Tuesday, January 25, 2022

a fabrication


It’s funny how much our surroundings influence our emotions. 
Our joys and sorrows, likes and dislikes are colored by our environment 
so much that often we just let our surroundings dictate our course. 
We go along with “public” feelings until we no longer even know
 our own true aspirations. We become a stranger to ourselves,
 molded entirely by society… 
Sometimes I feel caught between two opposing selves — 
the “false self” imposed by society and what I would call my “true self.” 
How often we confuse the two and assume society’s mold to be our true self.
 Battles between our two selves rarely result in a peaceful reconciliation.
 Our mind becomes a battlefield...

These are our loneliest moments. Yet every time we survive such a storm, 
we grow a little. Without storms like these, I would not be who I am today.
 But I rarely hear such a storm coming until it is already upon me.
 It seems to appear without warning, as though treading silently
 on silk slippers. I know it must have been brewing a long time,
 simmering in my own thoughts and mental formations,
 but when such a frenzied hurricane strikes,
 nothing outside can help.
 I am battered and torn apart,
 and I am also saved.

I saw that the entity I had taken to be “me” was really a fabrication.
 My true nature, I realized, was much more real,
 both uglier and more beautiful than I could have imagined.

 I saw that I am neither young nor old, existent nor nonexistent.
 My friends know I can be as playful and mischievous as a child.
 I love to kid around and enter fully into the game of life.
 I also know what it is to get angry. And I know the pleasure
 of being praised. I am often on the verge of tears or laughter. 
But beneath all of these emotions, what else is there? 
How can I touch it?
 If there isn’t anything, 
why would I be so certain that there is?

 I understood that I am empty of ideals, hopes, viewpoints, or allegiances.
 I have no promises to keep with others. In that moment,
 the sense of myself as an entity among other entities disappeared. 
I knew that this insight did not arise from disappointment, 
despair, fear, desire, or ignorance. A veil silently lifted effortlessly. 
That is all. If you beat me, stone me, or even shoot me, 
everything that is considered to be “me” will disintegrate.
 Then, what is actually there will reveal itself — faint as smoke, 
elusive as emptiness, and yet neither smoke nor emptiness,
 ugly, nor not ugly, beautiful, yet not beautiful. 
It is like a shadow on a screen.

At that moment, I had the deep feeling that I had returned.
 My clothes, my shoes, even the essence of my being had vanished,
 and I was carefree as a grasshopper pausing on a blade of grass… 
When a grasshopper sits on a blade of grass, 
he has no thought of separation, resistance, or blame…
 The green grasshopper blends completely with the green grass… 
It neither retreats nor beckons. It knows nothing of philosophy or ideals. 
It is simply grateful for its ordinary life. Dash across the meadow,
 my dear friend, and greet yesterday’s child. 
When you can’t see me, you yourself will return. 
Even when your heart is filled with despair, you will find the same grasshopper
 on the same blade of grass… Some life dilemmas cannot be solved 
by study or rational thought. We just live with them, struggle with them,
 and become one with them…
 To live, we must die every instant.
 We must perish again and again
 in the storms that make life possible.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh
from  Fragrant Palm Leaves: Journals 1962–1966
with thanks to the marginalian