By Anshi Shenxing
Cling on tight, I say. Take shelter in each other.
Not because it seems like we’ll live forever, but because we won’t. To love in spite of loss is something truly beautiful, truly human. It’s a different kind of love, the kind reserved for winter nights and rainy days. A love that knows its own reasons—it isn’t mysterious. A love that creates sanctuaries, and pauses between breaths to savor each sunrise.
The love of mutual care and mutual need—mutual understanding. This kind of love can only be forged in the maturing power of sorrow and a shared experience of what mortality and loneliness really mean. You can’t get it if you’ve censored the days with sunshine and rainbows, if you haven’t been chewed up and spit out, if you haven’t ached and longed and screamed.
The difficult part is keeping this alive, because the bullshit world we’ve made for ourselves isn’t hospitable toward it.
We could’ve crafted society into anything, and we chose to make it into an anesthetic. Everything about our days seems designed to dull the pain and help us forget the situation we’re in: the void creeping around on all sides.
But I think we need that awareness of the void, we need that sense of fragility, vulnerability and ineffability in order to find some kind authentic intimacy in our lives, with our lives. We can live passionately or we can live comfortably—this is the choice we’re given with each moment. If we choose passion, we can come to find comfort in it, comfort in the warmth of mutual care and carefulness.
Because someday that void will come for you or someone you love. You’ve gotta be prepared so that you can use that pain as a way to grow, not as an excuse to numb yourself further.
“Why can’t I be numb? What’s wrong with not caring?”
It’s not wrong; just ridiculous. We can do whatever we like, there aren’t any rules. But there is Mind—dependent arising. If we make numbness a condition in our lives, then we’re going to become a servant of the void, an agent of pointlessness that switches light for shadows.
Because we’re not in this alone; self changes other and other changes self. If you bring darkness into the world, then there’s going to be more darkness for you to experience in the world. It’s as simple as that. Those on the path take in light, darkness and in-between without sending it back out to sea, allowing all beings to find what’s true of themselves by removing what isn’t.
Typically, we only are what we have, and we only have what we’ve been given.
Then we change what we’ve been given before giving it away to someone else. People on the path don’t play that game, we don’t have anything, we let the current of joy and sorrow flow through us without interrupting it. Ironically, by doing that we cut it off, neither passing it on or keeping it for ourselves. That’s called “mind without out-flows.”
In that way, we try to make the world more hospitable to resilient, independent joy, spaciousness, and brightness. We see that there’s nothing to cling to and no one to cling to it. This is a different sort of void: shining silence.
The most difficult and subtle part of all this is being able to put it altogether. The passion of fleeting forms (shining) and the equanimity of unmoving emptiness (silence). First we have realize that we’re all falling through space. Then we need to see that we are that space. Then we can see that we’re neither form nor emptiness—we’re both.
That’s how we prepare ourselves for hardship. If we only identify with form, then there’s only suffering; if we don’t identify with anything (emptiness), there’s only ignorance. What’s a confused, heartbroken primate to do in such a situation?
It’s obvious: eat, drink, and fuck.
Swing from branch to branch, pluck lice from our friends. Chatter and howl, and feel the blood coursing through us. Feel the heart pounding in our chests, feel the thrill of just this thought, just this movement, just this feeling, all the while trusting our true nature to guide us along the way, trusting that there’s something in us that’s untouched by everything because it is the touch.
I say keep on hungering, keep longing and keep that tender ache alive, that need that has no origin and no destination; let it take you to yourself, take you to here and now where we can shine, illuminating each inch of the reachless deep.
Editor: Dana Gornall
Anshi (安狮) is the pen name for a certain Chan Buddhist. He calls his introspective, autobiographical writing, “Living Dharma.” All names are changed to protect the privacy of those involved. If you know who Anshi is, please refrain from telling anyone. Feel free to check out his Facebook page.
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