Friday, March 13, 2009

a superstitious cuss

Coming off the Interstate on the way home last night, there was the moon. It seemed to be full or very close to it, and for a moment I indulged in a little superstition: "Ah, a full moon ... that's why things are so stressed and strained. It's the craziness of the moon, the alignment of the stars ... maybe I should consult some oracle or slaughter a bull or try to find a virgin to sacrifice or mortify myself in some virtuous way. That would make things better." For a moment, I felt like someone who knew how to read and chose to immerse himself in a comic book ... going back to some earlier footing that was simple and supportive and comforting.

Intellectually, I was capable of putting such fantasies in their place, of applying, perhaps, some Buddhist technology ... of, somehow, living up to the moment and its actualities. But the fact was that I don't mind such fantastic or illusory comforts any more. What is an "ancient guy" (as my son calls me) going to do about his fantasies anyway? -- actualize what once was dreamed or continues to be dreamed? It's too late, and so, if I feel like dreaming a little, well, it's just dreaming and perhaps pleasant on the drive home from work.

Sometimes I dream that I will wake up young again -- that the whole aging process has been some mistake, that the youthful dreamer within will be vindicated and actualized, that the tectonic plates so lovingly and urgently constructed in the past will cease to drift apart. In the past, I have dreamed of forcing those plates apart, as if there were some better approach to so-called ego and its wonders. But now I wonder about forcing anything ... forcing water to be wet when it has been wet all along.

Last night, I got an Internet note from an Internet chum saying she had bought a copy of my book for her UU minister. "I think he will enjoy it," she wrote. And I wrote back, "It's always nice to be flattered." And it is. I flatter you, you flatter me. It's not that bad, is it? It's just a small superstition. Water is still wet. Tectonic plates move apart. Isn't it only when I imagine that flattery has some stand-still, credible meaning that I run into trouble?

Sometimes I think that those practicing Buddhism are wrestling against the losses they imagine might occur. Fighting on the one hand, inviting on the other: "Enlightenment," "compassion," "freedom," "emptiness," "love," "joy" -- gotta get me some of that, on the one hand, but the price seems exorbitant on the other. In the tussle between the one hand and the other, a lot of dust gets thrown into the air. The eyes sting. The body aches. The efforts are enormous. The philosophies are intricate. And lost or obscured in the mix is just the enjoyment of a little flattery, the enjoyment of the moon, the natural balm provided by a glass of water.

Hell, what can I say? I'm just a superstitious cuss from time to time.

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