The Zoo Fence
a commentary on the spiritual life

A Portrait of A Landscape

A portrait: I am in my room seated in my chair looking out a window onto my garden. Also in my room are my rug, a small table, another chair and a couch, and a couple of potted plants. All mine.

A landscape: A room in which are two chairs and a comfortable couch. There is a weaved light gray rug on the floor, a small glass-topped table, and a couple of potted plants. A window looks out onto a garden. There is a man seated in one of the chairs. He is looking out the window.

A portrait painting is all about, even only about, the person in it. The rest is fill. A landscape painting is only about the whole; nothing in a landscape painting is fill.


A portrait painting consists of a person in the foreground and everything else, anything else, even nothing else, in the background. That is, a portrait is a painting of the person, and the background is irrelevant. The person is all that matters.

A landscape painting, on the other hand, has no background. It is all foreground. None of the elements in a landscape are separate or separable. The landscape is one and whole. All of the elements of a landscape exist only in the context of the landscape, and they exist solely in relationship to one another. Each of them exists not singly but jointly; the whole thing is the Thing.

Think of the manifested universe (what each of us calls “my life”) as a landscape, not a portrait. That is, it is not a representation of each of us (“me”) amidst other people, things, and events (“I am me, everything else isn’t”), like a portrait. Rather, the entirety of “my life” is one subject matter, like a landscape, which is each of us (“This I am”).

We think “Here I am, living in my life.” In Truth, our lives are landscapes: “My life (in its entirety) is me.”

I am not living my life. I am my life. My life is me.

Stefan is not a person. Stefan is a landscape, composed of Stefan-the-person and all the other stuff: people, places, plants, animals, thoughts, ideas, past-present-future, that are Stefan’s life. Ditto you, you too are a landscape. Think about that. In some way I cannot yet put into words, you and I are two landscapes, somehow sharing, what, the same space and the same time. Or is it you are in my landsape, and I am in your landscape? Or is there an infinite Maxi-Landscape that consists of countless mini-landscapes (yours, mine, etc etc)? Oh well.

Anyway. Life in a landscape is all about relationship. If a piece of the background is removed from a portrait, it does not matter; it may not even be noticed. The portrait remains intact. But you cannot remove a piece from a landscape, for doing so alters the landscape itself.

Every bit of our discomfort arises from our mistaking our lives for portraits when they are landscapes. This is an inevitable symptom of the separative egoic mind. The illusion “I am me, and you aren’t” leads naturally to “This is my life, not yours”.

Now, this landscape — our life — is a representation of the One (God being Infinite, there is no thing else it can be). That is, what each of us calls “my life” is the One being (perceived as) (perceiving Itself as) that.

Think of Portrait Mode as I am me, and you aren’t. And Landscape Mode as I Am That I Am (Exodus 3:14)

Being Infinite, the One is changeless. But the landscape is constantly changing. It is in constant motion, with a momentum of its own, a momentum derived from the Infinity of the One, which it is. For illustration purposes, compare it to the ocean, which is constantly in motion, constantly changing, but always the same.

In the beginning, we consider our lives to be portraits. “My life is about me which is my body and its life.” Then, as seekers, we come to see them as landscapes. “My life is composed of — is — everyone and everything in it, however defined.” Finally, we realize we are the landscape, and that the landscape is a portrait of ourself, which is ultimately the Self.


Let’s do this together one more time. Imagine a Norman Rockwell-type painting of a street in a small village. A few trees along the sidewalk, several small cracks in the pavement, a manhole cover, a parked car, a moving pickup truck, a hardware store, a coffee shop, a shaggy dog sleeping in a shaded spot, a woman pushing a baby carriage, a couple of kids tossing a ball.

That’s a landscape. Every part of it is necessary to the entirety, but no part of it is more important than any other part. If I put myself, or you put yourself, into that Norman Rockwell painting, that would not make it a painting of me or you on a village street. It would simply add another item — say, a gray-haired old man on a bicycle — to the already existing landscape.

And again. I step out of my house into a rose garden. I observe the rose plants. I savor their fragrant blossoms which encourages my self-satisfaction at having grown them. That’s a portrait.

