Rest in Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh

Note: I am republishing this post, as for some <cosmic> reason, some folks could access it, and some could not. Apologies to those who may receive it a second time. May it bear a review.

I mourn the passing of a venerable Vietnamese monk. Impermanence. As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been studying his thought-provoking call to save the planet, via Zen, kindness, patience, and better communication skills than I and many of us have employed of late. Yes, he took the problem “by their smooth handle,” how Thomas Jefferson recommended we respond to tricky issues. As usual, easier said than done. The French philosopher Blaise Pascal once warned, “L’homme n’est ni ange ni bête, et le malheur veut que qui veut faire l’ange, fait la bête,” or, man is neither angel nor beast, and the misfortune remains, whosoever strives to be angelic winds up behaving beastly. My close translation, and sadly true. The more we try to practice our good manners, the more we notice how painfully shy we arrive at them. Said another way, what you pay attention to grows. . . but it could boomerang.

If we wait for perfection, we’ll never arrive to appreciate it, or so we’re told. Case in point: I’d just settled on my black cushion to meditate, when I noticed the top of the guest bed I was sitting beside was littered with clothing to be ironed, several pieces sorted for a donation bag, or a stack to be put away. It was not a peaceful scene in other words, not conducive to a proper Zen session. Yet I persisted and was able to sink below those waves of dissonance. Three days I managed to ignore the mess on the bed. When it came to actually do something about it, I did, and felt the small satisfaction of checking off another task from my list. But I first had to try not to let it derail my intent.

So, are we doomed?

If we pore over the news and opinion pieces, it would seem so. Yet, we cannot ignore the science, nor the political scientists, nor the populace. And lest I contribute my particular brand of rant here, I’ll pause and take a breath, another, and another, and seek my center. This practice places me smack dab in the middle of the known and unknown universe(s)—it’s the only solution and premise I have to go on. At this moment in Time.

Some of you, as readers (deep bows) know that my Riven Country novels suggest a theory of time, and therein I play with ramifications of such. Not to repeat my premise here, but to propose we ponder at least one of the notions, that of regarding all that happens, has happened, and will happen, as occurring in a singular moment, the now, and that being humans—with a contracted sense of organization and consciousness—our psychology must separate our living into past, present, and future. Else we’d implode with too much information. The angels are so equipped, I wager, but not us. Perhaps the beasts as well.

But think for a small moment: hold in your mind, if you will, the knowledge of discrimination, the evidence of abuses (all abuse), the reckless treatment of man against man, and layer on top of that, as though a swirling spiral had magically appeared to do the very thing, every moving effort we’ve made through the decades and ages (think democracy, civil rights, justice meted, mercy granted, truth and reconciliation), and then, observe the recent tumults (take your pick) appearing as an opposite force, a spiral moving, circling, the other way (forgive the convoluted image) and you may be able to apprehend the roiling state of what I think constitutes Time.

It’s time to take things by their smooth handle and calm down. It’s time to remember to practice our manners, while being gentle with ourselves. It’s time to remember that time is a construct, and that we truly don’t have that much of whatever it is, given our propensity for harsh, reactionary responses. Cutting off our noses to spite our faces is where we are today. Let us please consider our inward mirrors, while sitting on a cushion, on an ailing planet, spiraling in a 13.6-billion-year-old galaxy (one of the elders, I hear, in league with the spirit of a most courageous Zen Buddhist monk), through this mystery called space. Just consider.