Tuesday, May 4, 2010

among the buses

Sometimes it seems that there is what happens and then there is what happens...and there is somehow a disconnect.

Incidents in California and China are reported as news because a knife-wielding woman at a Target store and an apparently-crazed man stabbing 28 school children are not a part of a sane and peaceful life ... the life a human being might weave in the mind. They are shocking incidents -- incidents that point out the limited and fragile quality of the peaceful life anyone might assume or pursue.

Naturally, such incidents are extreme. They are shocking. They are insane. But the most upsetting quality, perhaps, is that they are entirely possible and much of what passes for a sane and peaceful life is composed of holding some possibilities close and keeping others at bay. Some assumptions are more comfortable than others just as (George Orwell) some pigs are more equal than others.

Of spiritual endeavor, someone once observed approximately and aptly, "Understanding is knowing to get out of the way of an on-coming bus. Practice is for the bus you didn't see coming." Although not everyone has run into a knife-wielding insanity, still, everyone has experienced the bus they didn't see coming ... the event or circumstances that upset the sane and peaceful apple cart of the mind... the comforting and comfortable assumptions of this life... the assumptions that may never be articulated or investigated ... the background hum of any given life.

All things are possible, but we all spend quite a lot of time assuring and asserting that some things are possible and some things are not. It's an individual and quite personal matter, but that doesn't make it any less true... making up rules and philosophies and beliefs that will keep the buses we didn't see coming under control, at bay, or held close.

And still, there are the buses we didn't see coming. Still, the limitlessness of possibilities asserts itself. Still, our apple carts are upset in one way or another.

It takes some courage and patience to address such matters. Courage because limitlessness is not a part of our training and upbringing. And patience because that training and upbringing are deeply ingrained ... habitual as salt and butter on popcorn.

It takes investigation to discover that the bus we imagined we saw coming is not the bus we saw coming ... ever. It may seem to be as we imagined it -- peaceful and sane and under control -- but then ... well, then things never turn out exactly as expected.

A recognition of limitlessness can be pretty depressing, given our training and upbringing. It smacks of helplessness and incompetence and yet human beings are never helpless or incompetent. If everything is nothing but the bus we didn't see coming -- if every moment is brand new and wide open as a mother's arms -- how are we supposed to make our way in a peaceful and sane life? Limitlessness sounds like anarchy or like some impersonal dictatorship ... a determinism infused with laziness and wishful thinking. Oy vey ... knife-wielding lunatics around every corner! Prepare yourself! -- The end is nigh.

Actually, of course, the uncertainties aroused in the mind are nothing but fertile ground. The only question is, who will plant a nourishing crop? Who will make the effort to get the matter of limitlessness straightened out in their own hearts? Who will make friends with the bus they didn't see coming? Who will stop begging for water while drowning in the lake?

Practice is for the bus we didn't see coming. And in what does that practice consist? Well, different people express it in different ways, but I like "attention" and "responsibility." Talking the talk can never replace walking the walk.

And who wouldn't prefer a pleasant walk among the buses no man ever saw coming?

1 comment:

  1. thanks for a well needed change in perspective. I was just run over by one of those buses I didn't see coming. I've been sitting with the experience trying to form a response and have realized there is no direct response. It's one of those teachable moments.

    Nice time to have stumbled upon your blog!