The quality of our participation with time, space, and knowledge corresponds to differences in the quality of our experience in the following metaphor:
Imagine that you live within the depths of an ‘ocean’; you are completely permeated by it. It gives to you, and you take what it offers, acting in ways that are expressive of the purity and power of the water. The results of your actions remain within that same sphere, flowing freely back into the water. But the ‘ocean’ is vast, unbridled power, not limited or constrained by anything, and constrains nothing. It permits everything, even ways of relating to it that are very limited and ‘stand-offish’.
Let’s suppose that you become identified with one of these narrow, aloof ways of interacting with the ocean. It’s as though you have drawn above it, ignoring the qualities and depth of its waters. You don’t even “acknowledge” that depth; you don’t knowingly interact with it. But you can never completely sever your connection, so you can never avoid depending on it and interacting with it in some way. The result is that the ocean leaps up and slaps you in the face with the peaks of its high, jagged waves. This is the only form of contact your aloof stance will permit.
Perhaps you come to live on the very peaks of these waves and look across to the peaks of other waves around you. You pretend that reality is comprised only of what floats there on the peaks, that there is no ‘underneath’, not even any supporting water, except perhaps in some abstract sense. Even so, part of your new existence is the constant, shocking sensation of being struck by ocean sprays.
Perhaps you take this unpleasant experience as meaningless, just a ‘background phenomenon’. But it won’t go away. Always churned about by the waves, out of phase with the rise and fall of other peaks, it is hard to relate satisfactorily to others. The structures you build seem unstable, subject to some relentless, destabilizing power, and you are always struck in the face by the surging water.
If, eventually, you relax your obsession with scanning across the peaks, and become willing to give more attention to the water itself, to acknowledge it in a participatory sense, you can delve deeply into the ocean. Then, much to your vast amazement, the annoying stinging sprays and the undermining influence of the waves ceases. Your awareness is not restricted to maintaining contact with tiny, erratically jumping objects separated from you by unbridgeable distances.
‘Beauty’, ‘peace’, ‘security’, ‘fulfillment’, ‘intimacy’, ‘knowledge’, ‘communication’, ‘coexistence’ all come to acquire meanings very different from what they had for you on the surface. This ‘ocean’ and its ‘waves’ are only rough metaphors for the range of space and time as they are seen by different types of knowledge, different degrees of participation. Frustration, loss, and separation may have been typical themes for the knowledge of the surface, which was subject to the waves. But nothing can be lost or exhausted for that knowledge which remains attuned to the depths of space and time. Everything that fulfills and delights, and everything that stimulates knowledge to become more sensitive and encompassing, is perfectly preserved there. You can see why it’s so important that we be totally ‘in’ or ‘within’ time, space, and knowledge. (p. xxx-xxxiii, DOT I)
Time, space, and knowledge do not act in one particular way . . . . [it depends on] how deeply we acknowledge* our connection with them. Whether we acknowledge them or not, we are using them, and they are using us. Just because we ignore them, depending on them only unconsciously, doesn’t mean that there’s no interchange. We are still bound to time and space; we and they are inseparable companions. If we ignore our connection to them, we relegate ourselves to lives of a kind of menial, trivial service: the only way we allow ourselves to be used by the universe at large. (p. xxx, DOT I)
*footnote: “‘Acknowledging’ is not just an acceptance of an idea. Remember, the emphasis is on active expression—participation. What is the depth and quality of our participation?” (p. xxxi, DOT I)