Wednesday, December 14, 2011

pure water and a vat

Making sense of the world and the personal experience within it ... maybe that's one way to describe this 'pilgrim's progress.' Maybe everyone's a metaphorical pilgrim, everyone's headed in more or less the same direction (happiness, joy, peace, sorrow, death, birth, love, etc.), but the stones that get stuck in our sandals and how to cope with them varies. Maybe that's one way to make sense of this world.

Yesterday, I read the Japanese aphorism, "Water drunk by the cow becomes milk; water drunk by the snake becomes venom.” It struck me as a nice little mind-munchie. Anything can be employed in pursuit of anything else. Some uses nourish. Some screw the pooch. Good and evil arise from the same pure water.

In Hinduism, there is the fable of the tinker who comes into an Indian village carrying a vat. He sets his vat up in the center of town and offers to dye the villagers' bits and bolts of cloth. People line up to get their cloth dyed. The first person in line says she would like to have her cloth dyed blue. Into the vat goes the cloth and out it comes ... blue. The next man says he would like red. Into the same vat that produced a beautiful blue goes the cloth ... and out it comes, red. The next person prefers green, and again, the vat magically disgorges green cloth. And so it goes, down the line, each villager wishing for a different color and the vat producing what is requested. Finally, there is one last man in line. He hands his cloth to the itinerant tinker and says, "I'd like mine the color of what is in the vat."

Pure water.

A magical vat.

A temple in which to utter one version or another of what might roughly be called "God" or "essence" or something similar. It's the joker in the deck -- the card that enhances the meaning and power of all the other cards. It's a way of making sense of the world and the yearnings within it. Silly or serious, it's a cornerstone, a beginning before the beginning, pure and magical. It explains stuff, but cannot itself be described or explained. Virtue is irrelevant. Venousness is secondary. Speech and silence come up short. Liars and sages are on an equal footing. Those who long for it and those who don't give a shit frolic on the same playground.

Pure water.

A magical vat.

A joker.

A God.

It doesn't care and yet is somehow the ultimate care-giver.

'Ultimate' -- now there's a word!

When it comes to explaining or making sense of the world, it seems to me that one of the inevitable errors is to seek that sense in the comings and goings of others. Using other things and other people and other events, somehow the fables and fabrications that allow me to explain and make sense pile up. It's understandable, but the question arises, does it work? Since 'others' are in constant flux, constantly changing from this to that, I would guess that it does not work well and that uncertainty is the result. Seeking for certainty by using a tool that assures uncertainty -- it doesn't strike me as very sensible. A God that is other than man; a vat possessing magical powers; an ultimate out there that contrasts with the relative in here.

Explanations don't make much sense until we give up and 'become' the thing we seek. We are -- invariably -- the vat, the pure water ... and the only question is whether we might be willing to actualize that fact ... not as a holiness or wisdom or virtue or even venousness ... but just as a fact. It's as if life were some gentle but firm uncle counseling, "Relax! You're alive, aren't you? What the hell else did you expect?"

The nature of purity is impurity. The nature of impurity is purity. It's not as if anyone had a choice. You want to be a snake? Be a snake. You want to be a cow? Be a cow. You want to be a vivid blue? Be blue. You want to be a saint? Be a saint. You want to be a sinner? Be a sinner. You want to be 'ultimate?' Go ahead and be 'ultimate.' You want to be 'relative?' Be 'relative.' Happy, sad, tall, short, rich, poor ... just do it: When did explanations ever explain much?

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