By Duane Toops
Pablo d’ Ors says that “What makes us suffer is our resistance to reality.”
I distrust neither the validity nor the legitimacy of his statement. I believe that it’s true. I believe that he’s right. I recognize that most, if not all, of my suffering is due to the fact that I refuse to accept the reality of my circumstances; the reality of where I am. I refuse to accept the concrete conditions of my life.
“We suffer,” d’ Ors says, “only because we think that things should be other than they are.” And, deep down I believe everything should be different. Everything should be otherwise. Everything should be something that it isn’t.
Intellectually, I know that acceptance is the key. I know that it is said to be the most reliable, if not the only, means by which the misery of my suffering will be alleviated. But how do you begin to accept a reality that you find to be wholly unacceptable?
Dissatisfaction and disdain rest atop nearly all the facts and facets of my existence, like a fine layer of dust covering over something dormant. Something settled and still. Something stagnant and unmoving. Something that came to rest and then never left.
Dust is full of dead things, but it is also made of stars.
The molecules of a supernova’s splendor cascading down across the sky on wafts of otherworldly light, and flecked into the nebulous clay of who we are. Our dust is made of living; not only of what once was but also what still is; a rife and teeming ecosystem.“
It is this ‘dust’ that makes your corporeal self,” says J.M. Miro, “It is in you and through you, and it leaves its traces wherever and whenever you use your talent.” The shed skin of shifting cells side by side with the pieces and particles of every living thing embedded in and upon the use of your unique gift. “The body of a talent”, Miro goes on to say, “is a map of their dust”; a map of their dissatisfaction and decay, a map of regeneration and change.
Miro explains that we “waste all this time dreaming of where [we] came from, cause [we] know no one comes from nothing”, and we hope there might be a hidden explanation for everything in the hindsight of our regret. We tell ourselves, Miro says, that “if [we] only knew, then maybe [we] could see a reason for how [we] got to be the way [we] are,” and why our lives look the way they do.
“But there isn’t any reason,” Miro concludes, “not really.” Shit happens as the sacred proverb goes. The nature of reality is absolute, but it is also inherently arbitrary and absurd.
As paradoxical and nonsensical as it may seem, maybe acceptance starts with accepting the absurdity of it all. Maybe it begins with the embrace of being disaffected. “Great artists must have the courage to despair,” says Maria Popova. It is essential. It is a fundamental element on the periodic table of our creative existence. Humphrey Trevelyan explains that “This divine discontent, this disequilibrium, this state of inner tension is the source of artistic energy.”
To be an artist is to live in liminality. To live between the generating and the gathering of dust. One “must never grow complacent, never be content with life, must always demand the impossible,” says Trevelyan, but, also, must never shut down, never give up, never give in.
“[W]e can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid,” Pema Chodron says, “or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us.”
We can take our suffering and offer it as a service. We can take our displeasure, our dis-ease, and we can tame it. We can turn it into a tool; a tool for collecting the dust and detritus and debris of who we are and where we have been. And, we transform it into something that breathes. The reality is that “Reality,” itself, Andrew Solomon says, “can get dismal.”
But maybe acceptance begins where it ends and begins again: dust to dust to dust to dust to dust….
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