Friday, November 19, 2010

I wonder if there is anyone who has not suffered a tragedy -- some moment when their whole world is turned upside down, when things are blown apart and what had been a pretty mundane life become raw and clawing and endlessly uncertain.

This morning I read these words on a Zen Buddhist bulletin board:

3-1/2 years ago we lost our teenage son. He was struck by a car while riding his bicycle in front of our home.
Living with the grief and anguish has been difficult, to say the least.
The loss of my beautiful son has forced me to ask myself very direct questions about the nature of existence.
  As a parent, I could feel my stomach lurch and my foundations shudder. But a sympathetic/empathetic reaction cannot compare with the experiences of tragedy ... or joy either, for that matter. The world comes unglued in an endless array of glass shards -- bright, brilliant, and eviscerating. Outsiders may wring their hands (or, in the case of joy, applaud and write self-help books), but within the event there is only ... the event.

There is no escaping the explosion that explodes are your feet. It is like being a suicide bomber who presses the button -- where could you possibly run? You thought you had a contract with life -- worked hard to be in control and perhaps decent in your doings -- and somehow life betrayed you in a nanosecond: BOOM! And then there is what follows ... moment after moment of remembrance and reliving and re-feeling the pain. Who would not weep?

And yet, without demeaning any tragedy with smarm talk, there is a time when tears simply run out. Facts are facts, however harsh. And the fact is that such facts are our constant companions: This moment is relinquished -- is blown apart -- as the next moment arrives. Sometimes it is easy to imagine that there is a continuity -- that things are under control and 'normal'... job, marriage, relationships, income, exercise-- and sometimes the BOOM is magnified beyond all comprehension.

 Letting go of what is already gone is not possible. Holding on to what is already gone is not possible. In Zen Buddhism, such a situation might be called a koan, but no one needs Zen Buddhism to face the realities that life offers them -- realities that do not evaporate in the face of hope or belief. There is this ... and that's it ... now what?

I do not know how I would feel if a child of mine were to die. I do know that even the thought knots my innards. Such a BOOM is inconceivable ... and let's face it, I am habituated to conceiving things.

To bring some resolution to the BOOM's of life is hard and yet everyone finds their own way. Some ways are more satisfactory than others, but everyone works on the issue, whether consciously or subconsciously, seeking a way to break some invisible barrier. Forget about it, turn to god about it, take drugs about it, wax philosophical about it ... pick your salvation, pick your poison.

The moment-to-moment BOOM's throw thought, word and deed into a cocked hat. When thought, word and deed are gone ... what is left? What works? Is there any reprieve or peace to be had?

I am grateful to have run into Zen Buddhism. I don't recommend it, but I am grateful to have run into it. Zen Buddhism itself goes BOOM in the hands of anyone trying to hold onto it. BOOM ... and again BOOM ... and again BOOM. Denigrate it? BOOM. Elevate it? BOOM. But the BOOM-ING voice of Zen Buddhism is clear and appropriate when experiencing the BOOM's, little or large.

Sit down, erect the spine, shut up, focus the mind ... and go BOOM.

No more evasions.

It's a relief of sorts ... BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!

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