Is this lost summer
Beautiful or just deadly?
Pay close attention.
This virus brings death
Water and sun bring sustenance
The blind choose one.
It’s been a tough year following a tough half dozen or so prior years. I’ve started every year of the last half decade or so, thinking this year has to be better- and it doesn’t happen.
This year, especially, the entire world seems on fire and or infected with greed and evil. There seems to be nowhere any decent person can go for refuge. So many people seem lost.
On the bright side, it has been a beautiful summer and there has been refuge in parks and other open spaces.
For me, there has been a nearby local park and the southeastern Ohio country side. Most gratefully there has been my garden, in back of my house, which has been one of the few spots in the world-given my, our, inability to travel safely- where I can go to daily to try and find some form of peace.
The fantastic and endless miracle whereby seeds, dropped into earth, and treated with simple tending (water, sun, bees), become food with which to feed my family- never ceases to astonish.
And yet, the peace I find in this place is imperfect.
Like many, I’ve allowed myself to be poisoned with the anger and ignorance which is America today, I find myself unable to let go of the rage which fills me.
Many of us, if not most, know this anger to be a dead end.
Karma is inexorable and dreaming of harm to those who perpetuate the daily ignorance which fill every paper, can only lead to further misery and pain- for them and us. And yet, even being armed with this knowledge, I find myself trapped in hatred.
I think of the poem “Verse on Taking a Step Back” by the Chinese poet Huaishen (1077-1132):
Nothing is better than someone who takes a step back.
Be sure to cultivate yourself thoroughly from head to toe,
Because when you blew out the flame burning in your heart,
You no doubt missed seeing the anger that was in your belly.
Like many others, I’d love, nothing more, for everyone’s benefit, than to rid myself of this anger; to mimic the author this poem, who, come nightfall, “reclines by the fire in the hearth without bothering to speak, [and] dozes off forgetting all about who I am.”
The fact that I can’t rid myself of this anger is my own fault alone, as I personally and ultimately bring everything I experience into this world through my thoughts- as do you. We are responsible for the reality we live.
For as Lama (teacher) Rod Owens explains in his recent work Love and Rage, The Path of Liberation Through Anger:
To begin with, it is understood that everything in the world including all of reality as well as ourselves and others, is an expression of mind. Whoever I think I am I am is an expression of my mind and whoever you think you are you are also an expression of your mind …The ego, or this sense of I, is simply a thought.
To understand the nature of my mind is to understand the nature of all reality, which opens the door for my mind to merge back into the ultimate reality.
In Buddhist philosophy, enlightenment happens when I recognized the nature of my thoughts and sustained that recognition until it is permanent, leading also to recognizing the illusory nature of my ego. Nirvana is the intentional re emerging back into the ultimate mind or ultimate reality .
To summarize: if I suffer, that is on me. If we cannot reach nirvana- or enlightenment, happiness- that is our responsibility.
Hard words, frustrating words to own, to accept, but true words which I know to be true, and yet, and yet….I chose to suffer.
I chose to suffer even though I know that by rolling in the mud with pigs, I will emerge covered in pig shit.
I know that the day that I choose to own my anger, that I will move forward. Lama Owens again:
I’ve come to realize that when I don’t have agency over my anger it actually has agency over me. Or in other words, I am a slave to my anger. Wisdom means clarity and that clarity has the power of getting to the point. When this clarity is coupled with compassion, then we can accomplish profound benefits.
The distance between ignorance and nirvana; injustice and justice is called suffering. It is a barren, rocky, thistle strewn place, unlike my lush emerald garden.
One day I’ll cover that distance, and never look back.