“I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”
— T S Eliot
Tonight I found a lesson in breaking the fourth wall. I was talking to some friends in one FB group or another while listening to music and playing with art. One friend was talking about his enlightenment in a manner that some do as if they have moved beyond earthly thoughts and patterns and was somehow above it all. This tends to irk some and inspire others. I tend to feel a kind of bemusement at it. I feel that even in hard times when the path feels its hardest, I would still much rather feel like I have a far way to go than that I have arrived at a stopping point. What would be the purpose and where the fun in that? Which basically was the question I asked my friend. What do you do for fun? There was a long pause and then he started talking about his love of photography and we talked about capturing the moment that doesn’t come again and the conversation became to me a lot more interesting.
I realized that I had gotten my friend to break the fourth wall. In stage, television and movies where sets are three walls the two sides and back, the fourth wall is that invisible wall which separates the actors and the characters they play from the audience. The audience watches its window into the world of the play and sustains the belief that these are not actors playing characters but events unfolding. Likewise, the actors and the characters usually pretend that the audience is a non existent one. However, in some plays the actor or the character he plays breaks the fourth wall and for a moment breaks character and speaks directly to the audience. Groucho did it in a few of the Marx Brothers movies, George Burns did it all the time in his show. For just a moment, my friend had broken the fourth wall, dropped the character of enlightened master and spoke as an excited human. At that moment, he became so much easier to relate to.
It got me thinking. Who is behind our fourth wall? Does the universe (God) consciously watch and feel its parts acting out its myriad dramas? How about the part of our unconscious that Ken Wilber calls the witness, that part below the surface that dispassionately watches all the events of our life. The more we identify with our witness and the less with all the drama, the farther we have come. We connect the most with the universe when we pray and the most with the witness when we meditate. In this way prayer and meditation would be the two methods by which we break down the fourth wall and come down from the state.
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