The question I cannot let go: about life/death and the true self–first part

7 09 2010

We do not wish to understand you, and yet we do not misunderstand you


There was a question posted several months ago on Facebook* and I cannot seem to let it go.

And if the darkness just got darker?

It was about whether a person reveals her true nature when faced with real life/death situations.

And then you were dead?  What would you care?

Part of what I’ve been stuck on, with respect to this question, is the issue of context.  The question itself was posed with respect  to climbing Everest.  And my reaction, to the idea of someone climbing Everest, today, flying to Nepal from, perhaps, LAX, for example and hiring locals and climbing up and nearly dying, is, essentially, irritation.

How would you even know the difference?

It is even at this point, at the very beginning of thinking about the question, that I get all tangled up.  This is what I think:  why the fuck does anyone have to spend the money, use the fuel, carry the specialized equipment, climb, risk their lives and the lives of the sherpas they hire and trash the shit out the place to “find out who they really are.”

My mind strains up, into the distance

But.  First.  I have not seen the documentary.  I do not know the facts.  From where do I gather my conclusions?  And, more importantly, from where comes my anger?

What shall I say?

Here:  Where shall I find it?  Or, perhaps, how?

What shall I think?

Does a person have to engage in an utterly selfish pursuit to find the self?  Is that the only way to strip everything else away?   Or, is the self revealed, as some suggested on the conversation, through a diversity of activites–through the life and death one self is revealed whereas through the quotidian another.  Is each of these selves only a part of the whole?

it’ll be fine

Does it even matter.

I know it’ll be fine

I once had a yoga teacher say that those who had children were still playing with toys and only when all of this was gone would they be in the life that would lead them to enlightenment.  Of course, that is assuming they’d ever reach that life.

The wind has churned it up, prepared it for him

This has ever echoed in my head because I, of course, have children.  So immediately I am excluded from enlightenment (and kundalini, which honestly I wasn’t really looking for anyway, but that’s another story).  And this pisses me off.  But not because I want enlightenment, though I do, or at least I want compassionate detachment, which I suppose is different, more immediate and perhaps more possible; it is because I want to push myself to the furthest point possible.  If I’m going to run, I want to run 100 miles and if I’m going to have children I want to have them without pain relief and if I’m going to practice yoga, I want to go as far as possible into the practice.  And in this situation I was told that I could not go that far, because all the intensity, all the beauty, all the pain arising out of my choice to have children closes the door on my chance to go the final distance.

they ride with the rush of the wind

But here, directly, is the problem.  I practice yoga because I am trying to transcend my ego. I am trying to find that place and that way to move through the world without being hamstrung by my desires and fears.  And that means I cannot define an “as far as possible” in yoga because by doing so I set up a goal.  And for me, when I set up a goal, it becomes all about my desire to reach that goal and my fear that I will not reach it.

it is very loud, here, alongside, life, life, so glad to be in it

And what does this have to do with Everest and facing that self?

no?, unprotected, thank you

It is that thing that is my ego that cannot stand the idea that the way to find what I am and to find the self, or peace or detachment or whatever the fuck it is, which I cannot even articulate, is through something I will never do, either through choices already made, or a reluctance. or something else.

and when I write this,

followed at two in the morning in the dark streets of the border town

by a man, in the dark, calling but not my name and me, lost

faced with the choice between a knife and blade of glass

stepping into the footsteps of a mountain lion

the lion stepping into my footsteps

asking that the deer, hung up in the barbed wire, please please be shot

hearing the gun turning on the car

I still feel something is not quite right

——

*FB is a strange place–in it my privacy is stripped, contacts are strange and unreal, but somehow sometimes connection is as intimate as anything else, in an odd, electronic, fleshless way.

quotes are from the Rig Veda, Denis Johnson and Jorie Graham

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3 responses

8 09 2010
debra di blasi

First: Your yoga teacher is/was/is an idiot, unenlightened in so very many ways. But as you may already know, I prefer the middle (Buddhist-ish) way. Attachment is lovely, delightful, something for which I am grateful every day. The pain of de-attachment (i.e., death of a beloved creature, whether human or not) is part of the circle of life. To have children might in fact be a biological compulsion that I, too, have experienced; the fact that I do not have children does not make me more ego-free — as you very well know, dear friend. It may, in fact, make me more prone to self-importance as may indeed be the problem with your yoga teacher.

Second: We will die sooner than later. We bloody well will have plenty of time to be “detached”, if you understand me correctly, as I know you do. Quashing the ego is, I think, something those of us who do not have the cultural or economic leisure to meditate [hide?] day after day, year after year, must wrestle with daily — unless we have moments in which we choose to enjoy the monster that is our ego, in the same way we might enjoy B Horror movies. And why not? Thoughts come in and then go out of our mind. Detachment means to not give so much power to those passers-by.

Finally, Mark and I often ponder the stupidity of mountain climbing and other risky adventures: the terrible environmental destructiveness of it (the trash that been left behind is shocking!), the amount of money spent on the Self that could save thousands of lives in the third and second worlds, the Fear that must actually drive the compulsion. It is not about courage, after all. And I confess that when one of them loses their nose or fingers or feet or life…well, I never say, “Oh, gee, that’s terrible.” Usually, I say, ” Well, what the fuck did they expect?” The treks to Mt. Everest cost about $60,000 a pop. What if you instead had to muster the courage to visit an AIDS orphanage, a leper colony (yes, they still exist), an inner-city project, etc.? What if, instead, you had to engage in a fully-aware, fully-compassionate conversation with a street person who terrifies you for whatever reason?

Ok. I’m done. I love this blog. It always provokes me toward clarity, at least my own.

8 09 2010
Jen Gee

“unprotected, thank you”

To do anything, including having children, is a kind of adventure outside the contained adventure that is Mt. Everest. Detachment from living creatures (children) has robbed me of some adventures. Hearing your children must connect you to life. In some ways, you are lucky, Jen C.

11 09 2010
Beyond

Yes your yoga teacher is a damn fool, so arrogant to demean a parent for their attachment to children. As if enlightenment was some kind of moral imperative. Bullshit. We are here, on earth and all we have is the mirror of one anothers eyes. It hurts. Desire is truly human. The compulsion to be inhuman wrecks the bonds that sustain life.

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