A fierce devotion. A fierce attention. A fierce willingness to sacrifice.
Fierceness is interesting.
A delight in its time, fierceness wears away like a camp fire that runs out of roaring brightness when the campers decide to get some sleep. As it dies, there are occasional jets of flame that spring up, but they are a shadow of the conflagration that came before.
Love, hate, anger, confusion, delight, belief, devotion, the wonders of chocolate, and the vileness of anchovies -- all have brightened and warmed the woodland of this life. But it takes energy to maintain fierceness -- new twigs and branches of flammable stuff. And when it comes time for anything as natural and sensible as sleep, expending energy dwindles and is the last thing from anyone's mind.
Reflecting on the flames of fierceness that have touched my life, I have to admit to an interest in spiritual endeavor. Sometimes it was very fierce and I look back on that fierceness with approval -- it was what I needed to do at that time. It wasn't necessary, but it was what I needed at the time. Something to kick my listless ass into action. Spiritual sissies -- those satisfied with half measures and smarmy belief -- are a dime a dozen ... and I didn't want to get caught in that trap.
And I was lucky. Zen practice (and for all I know, a lot of others) defies the nesting instinct, the willingness to say things are this way or that. Lucky.
But nowadays, as the campfire dwindles, one of the jets of fierce flame that can pop up here or there and reassert a fierceness of old, is this: What good is any spiritual endeavor if you cannot surrender that too? No need to force it -- campfires go out all by themselves. It is when they don't go out that the promise of spiritual endeavor is not yet realized. What the hell did anyone invent Buddhism (or whatever) for? Was it to elevate something called "Buddhism?" Seriously, what they hell did anyone invent it for? What was its honest promise and why did it make that promise? Was that promise just some snake-oil shill looking to burnish its image?
A million minds may burnish the scene. "Buddhism is good," they may proclaim. Or if not good, well, "it sure beats kicking baby robins." Walking in the Buddhist (or whatever) door that is marked "entrance," the fierceness arose and lighted the night skies. It suckled its adherents as the wolf suckled Romulus and Remus -- an origin myth that, although mythological, told a tale worth heeding. But at some point of practice, of fierceness, of suckling, the way becomes clear ... back to the door marked "entrance" on one side and, with an equal clarity, "exit" on the other. How could the promise of any spiritual endeavor ever be realized without the sine qua non imperative of stepping into the light ... of drifting into a soft and sensible sleep as the fiercest of fires burned out without a whimper?
And of course as soon as you mention sleep, some fierce view will caterwaul, "Sleep! Ha! You're just dozing in delusion!" Dimwits! No one can sleep "fiercely" or "virtuously" or "with great determination." Just get a good sleep. You can be a Buddhist (or whatever) later if you insist.