Monday, April 15, 2013

completely incomplete

Is the point of painting to be a "painter?"
Is the point of skiing to be a "skier?"
Is the point of Buddhism to be a "Buddhist?"

My guess is no, but the longing for agreement and the longing to be right and the longing to be loved are all pretty strong things. Club-house reassurances have their uses and yet ...

Perhaps I am just airing my own dirty laundry, but I suspect that others who reflect may have come to similar conclusions: The central fly in the ointment of a happy life is to live cautiously ... to hold back a 5% in any effort, to create a safety net in case things go south, to maintain a bolt hole of skepticism or explanation or wisdom or something similar ... to keep a wary eye over the shoulder ... to doubt what anyone might claim to be so sure of.

The rug burn of this approach lies in the fact that this moment is inescapable and complete with or without anyone's approval or say-so. Buddhism, for one, addresses this  friction by encouraging "right" action, "right" thought, "right" meditation, etc. The word "right" is sometimes rendered as "complete" ... complete, as in this moment that could not be anything other than complete.

All of this may have a cozy, airy-fairy, philosophical, I-can-explain-it, dig-my-beliefs feel to it until there is some  experience that provides a concrete and in-your-face understanding of what it is to live a normal and complete life.

A sneeze, a kiss, an orgasm, a middle C and suddenly, perhaps, there is nothing else. Where did everything go? It feels bang-on and yet nothing is left and no applause can enter. It is lighter than a feather and more potent than a jackhammer. This ... is ... it -- right up until anyone says "this is it" and things swing back to the over-the-shoulder, 5%-withheld, safety-net world of agreement. Look Ma! -- I'm a Buddhist.

Once upon a time, I took a class in oriental calligraphy. It was sort of an associative adjunct to my then-pedal-to-the-metal interest in Zen Buddhist practice. Over and over again I screwed the pooch as I moved the brush across the paper. My 5% was in full swing. I wanted to get things right ... and missed the mark in very visible, very concrete ways. Still, I practiced ... and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't escape the desire to be good at it. Until one day, as if by accident, I got it right. I knew it was right with an assurance that somehow left me out of the equation and wondrously flabbergasted. Being right or being a calligrapher or being a Buddhist had nothing to do with anything... all that was possible, but it was not necessary.

It was complete.

And then it was gone.

Just like any other moment.

Practice, practice, practice. Practicing to escape what cannot be escaped until what cannot be escaped claims the scene and, voila! -- there is no escape and escape is all there is, but there is no longer a five-percent-er barring the way. There is no five percent any more than there is a 95%.

Practice painting ... OK.
Practice skiing ... OK.
Practice Buddhism ... OK.

But let's not forget the wide-open wonders of a sneeze ...


Completely incomplete.


  1. If you had peace and happiness in your heart, would you take it?
    Perhaps it is too darn scary.