Monday, June 6, 2011

a slow ascent into ignorance

No doubt the Grim Reaper of regret is lurking in some nearby corner, but for the moment, I feel lighter and somehow freed to know that my collection of spiritual-life books are gone.

Dennis, who had come here once or twice to snoop the parameters of Zen practice, showed up as promised yesterday and took them away at my invitation. The sense of relief seemed to be akin to the relaxation that bubbles up after a flat tire is finally repaired ... driving will be so much easier.

Those books had taken years and years to collect. It wasn't always easy scraping up the money required to pay for them. And then there was the reading and re-reading and imagining I had digested something only to find that my digestion had barely begun. "How true!" and "Now what do you suppose that means?" and "Ahhh!" and "Ouch!" came and went as I befriended those books and they befriended me.

The first time I read Huang Po, I felt as if every page was filled with the voice of someone who was cussing me out big time. He was yelling at ME for page after page after page. Yelling! And I don't cope well with people who are yelling at me. I feel caught between a sense of defensive anger and a sense that the one doing the yelling has got a point. Either way, Huang Po was yelling at me, all the way through the book, and yet when I finished, the first thing I did was to start reading it all over again...and he kicked my ass all over again. Call it masochism, call it determination, call it stupidity ... that's just what happened.

The quietly-tendered observations of "The Dhammapada" were not Huang Po's style. He was an ass-kicker and I was too blind to see/hear/feel "The Dhammapada" kicking my ass as well.

Each book had its quotient of cussing and cuddling. Each became a friend in one way or another. Friends don't ripen overnight. It took years and sweat and money and devotion and foolishness and commitment and ... well, I put what heart I had into these friends I met. And now the closet in which they had hung their clothes -- a couple of longish bookshelves -- is empty.

Isn't that the way of things? The most dearly-held effort or collection or affection -- really, it's terribly personal and compelling -- just wisps away, packs up and moves out of town. It's sort of sad, but at the same time there is a pristine space that is created -- in this case, along the book shelves. It's kind of neat, having space in which anything, anything at all, might happen. Jobs, spouses, hobbies, devotions, habits of what may seem like a hundred years and the upshot sounds a bit like the old Monty Python invitation, "and now for something completely different."

All the effort that went into those old habits has been informative: Really, you don't have to make an effort to fill the shelves. The shelves will do all the work themselves ... which leaves more energy to do something useful. Things happen all by themselves. You don't have to lift a finger.

I half expect the Grim Reaper of regret to come calling. What if I really, really want to look up something I know is in one of those books that is now only a memory? Won't I be kicking myself in the butt? Yes, I am grouchy when it comes to half-baked and unsupported facts. I don't like being ignorant.

I don't like being ignorant, but I have a feeling I could get used to it.

At last.

1 comment:

  1. Old age forces some acceptance, and it gets easier. Everything I always thought of as "me" is slipping away and the abyss of "no more me" looms. Fear and regret visit and then go home again. Or maybe I just forget they're there. It's all new, and it's all just this interesting moment. I'm getting used to it I think. But I think therefore I forget. Or is it that I never really was, therefore never really knew? Ask Murphy, whatever can go wrong is supposed to, so therefore it's not wrong? Take a nap. Take it from there.