The house is haunted by itself

Timothy Morton

Moving, Still.

Excerpts from the introduction to Stillness, a book of photographs by Nik Gaffney and a call to partake in the radical act of noticing.

I’m solid because things keep shifting around at my boundaries at every scale. Because of this movement, I retain my coherence. If there weren’t all kinds of quantum weirdness happening on my surface — weirdness such as barrier penetration, where a particle can enter a forbidden zone in a crystal lattice structure — I would disperse into a cloud of powder. I can write this because I am moving without mechanical input. I’m shimmering, and so are you.

I’m still.

I’m still, waiting. I’m quiet. That’s not the same as saying I’m fixed and silent. Yet it’s not quite the same as saying that I’m moving and sounding, either.

We talk about the ground state of an object: this is what the object is when you leave it alone. At its ground state, a tiny tuning fork is shimmering. The ground isn’t solid and static.

The ground is more like a haunted house — but this is a strange kind of haunting. The house is haunted by itself.

That’s how meditation feels. You can’t stop your mind. You can still it. You can allow it to reach its ground state, where you get to see that it’s an ungraspable, invisible being like a crystal ball — yet it shimmers with appearances, which we call thoughts. When you still or quiet your mind, you realize that this moving-yet-still quality is always there, no matter how fast you are going, no matter how much you forget that the thoughts are how your mind is appearing, how much you start to chase them as if you could sneak up behind them and grab them. There you are, sneaking up and grabbing at — yourself.

Seeing Just as It Is