“of all the things I’ve lost, the thing I miss the most is my mind” - A. Nonymous
I came home yesterday after an unexpected trip into town involving multiple busses and colectivo taxis only to find my keys gone. I rent, and relations with the landlords had been at a low ebb - it was not a happy moment. Once inside, i learned that the visa i believed to be out of reach was much nearer. Having two such contrary experiences in such proximity to each other can be disconcerting - whether to “laugh or cry” comes to mind. Bob Dylan has written “When you think you’ve lost everything, you find out you can always lose a little more.” I will rue his passing, not so much for myself because my own time is not so very far away, but for the loss to the world of such much needed wisdom about our human existence. My home has locks and keys for every door and most of the windows contain bars. My landlords are caring people making the most of a frontier experience, and the wealth of locking mechanisms reflect their concerns. It is not nice to have things taking away from you. However this is running counter to many things i am trying to understand about attachment and what is important. After my father passed away, i was in deep denial about the effect his death had on me. Nearly a decade later i am only beginning to recognize my impulse to repress many feelings, not just grief. It is as though the pain finds a way to be felt, regardless of any brave homilies one might evoke to get to the other side of discomfort. Yet with awareness and acknowledgement of pain comes growth. It is as though by the act of embracing discomfort one gains possession of a ghost, or more accurately light in a dark region of the soul.
According to my understanding Buddha said life is suffering, and that the cause of suffering is attachment. I admire Buddha very much, but do not consider myself a Buddhist - i’d be afraid of the attachment. Nor am i enamored of “things,” preferring a warm hearted woman to any cold beer i’ve ever had. G_d in her tender mercies made sure i learned attachment to a warm heart can be as lethal as any cold beer, only more so. The confusion of this lesson still resonates in distant parts of my being. The only solution i’ve found as yet is to be the warm heart for those still seeking what cannot be owned. Anymore, i’m losing confidence that anything in this material plane can be owned, including the mortal coil we all shuffle off. So how is it we as humans have dug ourselves this bottomless pit of violence and despair based on ownership? What is discernible about those who have achieved great possession, be it wealth, power or skill is the tangible sense of fear. It is as though beyond all appearances to the contrary the kernel of emptiness from such a quest rises like a cloud of smoke looking for fire. In the news Tiger Woods the golf prodigy was shown in a booking photo for drunk driving looking forlorn and haggard; i empathize, for i know that look well. However, there is nothing i can do to reverse that tape back to the Mike Douglas show when 2 year-old Tiger father was paraded by his father like a trained seal. Were that possible, i’d be tempted to strenuously object to Tiger’s father hijacking what didn’t belong to him - the happiness of another. Nor is this any of my business outside of provoking thought about possession and loss.
Just now i offered cold water to the harried half of my landlord’s team - she is bushwacking the immense yard they have secured for themselves through dogged determination and great bravery. Where we live can be quite hot, and from personal experience at bushwacking i believe in the power of cold water during great exertion - she declined; i can only try to understand. She may not have been thirsty, or had other reasons to decline. If i was strongly attached to dharma, i could feel much different about her rejection and have on many similar occasions. Part of my neurosis is to give compulsively. It may be from what i feel is empty within myself - kindness in this case. In many other instances, it is a spontaneous urge to help, and it doesn’t much matter who. What does matter is why. I am constantly surprised how often my help is declined, for example my friend whom i accompanied to town (in order to lose my keys) bought 4 large spools of yarn for his weaving business, i offered to share the burden in our journey back to the village, which he declined. It could be the logic of interpersonal dynamics demanding that i help myself, or it could be that i am not seeing clearly the needs of others - I don’t know. Even this writing labor of love is tainted by the confusion of motivation. Do I press on paragraph after paragraph due to some vain effort to vanquish a self-imposed working solitude with an illusion of high minded purpose¿ If so, does that reflect my conflict with dharma, or a fundamental lack of understanding about “good works”¿ There seems to be a huge disconnect in logic between what i am willing to do of free will with that of circumstances where i feel manipulated into giving, and i am confused.
My same living circumstance includes a metal frame veranda that has been waiting 3 months for a bamboo covering. Initially, i was taken out into the local fields in search of bamboo after a weekly shopping excursion. I felt resentful and hostile that my time was being taken from me without consultation at a time when i was in a pitched battle with a drawing project - the insinuation that the bulk of this effort was to fall in my lap became apparent soon enough; i balked. Now 3 months later, the bamboo was cut and delivered to the lawn in front of my casitas. 3 of us waded into the pile stripping stalks from the poles. I joined in, because that is how i’m built. It came time to break in the heat of the day; however three days later when there was no forward progress stripping stalks, i felt compelled to assume this responsibility, why is that¿ I’d convinced myself that it was for my domicile, so it was logical to contribute - but that is personally dishonest; invariably my willingness to extend myself in a fair fashion with this couple is not reciprocated. Is that loss or theft¿ What is it that i am attached to which is provoking such existential confusion, even motivating me to move elsewhere in the delusion that anything anywhere else will be different¿ Weeks earlier a new tenant and i were separated from the landlords during the weekly shopping excursion, i suggested she call them; she handed me her phone and i explained to the landlords we’d be too late for any rendezvous. When she and i returned to her car, she discovered her phone gone and became apoplectic accusing me of leaving her phone or worst taking it.
I liked this lady, and found myself shutting down to her, even to my living circumstances which prior to this had been tolerable. Meanwhile my sister introduced a logistical wrinkle for a family heirloom that soured for the time being - these are objects and buildings dislocating relations between people. Has it always been this way with humans¿ My last communication to my sister was asking if she knew our brother had, or was about to have major surgery - i’ve not heard back. How has it come about that inanimate objects have gained precedence over human emotion¿ Have we gained anything in a world of locks, heirlooms or attachment to conditions of success¿ Our wars increase and our future existence has become uncertain. Happiness has become a business and self knowledge a fearful domain remedied by more expense paid to professionals. What if there was no such thing as loss¿ What would happen if we listened to the wise, and trained ourselves to value nothing more than the ability to help another for no other reason than the certain knowledge that the only value of any worth is an open contribution to the wellbeing of another¿ There certainly was another time in our human existence that this was certainly true, otherwise you would not be reading for the simple reason our species would not have survived as long as it has. I cannot protect myself from loss, not by currying favor with strangers under the guise of dharma or amassing weapons, ammunition and impenetrable barriers between myself and others. The best thing i can see for me to do is gently mine the depths of my own confusion with whatever method or means that reveals more of the emerging self that remains warm and loving toward others under the broadest spectrum of circumstance.
gain - a sonnet
how did i come out ahead with such pain¿
who’d want to look a gift horse in the mouth?
why does so much strife accompany gain¿
do all freebies become vet bills going south¿
how is yoking the young to clocks worthwhile
when some take more walking to their cars than
some earn in a lifetime lifting “the” pile?
-you paying for that last ride in the van¿
will any human become a star echo?
was your last great effort worth all the time
it took away from watching your child grow,
or prevent your body from becoming slime¿
will words of any kind ever favor
what we have lost by our worst behavior?
reprinted with permission - all rights reserved