Featured article of the month: Good snowflakes
– by Jim Champion
I’ve just listened to the second talk Stephen Batchelor gave at a Son retreat in 2016 at Gaia House in Devon,’ Good snowflakes – they don’t fall anywhere else’. In fact I’ve listened to it more than once as the first time I did so while very tired and lying down, and however engaging the content sometimes it’s not enough to keep you awake.
In this talk, Stephen is on as good form as he was in the first talk in which he gives instructions for a meditation on ‘What is this?’, perhaps a bit perkier than he’s seemed in previous talks I’ve listened to. In one of the talks he explicitly acknowledges those ‘listening on the podcast’, so he’s well aware that what he’s saying includes a wider community beyond the fifty or so people in the hall with him at Gaia House.
He introduces his theme using the koan ‘Good snowflakes: they don’t fall anywhere else’, which I’d not come across before, and goes on to expand on it – trying to resist attempts at explaining it – using examples from modern, Western culture, specifically from the natural sciences.
His examples turn out to be about the sublime (that which is beyond expression, in one way of defining it). In some ways he’s looking at the awesome aspects of the way that physics, chemistry and biology have provided answers to the question of ‘what is this thing, and how did it get here?’.
The sheer uniqueness of you being you, considering all the possibilities involved during human sexual reproduction. The unfathomable depth of outer space, the ungraspable perspective of looking out into the night sky.
The answers provided by science amount to descriptions, perhaps not ‘satisfying’ as answers to ‘What is this?’ but they do provide us with a perspective on how impossible it is for us to get a perspective on these issues.
– the complete post can be found here: