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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Friday, November 17, 2006

One of Those Days

Today is one of those days. I've spent five minutes staring at the blank Blogger window, unable to put two coherent sentences together. There's a rift in the world, it feels like, and I can see the gaps in the fabric of what is, the holes in the logic of my own existence. The Buddhists say this -- this sense of being off balance, of confusion and uncertainty -- is the fundamental ground of being. So they tell you to sit still inside of it, to learn to stay with it, and then it gets -- not better, but familiar. You get to know it. You get to see it differently once you know it, and notice a spaciousness about it, an openness, freedom. It sounds beautiful. And right. But the practice of it -- oh, it sucks. It chafes and itches and constricts your throat and makes your stomach churn with anxiety. A headache starts circling your head, smelling blood. And then you come back again to that question -- the circle completes itself again, snake mouth d swallowing snake tail -- of whether or not life is worth living. All the marvelous books you were planning to read, whose marvelousness and wisdom used to comfort you, seem jokes played on you by more intelligent minds than yours; how can they possibly imagine that they can cover up this gaping mouth of darkness that stands just in front of you, the meaninglessness of all that is? All the things that used to give you pleasure -- the morning light, a cold glass of water, the smell of a chimney fire -- have an ashy, crumbling feel to them. You wonder that you were ever blind and ignorant enough about what the world really is to have enjoyed them yesterday, and the day before, and the year before. So you sit on the couch, unable to do anything because nothing seems worthwhile doing, and you wait for this wound in the world to close and become scarred over, like all wounds do. You know that it will -- an hour or a day or a week later. And you're glad about that. Soon you'll be again on solid ground, going about your business without obsessively questioning its meaning, reading and doing laundry and making dinner and talking with your best friend as if they were the most natural things in the world, as if they made perfect sense. Unaccountably, though, you also feel sorry about it. For you have this nagging feeling that the Buddhists are right, that it would help to stay inside this groundlessness and poke around in its corners with good-natured curiosity. You know you'll come back to it, so you might as well have a good look around. It might not ever feel like home, but it might get to be a place where it's tolerable to say for a while, a room in the mansion of many apartments of your life.

4 Comments:

Blogger Jonathan K. Cohen said...

I'm not with the Buddhists on this one. Jonathan Lear, in the book on Aristotle which you have, cites Melanie Klein's notion of epistemophilia -- that man, by his nature, desires to know, and that that desire is a basic psychological drive along with the ones for sex and death. I believe that we create meaning at every instant of our lives, and that we negotiate between its lack and its excess. The "black hole of existence" is real -- I've been there -- but even it has significance.

November 17, 2006  
Blogger Michelle Fry said...

I don't know about being with the feeling itself as in just wallowing in the feeling that all is worthless but there is something to accepting that saddness and pain exist and that the feeling of nothing being worth doing is our desire inability to find anything that can possibly comfort us from all the pain and suffering that is. Yet we live in a world where others dismiss the pain around them by comforting themselves with addictions to alcohol, food, lovers, shopping or what have you in order to block out the stiffling pain.

I think it's good to be with the pain and recognize suffering is always present. It's the ability to comfort oursleves that sometimes evades us.

November 19, 2006  
Blogger Marigoldie said...

I find almost instant comfort when I separate from my feelings for a minute and see them more objectively. I pay attention to what's driving it, but it's the process of separating from it--I imagine myself floating out of my body and looking down on the scene--that helps me. I sometimes compare it to a physical ailment, like a cold, and that helps me remember that I'll come out of it. Loved this post.

November 21, 2006  
Blogger Green Whale said...

Yes, that stepping away from my own self really helps me too; that's what I meant by exploring that state of existential discomfort with a sort of innocent, childish curiosity -- the Buddhists recommend also a sense of humor, but that's for more enlightened spirits than I -- and not wallowing in it. I suppose that's what Jonathan means by the desire to know; the Buddhists and the Greeks might have more in common than we think.

November 21, 2006  

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