion people talking at once and more like the Universe talking to itself in 7 billion conversations.
Could it be that simple… and that beautiful?