By Johnathon Pendall
That’s the best word to describe my life—flailing.
As I sit here typing, listening to the crop dusters dusting crops, I’m flailing. It’s a constant reaching for something constant. Each fresh step along the Way is accompanied by, “Is this It? Is this the Truth?”
Since I was a child, Truth with a capital T is all that I’ve ever wanted. If I would find it, I’d offer it to the masses to help ease all the misery, pain, and confusion (also I just love public speaking and performing).
In my trek for truth, I’ve been offered the truth over and over again—just not the truth I’m looking for. I’m looking for something permanent, independent and absolute. Yet in my travels, I only find impermanence.
Whether the ground I stand on is stable or unstable, I’m soon swept off it anyway and carried to foreign territory.
The lesson I always forget is that I am impermanent. So even if I come into contact with Kant’s mythical, “Thing-Unto-Itself,” my relationship with it will be impermanent as well.
It’s inevitable that I will eventually come to disagree with everything that I write. If I don’t write a book fast enough, I’ll usually abandon it halfway through because my focus and practice may shift at any time. Even if I do finish a book with the intention of sharing it with others, I often store it away to collect dust instead. How can I share something and gab about it if I’m no longer passionate about it? How can I share something that I no longer even fully agree with?
The only thing that hasn’t changed is the search itself. I’ve been searching, searching and searching for as long as I can remember. The simple solution would be to stop searching—to let it be.
To accept things as they are, to go with the flow, and simply be mindfulness
I can’t do that. “Damn it, Jim! I’m an explorer, not a monk!”
Does Sisyphus stop pushing the boulder even though he knows it’s merely going to roll back down again? Does Tantalus stop reaching for fruit and water even though he knows they’ll always evade him? Hell no, they keep on truckin’.
Every worthwhile thing I’ve done in my life has ended in disappointment. Yet for me, that doesn’t negate the journey and all that was experienced along the way.
Perfection was my goal when I was working on my last album. Everything had to be just right. There were a lot of songs I made that just didn’t make the cut, so I tossed them into the vault. I just tossed aside hours and hours of work after they were completed.
What was the end result? The album isn’t perfect, but it’s really fucking good.
This also goes for my journey to the Absolute or Suchness as well. It may be a journey taken in vain, like trying to find the Fountain of Youth. Yet, there is so much to discover along the way! Sitting here on the back porch with lukewarm coffee and an overheating laptop, the boundless blue sky whispers to my blood:
“There is no end to the quest. There are no objective limits, no absolute boundaries. The Unknown cannot be known, for then it would no longer be the Unknown. Yet it can be felt racing through the known like an electric current. Satisfaction is the curse of the jaded. Do not fear dissatisfaction, use it. It is your Buddha.”
So outward and onward I will roam, saving enlightenment for my last ragged breath. Only when I have no energy left to continue the search, will I allow myself the luxury of the final discovery. Only then will I accept that Samsara is Nibbana. Until then, I will keep the delusion alive.
To sum it all up, here’s a little diddy from Past John:
The gates of paradise
Could stand open before me
And I may wander in and drink
The sweet nectar, unfathomable.
Still I would depart, always favoring
An adventure in hell to a sanctuary in heaven.
Editor: Dana Gornall
John is a Caodong Ch'an student in the Empty Cloud Lineage of Hsu Yun. His Dharma name is Feng Dao which means "Wild Way" or "Windy Way." He originally wanted to become a social worker, focusing on preventative mental health care, but writing is his passion. “Above all else, I’m just a writer. Words come, I write them, I drink coffee.”
Oppression and marginalization are key issues for John. “I was forced out of mainstream society at a young age by my peers. So I will always stand up for the underdog and criticize bullying, coercion, and any institution that relies on those tactics.” Asked about what the most pressing issue of our time is, he replied, “The environment. We’ve bullied the earth so much that it could almost be called marginalized.”