Sunday, October 18, 2015

What Is It

What is it inside our heads
That makes us do the opposite
Makes us do the opposite 
Of what's right for us
'Cause everything'd be great
And everything'd be good
If everybody gave like everybody could

- My Morning Jacket , "Librarian"

* * *

The beginning of all wisdom is the realization that you could have been kinder, could have extended yourself further than you did, that you could have helped another to feel less alone instead of isolating yourself from that possibility because you were afraid to be rejected or came to the fearborn conclusion  that what you had to give was too small, not enough, flawed. 

I know. 
I know.

It is a pernicious lie we tell ourselves because it protects us from ever letting the world in, the strange, savage and beautiful world of which we are part, of which we create by the things we say and do or don't say and do. If it scares you, my love, can you imagine how it is for your children, your friends, your co-workers, the people you'll never know but hear about from time to time on the evening news? If you are scared you have to consider the possibility that others are too, and knowing this, how can you not set aside a portion of your fear to help them? Bodhisattvas are simply those who extend themselves past their fears to ease the fears of those they encounter. Kindness is their only tool.

But you are no bodhisattva, right? That's a high bar.

Not really. The bar is level set to your willingness to give as you can. By doing what you can as you can,  by setting aside the fear that limits you you become more generous, gentle and strong.

Such is the beginning of wisdom.

* * *

But wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none can come to buy and you are but one in the midst of many and coral reefs are dying and Hungary has closed its borders and the ghost of George Wallace hangs over Alabama and everywhere you look there is injustice, a plague of stupidity and craven cynicism. You are just one in the many and it seems better to withdraw, protect, lay low, be quiet, try not to be noticed. And that, right there, is the best definition of a fucked life I've ever stumbled upon.

Fear tells you your agency is puny, insignificant. It counsels silence, getting in line and letting each care for themselves. In this regard fear is Republican. It demonizes the other and says not, "There but for the grace of God go I," but rather, that fucker put me here.

You've got to get strange in order to find the beautiful.
You've got to give as you can in order to get to strange.

There is nothing stranger in this world than a life come alive to the sadness of how we live, to the sadness we heap upon our lives and reaching out a hand anyway to ease the burden of someone else's sadness. It is the beginning of kindness to know sadness and not be stopped by it, to recognize it in another and so recognize it in yourself.

* * *

And I said let grief be a falling leaf.

* * *

We come and go, like the women speaking of Michaelangelo, and to waste a moment being afraid is to put a keeper on what you might have become, what you might still be. The fact that you once hesitated to be generous, that you didn't know how to be kind, does not preclude you from doing so now. Fear is what's inside our head. Fear is what makes us do the opposite of what is right for us. And we are afraid because we misunderstand the basic premise of our lives, and we misunderstand it because it is what was taught to our parents, accepted by society, institutionalized to organize our doings: heaven awaits elsewhere.

That's a self-soothing lie, and it makes us small. 
Heaven's here, love. Act accordingly.

Simple little beauty, heaven in your breath
Simplest of pleasures, the world at its best


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