I stepped into a bloodstained room—I died there too.
Settling back into ordinary life has been a challenge. It feels like I’ve inherited someone else’s friends, family, and belongings. Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends and family even more than I did before, but I can see the ghost of my former self in their eyes. It feels like they want me to be that person again. But I can’t, nor do I want to. That younger, more naive version of me was full of baggage. Self-doubt, self-loathing, loneliness, anxiety, and half-baked dreams.
I’m glad he’s dead, though he did let some of the warmth out when he left. When I look in my eyes now, I see a man who’s empty of both comfortable daydreams and hideous nightmares. They’re mountaintop eyes, eyes that seem to tell tales of planets forming and breaking apart.
It’s difficult to avoid extremes when we’re working with impermanence.
Letting go is the Pali Canon route, but the fruition of that path is a monastery because we can’t function in lay life if we let everything go. We can’t function as part of a family if we let everything go, because attachment is part of love. Attachment is what tells others, “You’re special to me. I care about you more than the strangers I pass on the street each day. You’re more to me than just a passing face in the crowd.”
In the Sanskrit Canon, the edict is to see through our illusions without letting go. That’s the Bodhisattva path. Bodhisattvas don’t pull weeds, they look at the nature of the field.
So my challenge is to bring the mountaintop to the marketplace, to be human and void at the same time. Why does that scare me? Why does it make me feel like I’m about to take that first drop on a roller coaster? The direction this new life points to is that of a man who takes risks, a man who leaps and expects the world adapt to him, rather than he to the world. This is the polar opposite of the me I was before the Murder Room; before I experienced the wordless connection between me and my two friends who were there with me.
The risks I took were almost always intellectual and creative. The risks I’m now presented with are spatial and physical.
And once I let myself change, I know there will be no going back. But there already isn’t any going back. My options are the same ones we’re given when we die, I imagine: enter the unknown, or stay in limbo where we’re once again shaped by circumstances.
Limbo gets old, and purgatory is hell. Heaven isn’t full of light, it isn’t announced by a fanfare of farting angels. It isn’t barricaded by golden gates like some kind of posh community. Heaven is what’s waiting in the dark; in the unknown and incommunicable. Passing through this hesitation, I know I’ll be right where I am, but without the insistent tension of the waiting man.
Life is full of wake up calls. Our job is just to listen.
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.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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