Today, we’re visiting the monastery, which connects environmental puzzles to the themes of meditative awareness and direct sensory perception. We also analyze the Tarkovsky theater clip! (Expand video description for timestamped highlights.)
00:47 — exploring the rich symbolism of the famous “reaching for the holy grail” statue on the peninsula outside the town.
24:15 — talking about the core theme/purpose of the monastery area: almost like a tutorial, the monastery deliberately creates an environment optimized for noticing the traceable environmental puzzles, even using panel puzzles for the purpose of getting players into the right mood to notice EPs. This is an analogy for actual Buddhist and Zen monasteries, which try to create an optimal environment for noticing directly-accessible truths about the mind and reality. But, in both situations, there is still a fundamental leap of realization that has to be made by the student — the nature of conscious experience can only be be pointed to and hinted at by even the most direct teachers.
29:25 — deciphering the symbols in the monastery’s murals, including the golden sun-grail that represents a transcendent state of unification akin to enlightenment.
40:00 — an audio log reminding us that our experience of life, despite seeming solidity, is actually made from fleeting, impermanent flashes of data from the senses. We often ignore this fact in favor of (useful, necessary) top-down summaries that our brain fits to the sense-data; meditation can bring us closer to the raw experience of unmediated reality.
43:18 — continuing the discussion above in the context of the ambiguous art on the laser-box outside the monastery.
47:15 — the monastery murals portraying a growing tree ALSO maybe portray a human brain and an atomic-bomb mushroom cloud?!
51:35 — talking about the monastery’s relationship to the fortress, an important dialogue / duality that spans the middle of the island and represents the gap between logical, analytical, western thought versus the experiential focus of meditation.
1:02:45 — giving important context for the Tarkovsky video, and considering multiple potential interpretations of what the video means in the context of The Witness
-To unlock the Tarkovsky video in the theater, the puzzle path required to unlock video is longest that can possibly be drawn on that panel. This is both a reference to the famous 9-minute cinematic long take and to the qualities of dedication and perseverance that the video engages with.
-In addition to the fact that the golden-grail, mountain beacon, and sun are all linked together by the Cusa statue inside a lighthouse (itself a distant, guiding light!), there are yet MORE connections here. Venus (the “morning star”) is visible near the horizon through the gap in the lighthouse wall, and all these symbols of distant guiding lights could also connect to the flickering candle carried across the pond during the Tarkovsky video (or to the “flickering lantern” in the poem at the end of the game). Finally, note that the Cusa statue is looking through a pane of glass at this constellation of transcendent beacons — could this be a reference to Braid?? In that game’s epilogue, “Everything [Tim] wanted was on the opposite side of that pane of glass,” including philosophical prizes like “the magnetic monopole, the It-From-Bit and the Ethical Calculus; and so many other things, deeper inside”. For more in this vein, play my free mod, Braid: More Now Than Ever!