The Opening Of Possibility In The Presence Of Misfortune


“My knowledge of the self-healing qualities of misfortune with a shocking injury to my spine that left me lying helplessly…… I would never again do any sustained carpentry or turn clover under in the garden … I would never backpack ….. I would never nail another ceiling…….

The life I had lived all those years was impossible now and I had no option but to let it go. And in that yielding I saw more clearly than ever before what ceilings and walls I had been building all these years.

I saw that I had tried to construct my life as I had built this house, with some fixed and lasting sense of myself nailed securely in place.  I saw that no life so constructed could be held secure against the exigencies of time and circumstance, that I must inevitably exhaust myself in futile maintenance of such a structure.A lifetime of certainties fell about me in disrepair. I could no longer conceptualize who I was, and in that very loss the healing was found.

….. I found myself on a prominence that lay an unobstructed horizon about me on all sides. I turned slowly, 360 degrees. In all that space there was nothing, not even a trace of the very steps that had bought me there, to suggest where one might go next. I understood that I could, at that moment, walk in any of all possible directions. 

We invent ourselves that we might know who we are and what we are to be. But the consistency we seek in these inventions can’t be maintained against the fabulous inconsistency of actuality. Sensing this, we clutch at cherished constants ever more urgently. The builder of the house of ego can never rest, for he is ever at work to control outcomes and limit alternatives. His structure makes its appeal to our longing for the familiar and the safe, but in the end, he delivers only diminishment. I am weary of maintenance.”

– Lin Jensen (The Best Buddhist Writing 2006)

 

 

 

The difference between children and adults


It has snowed heavily and brought many parts of the UK to a standstill.  And it has been interesting to watch how different people have reacted differently to the snow.

Clea, 10 years old, got all dressed up in her ski clothes, searched out her friends who live next door and got busy playing in the snow.  I saw her embracing the snow literally: she was rolling around in the snow and scooping it up.  To her snow occurred as an opportunity to be with friends and play: a gift, an adventure!

My wife, Aldine, is an optimist.  So it was no surprise that even when there was a severe weather she got herself and the children in the car on Saturday morning and drove up to get to her friend Analia’s home.  She did not make it there yet she can hold up her head high.  In the end she is the one that chose not to drive at 25mph and thus face a six-hour journey.

I, being a pragmatic fellow, decided that the snow and cold was a great opportunity to do all the stuff that I had put off – like the accounts and the tax returns.  And to pick up and read a book on swarm behaviour – something that I find interesting.  My approach is best described as: why take the risk when I do not have to take the ris.  Has that been the stance that I have taken in life?  Choosing to be safe, to be comfortable?  In some areas, yes.

Looking more broadly, I notice that adult conversation (especially the media) has been around control.  The snow has disrupted the bubble of control that we take for granted and the adults have not liked that one little bit.  So the conversation has been full of complaint – primarily about those that govern us and their inability to control the world, to bend it to our needs.

Interestingly there has been more indignation and complaint around the country coming to a standstill then there has been about the banks bringing the country to its knees.  There is has been more complaint about being stuck, not being able to get out, to go on holiday then there has been about government policy that has resulted in tens of thousands of people being killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It seems that the wonder of children is that they embrace the new, the unknown, and dance with life.  This contrasts sharply with adults who like to stick to the known – a world that runs smoothly, like clockwork, and renders no surprises.  Is it any wonder that so many of us adults are so bored?