Lent and Eastertide are evocative for me. I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals during Lent. Suffering. Bodily suffering. It does help you grow–that suffering. It’s the slow dawning and profound realization that you are not in any way in control. There is nothing you can do when you are profoundly ill–but submit to the way things are. All of those beliefs that you have, beliefs that say you can control things through the power of your actions and mind, fall away. Even the mundane aspects of caring for your body go away–the animal actions. Medications are dosed directly to your blood, catheters siphon away your urine, and you cease to defecate. There is no chewing, no swallowing, only receiving and hoping that the universal lineage of what has come before leans in the direction of life–your life. Whatever you believe from reincarnation to resurrection, to sorcery, to scientific realism, the control is gone, and you are alone, passive, wondering what it’s going to be–life or death?
It’s that loneliness that strikes me this Easter. The loneliness of death, the loneliness of rebirth. The complete loneliness of the human condition. I consider all of those alone and dying during this pandemic. Not with their loved ones, maybe with a stranger holding their hands, perhaps unconscious, connected to a machine designed to save them. They are hoping for some kind of resuscitation or resurrection that is out of their hands.
I’ve been skirting around my spiritual life in my spare time. I’ve gone to churches and temples of all sorts. I’ve been thoroughly blessed and initiated into many paths. There are many stories there that I hope to tell as time goes on. But, eventually, you have to pick a path and stay on it if you want to get any distance. I choose the way of the dharma because it seems the easiest to trod. Well, not the easiest, but the truest for me. I’ve been sitting for almost 25 years, so I’ve started to dig that well. Now, I will begin to study in earnest and see where that takes me. I’ve participated in many meditation and yoga retreats in the last 20 years, and I try to sit daily. I probably succeed 3/4 of the time. I’ve read many books. So my practice is somewhat developed. Now I am going to study to learn to teach, speak, and write about the dharma. It’s a little scary, but it’s comforting to know that I can write about my journey here, and now, at the very beginning, no one is paying attention. I am out in the open yet alone.
I have seen and read a lot in my life. And what I have learned is simple. We speak too much. We act with little forethought, cooperation, or purpose. We augment and invent without considering the implications–without fully understanding. We are wild, we human beings. We are as wild as it gets. Wilder than the most savage beast of the deepest undiscovered jungles, wilder and stranger than the deep-sea creatures. We are more volatile than exploding stars. More terrible, even, than the awful myths of our own creation.
It is perplexing that Americans look upon their founding legacy through such a narrow prism. Surely, every historical event offers an array of complexity.
Don’t those who wish to mute the whole story know that it is nothing short of cruel to ask descendants to deny the truth of their ancestors? For many, there was nothing but the pillaging of native peoples, the raping of terrain so beautiful as to inspire poetry, and the enslavement and soul murder of millions of people.
Why would you ask them to forget? To deny the birthright associated with that powerful legacy — that root of power and sustenance?
Is it so that you can feel good about your own people, the ones that did this heartless work?