Latin. cont. “The human who learns, receives, and considers oneself indebted.” A neologism for humanity that eschews the oppression of ultimacy.
Life is experience. All experience is learning. Learning is the food of life, its central pleasure. We learn what we do not know. What we do not know is the food of life. We depend on what we do not know to continue living. What we do not know gives us life. We move towards what we do not know, breathing air we have never breathed. We receive what we do not know in every moment. We are indebted to the unknown for this gift of life. We chase the unknown through desire for experience, rendering implicit and baffled praise to we know not what. The familiar is but a subtler texture of the unknown.
We think we are ambivalent to the unknown, or we think we might fear it. Such fear is excitement, misunderstood. In former self-definition, we emphasized what is past and static by taking the name of homo sapiens: the presumption of knowledge rather than the process of continual learning. Homo accipiens envisions the sense of self as neither solid (accomplished/atman) nor transient (illusory/anatman), but rather porous. Water darkens the unfired clay pitcher.
Now, recognizing our secret love for what we do not know, we assert our learning-life, our devotion to the infinitely receding horizon, through which we gambol and pause in wonder at every blade, clod, feather, twitch, colour, guna, odour, texture, tremor, swirl, breeze, drop, other drop, and drop that announces the next drop, each a mirrored pearl of a world slipping from unknown to into the known, while always promising more. The unknown outruns us. We are breathless, exhilarated.
Remaining this indebted and gratified depends on recognizing when each learning episode has come to its natural conclusion, and then turning away from the empty stare of the idol and seeking the next flow of rasa. For instance, the “Truth” of Ganesha breaking his tusk to pen the poetry of humanity is a pleasure to imbibe, evoking the wonderment of a childhood story. But when the juice of that imagery is fully squeezed (and we know this not through scientific measure but through our appetite for the story, and its taste), we are left with a rind that becomes iconic, which suggests the meanings of another time, or a series of venerable rituals, philosophical speculations, awkward and embarrassing prayers with the hand over the heart, or the object of any static dogma – none of which retain the contact of childhood learning. As the pleasure of a particular learning encounter evaporates, so too does its truth. If the children and teenagers are sniggering during the ritual, they are compensating, trying to add in a form of learning that the ritual has emptied out.
The end of each learning arc heralds the twilight of the idol. You know you are no longer learning when the rind is dry. Jesus stops bleeding on the cross – there’s no more blood to pour out. The tears of Mary looking up at him stop flowing – the sun is setting, the dusk is cold, and she sobers to the task of burial. What an abuse of the dance of consciousness to freeze this tableau in place, to varnish his streams of blood, to cast his broken body in plaster or bronze, to fossilize Mary in her hopelessness and strip away her maternal pragmatism, and to generally demand that your heart and mind continue to venerate what it is no longer learning? Worse – when your emotions no longer open to the image, you blame yourself, tragically believing you have failed this thing which ironically has been bled dry. It’s like blaming yourself for not finding a plate of plastic food to be appetizing, while in the meantime your hunger increases.
No wonder the medievals hallucinated the bleeding of statues and communion wafers. The heart’s guilt at not finding connection with what it is told is holy is too grave to bear. The mind through pure force of will must make that image seem to live, so that learning can be renewed. Homo accipiens will go to any length to continue to receive.
To what extent can the sensation of your breath alone evoke the same wonderment and fascinating absorption that you felt when your mother told you your first story? To what extent can what seems to be absolutely familiar regain its status as the unknown?
Because we do not know the world, the world is creator. Because we do not know ourselves, we are creator. Because we do not know each other, we are co-dependent and co-creative. Food for each other. Earth for each other. Bound to each other though endless and edgeless learning.