Tuesday, January 5, 2010

what is impossible

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From the pulpit, I once heard a Vedanta swami say that if anyone were to travel to a faraway planet at the speed of light, still, when s/he arrived, the atman would have arrived first and be there waiting.

Depending on the school of thought, the atman can be, roughly, the soul of all things or the soul of the individual. Naturally, if you look it up and enter into the philosophical refinements attributed to the atman, you will never have time to get to the supermarket, let alone a faraway planet.

But what twinkles in my mind this morning is the pure impossibility of capturing or attaining or out-flanking or subjugating or even adoring that which might be called the direction or goal of spiritual endeavor. No wit, emotion, effort, philosophy, religion, hope, belief, fear, virtue, peeling prayer or groveling accolade will bring what is beyond-close any closer.

Wits and wags and others with keen minds may scoff and snicker that anyone would set out on a journey whose destination was unattainable. But wits and wags and others with keen minds have a way of dismissively overlooking the uncertainties and sorrows that such travelers may experience in their lives. And they seldom stop to wonder if the art and manipulation of what is possible truly eases their own hearts and minds. When all other options seem to pale or fail, sometimes the impossible is all that is left.

But desperation is not enough. Tears are not enough. Feeling small in the face of what may seem large is not enough. Longing for or praising what is beneficent is not enough. The impossible does not accede to what is merely possible. It is impossible, after all ... so what is it?

And in order to answer that question, the traveler is forced back on his or her own possibilities ... all of them. Each in turn requires attention and effort. Endless attention and effort. In a land where there is no peace, how can anyone find peace? It's impossible! In order to actualize the impossible, only a firm but caring attention to the possible is possible.

And sometimes it's a piss-cutter! Not for sissies, that's for sure. And not for wits and wags and others with keen minds. This is marrow-deep work, the kind of work that requires every ounce of energy ... even in the face of snickering or tears.

Thought, word and deed. Body, mouth and thought. Every possibility examined without shirking or shrinking back. This is not someone else's problem, someone else's journey, someone else's peace. This is Jesus walking into the desert ... alone. And praising Jesus is no better than a fart in a windstorm when it comes to walking, when it comes to being alone, when it comes to an actualized and impossible peace.

Possibility after possibility, day after day, week after week, light-year after light-year ... it's impossible stuff. Each possibility is slowly recognized as merely possible and not at all the impossible which beats us all to some faraway planet and beckons because there is no other option.

Slowly, the possibilities themselves become impossible ... impeccably impossible, unattainable, ungraspable and wispy as woodsmoke. Sure, there are concrete circumstances (get out of the way of the bus, stupid!), but the mind that sees the possibilities is no longer so swayed and convinced and defined by them. The neediness diminishes and diminishes and diminishes. It's no longer so special ... what the hell, it's just the impossible.

Impossible tears, impossible work, impossible laughter ... but there is weeping and working and laughing, right? How far away does anyone have to go in order to arrive at "now?" This is not just some self-help, smarmy, bullshit question. Literally, how many light years away is this breath, this smile, this kiss? Isn't this what invariably awaits on any faraway planet, in any heart-wringing plea, in any ornate and delicious philosophy or religion?

How far do you have to travel in order to get here?

And of course the answer is sometimes, "Pretty damned far!"

OK, so take a step.

How about them impossible apples?
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