Sometimes I marvel at the ability of the human mind to edit its surroundings, squeezing wide panoramas of events or people into convenient bite-sized bits.
Yesterday, Dennis came by for a visit and a small investigation of Buddhism and its uses. In the course of our conversation, he told me a variety of things about himself, things that were all of a piece for him, but which, for me, were as fragmented as they were compelling. There was adoption, there was a Catholic upbringing, there was child molestation, there was the Marines, there was martial arts, there was a gathering fear of death, there was an interest in martial arts and a similar interest in tea, there were his wife and children, and ... well, there were a lot of other personal and compelling facts he detailed without a lot of hand-wringing. He wanted a little more peace and tranquility in his life and Buddhism seemed to him to be worth investigating on behalf of that peace.
What a wide and rich panorama -- a panorama so wide, in fact, that my mental reactions and collations could hardly do more than limit them. Isn't it funny how we may complain about a sound-bite approach to life (tweeting and face-booking, blogging, etc.) and yet our minds, no matter how expansive and caring we may try to make them, does precisely the same thing. We limit because, we whine, "I can't know everything about everything." And then, having created our sound bites, we proceed to hold them fast as if they were true. "Sally is the pretty one over there" or "Harry works for a bank" or "Steve is a Republican" or "Harriet is a Buddhist." If we stopped to examine what we claimed to examine, our opinions and judgments would be thrown into disarray or lose their savor ... and without my opinions and judgments, how could I know who I am?
But a little at a time, with examination, my opinions and judgments seem to pale. Life is just plain more interesting than the cookie cutter I apply to it ... it's wider and less open to an understanding based on my cookie cutter, my sound bites, my tweets. Life declines my arm-lock invitations to "good" and "bad," "happy" and "sad," "loving" or "angry," "tall" or "short," "holy" or "heinous."
With my definitions withering, what then is left? If everything intersects with everything else, if everything infuses everything else, who the hell am I?
And the only answer I can come up with that makes much sense is, "Well, there is this!"