Monday, March 8, 2010


On the TV, a handsome young Spanish bullfighter said his profession took him to his limits. It helped him to know himself. He seemed a bit confused when the reporter interviewing him asked him if he had found his limits.

Between the show's interviews with various matadors, there were film segments in the ring ... young men dressed in brocade enticing bulls that weighed something less than a ton to charge a red cape the matadors held in their hands. The bull's power and horns were obvious. The banderillas inserted at the bull's shoulders or neck waved awkwardly in the Spanish sunshine. The banderillas were meant to slow the bull down by blood loss, but it was clear that in terms of the man the bull was facing, the bull was still very dangerous, a potential killer that the matador had chosen to challenge. Nostrils flaring and dusty, the bull charged again and again as the man faced his death again and again... faced his limits ... and the onlookers, vicariously, faced theirs.

One matador was gored, suffered liver damage, was hospitalized, recovered, sat out the rest of the season ... and then returned to the ring.

Testing our limits. Strange how we ourselves are the ones who set the limits -- through hopefulness or fear -- and yet the urge is there to test the limits, to break out, to go beyond the limits we took so much time and made so much effort to erect. And yet, having tested our limits, there still seem to be limits ... and a need to return to the ring despite the goring we may have received.

Death may sound like the 'ultimate' limitation, the point beyond which limits are no longer valid or binding, but is it really true? If it were true and if the limits that preceded it were true ... well, hell, matadors could just commit suicide and have done with it.

Of course most of us are not matadors or soldiers facing the firepower of an enemy or anything so extreme, so 'ultimate.' But everyone, I think, meets and acknowledges his or her limitations in life and longs to be more at ease, longs to be less limited, longs for a limitlessness that is sensed in the very limitations that have been erected. Of course there are those who can talk a good game, erecting limitations of profession or marital status or religion or philosophy and then heaping on ever more intricate reasonings for remaining within those confines. But the very effort to maintain and perhaps dress those limits in brocade does little to find the limitless ease that whispers from within these limits.

Again and again the bull charges. Again and again the matador adroitly avoids the potentially-fatal horns. Again and again we learn and then press our limits in an effort to assert and somehow reclaim our limitlessness. Again and again and again. Any matador can tell you, this is no realm for philosophy, no realm for religion, no realm for belief: This is a time for focus and attention. This is a time for responsibility. This is serious shit.

Every moment is like this, I think -- an opportunity for limitlessness that is not an "opportunity" at all: It is just limitless before limitlessness ever becomes a hope or a wish or a fear. "This," as Robert DeNiro says in the movie "Deer Hunter," "is this." This is this and there is no limitation whatsoever. This is this -- limited and complete and limitless and peaceful as a dandelion.

This is this.


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