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|One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. -Nietzsche|
June 8, 2009
Buddhism as Annihilation
The traditional Western instinct is perseverance despite all tragic happenstance and misfortune. Not to feel sorry for oneself or others, but to take pause to understand and then shrug off a temporary setback, and to keep going without holding on to failure. There is a natural resistance to internalizing grudges, becoming mean, or creating emotional baggage as misplaced revenge upon the innocent randomness of life. Misunderstanding and misstepping are forgivable, but lashing out only multiplies and distorts the original error.
When we disregard pain, we go farther and see more. We pay with pain and come to regard it as benevolent and honest, for it delivers exactly what it promises and brings a gift of wisdom when it makes its appearance. Pain is an honest visitor whom we can always respect and welcome. It means no harm by awakening and you can be thankful later for not raising the sheets to sleep away the day.
Then Socrates, sitting up on his bed, began to bend his leg and rub it with his hand, and as he did so remarked, "How strange is the thing called pleasure, and how curiously related to pain, which might be thought to be the opposite of it! For they never come to a man together, and yet he who pursues either of them is practically compelled to take the other too. They are two, and yet grow together out of a single head. If Aesop had thought of it, he would have made a myth about how Pleasure and Pain were at war with one another and God wanted to reconcile them. But as he was not able to do that, he joined them together at the head, which is why when you meet with either pleasure or pain, the other one soon follows."
Buddhism fears and avoids pain, as well as honesty about life. It hides and rejects possibility, desiring solipsism and retreat. Instead of honorably facing life, it seeks a quick way out, demanding amputation for a scratch and a diet of opium so as to not feel or experience, for it lacks the constitution to endure and more importantly: faith that life is just.
This faith can be hard especially under modern conditions. We are topsy-turvy, disbelieving of the future, skeptical of society, and cynical about others. Compounding disaster, witnessing casualty begets more casualties.
Like monkeys exchanging knowledge through mimicking, we teach each other self-destruction as a normal behavior to tolerate, even calling it a "choice", simultaneously aware of and in denial of the inevitable consequences it brings. Cognitive dissonance swarms under the surface of a creature that otherwise presents a calm appearance, but storms surges will always find a way out and the tornadoes leave a wreck in their path before they collapse in shambles.
By the time realization arrives of the gifts and rare opportunities that were squandered, it is too late to recover them. Negative sum games leave all participants impoverished, eventually encouraging withdrawal from the whole. Thieves and squanderers add to the farce by stealing from each other while dressing up to appear healthy like the normal people they curse.
Christianity's hollow promises and demands to believe in imaginary forces have eroded the meaning of "faith" by making it into a laughable premise of believing in supernatural happenings that everyone knows don't exist.
Faith is not belief in the imaginary, but is an accurate sense of how things will tend to turn out when participants work towards a shared goal. We can choose to make a heaven on earth and live a meaningful life, or we can sabotage and doubt everything, leaving us with the alternative of a miserable existence that requires every denial, forced blindness, and extreme coping mechanisms for which there is never enough sugar to mask the bitter taste.
Our hands and will can craft almost anything, but more important is keeping our bare souls from nihilism. Everyone decent wants roughly the same love, lasting passions, and thrilling magic -- but few know the language to express that or their honest desires and dreams. Without faith, eventually doubt creeps in and soon Buddhist caves are sought as hiding places.
Seen from the outside, this is tragedy as are severe consequences from all petty misunderstandings, squabbles, lost soulmates, broken loves, and missed connections. A few errors, suspicions, or speculative dreams of no real consequence can derail great potential, and though it could be trivially uprighted, there is instead muddled spite that snarls and cripples. Nowhere else is an all powerful god concerned with human affairs more necessary and absent.
We who have great love and belief in the essential character of others can see how forgiveness and a blank slate can resurrect even a disaster to restore pristine youthful vitality. A soul becomes dry and weak through lack of reverence and lost desire for one's special fate. But even rolling blockades cannot prevent the aspiration that brings destiny.
Not denial of life, but desire for more life! Essentiality, not escape; recognition, not fleeing; not denial of pain, but paying tribute to pain and passing through its gates.
Take care as you make your way through the world - a single shot of Buddhism can poison the well.
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