Or, next to a modest country home are rose plants. Present are aphids, mites, a butterfly, a caterpillar, a few lady bugs, a spider spinning a web. Sharing the soil are a bit of grass and assorted weeds and a few earthworms. A Black-capped chickadee soars overhead as a lovely old woman walks by. That’s a landscape.

I suspect God sees Creation as a Landscape, a Single Whole Unit composed of stuff like you and me and everything else, however defined. Indivisible, all of it, individually and jointly equally precious, equally beloved. All one, just One.

December 23, 2023

The Zoo Fence

Once again, in Portrait mode, we are fixated on me.

ME — the physical body and it’s life, which I call Stefan — is the subject of Portrait mode. In Landscape mode there is no subject. Or the subject of Landscape mode is What Is, which is all there is, the whole. The entirety is the subject of Landscape mode.

In Portrait mode, yesterday, tomorrow, last year, next year, are all separate from each other, and separate from the present.

In Landscape mode, there is no time. It is always now.

Portrait mode is finite. Landscape mode is infinite, in time and space and whatever.

December 26, 2023

It sounds to me like Portait mode is the egoic existence common to us all. The universe seen through my (your) eyes processed by my (your) mind. Landscape mode requires transcendence of the ego, a willingness (a condition?) to focus on the fullness, a totality of which, in which, we are essential but no more so than any other aspect, element, piece (word?).

Guido's Tree

‘Guido’s Tree’ by Nancy Nadzo

In Landscape mode there is no ego? I am not certain of that, but I am pretty sure of it. Ego is the source of separative dimensions and presumptions and definitions (“I am me, not you”), and that is absent in Landscape mode.

It is hard (impossible) for me to imagine living (being alive) without an ego. But as I understand them, the Teachers do. Which raises the question: Is Lanscape mode Awareness, Realization, Born Again, Enlightened? I am not yet ready to assert so, but I think so.

December 28, 2023

It is clearer this morning. The answer to that question is (increasingly certainly) “Yes.” Again, I am not there yet, but I can feel it. Portrait mode is Stefan perceiving himself as “me” — and the life I perceive myself to be living and the world in which I perceive myself to be living it are mine. There is no such sense in Landscape mode. There the entirety is What Is, and that’s it. None of it belongs to anyone … except Its Self, the Self, the One, God.

After umpteen years as a seeker, I can say with near certainty that I know (please observe the lower case k) what lies ahead — indeed, what IS HERE NOW but which I cannot Know because of the continuing continued presence of the ego which precludes, prevents, disables (word?) the ego’s being silenced, transcended, erased, discontinued (word?).

Portrait mode is What Is perceived by me as me, as my life, as Sefan. Yes, it is What Is because What Is is all there is. But it is What Is being perceived limitedly (word?) … with blinders on (the veil?).

Consider this. I remember many decades ago when Nancy and I purchased our first stereo player, and hearing with earphones for the first time music in stereo. One day, I handed the earphones to a friend so she too could hear it. But in taking the earphones off me, and handing them over, I had accidentally, inadvertently pulled their plug from the stereo player just enough that the sound they produced was mono not stereo. Our friend politely smiled as she listened to the recording through improperly connected earphones while undoubtedly wondering “What’s the big deal?” After a few moments, I noticed what I had done, and pushed the plug the rest of its way in. Her smile changed to “Oh, yea!”

In a way, I think that incident suggests a sense of the difference between (1) living as we are now in a world delimited by the ego and (2) Being Aware of What Is as It Is. From mono to stereo. From Portrait to Landscape.

Lanscape mode is Being There. Or as a Teacher would correct that, Being Here Now.

No, of course I am not saying it is precisely like the difference between mono and stereo. Indeed and in fact, I do not know what it is precisely like. I am simply suggesting an analogy to help me understand, held us understand, what I think lies Ahead, what experiences, momentary experiences, over decades as a seeker suggest lies Ahead. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. (1 Corinthians 13)

January 1, 2024

On this more-or-less subject, see also my consideration of the crucifixion of Jesus/Issa.

Recognizing myself in all that is alive,
and all that is alive in myself,
I shower my life with my love.

Going up!

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The Zoo Fence