Thursday, January 26, 2012

Here's to 41 Years

41 years on this hunk of rock, held to the ground by the sheer speed and force of this orb spinning heedlessly around the sun.

Earlier this week, I gave my friendship and a listening ear to a man who was having a very bad night, who kept saying, "There is no foundation anywhere." A feeling I know so well. Almost as though we can feel the motion of the planet as we fumble around between one desire over here and a grand idea over there, tasting sweet sickness whenever we notice they don't add up.

Just last night, I was reading some of Petrarca's dream conversation with St. Augustine, his hero. Augustine says that in order to liberate his spirit, Petrarca would need to break the chains of love and glory.

They are pleasant though they injure; they deceive you by a false show of beauty. Have you forgotten that the climax of all evils is when a man, rooted in some false opinion, grows fatally persuaded that his course is right?

The happy news is we are not stuck with that. The sense of living a dream wrapped inside an existential nightmare is a mirage, even if it is persistent and sometimes convincing. The problem is attaching our identity and our happiness to these shooting stars in our surface consciousness. Augustine (at least, Petrarca's version of him) is closer to the mark in saying the problem comes when a person is "fatally persuaded" their ideas are the truth. Even love and glory, we submit to Augustine, have their uses; and pleasure without attachment nourishes our spirit.

Holding the hand of my love, I enfold for a moment her life in mine. A fragile and passing thing, this life in my hand, yet in this moment we are complete. The problem starts because we think we lose that: my love walks away, and I think we are separate. Really? What is the difference between the touch of my love's hand this second, and the pain of missing her at a different time?

The soft, internal revolution of awakening allows for what Joseph Campbell called "joyous participation in the sorrows of the world." May we all attain what those words describe, in joy and in pain.

The best birthday gift you could give me is your own awakening. Wake up, love yourself and this whole disordered universe together.

Coming empty-handed, going empty-handed – that is human.
When you are born, where do you come from?
When you die, where do you go?
Life is like a floating cloud which appears.
Death is like a floating cloud which disappears.
The floating cloud itself originally does not exist.
Life and death, coming and going, are also like that.
But there is one thing which always remains clear.
It is pure and clear, not depending on life and death.
Then what is the one pure and clear thing?

--Zen Master Seung Sahn


David Ashton said...

Happy birthday. Thanks for the beautiful words.

Kelly said...

Happy Birthday, Algernon.

Mandy_Fish said...

Happy birthday and I will.

Nathan said...

Happy birthday again! Thanks for the excellent post.