Losing them, fixing them, forgetting to put them in
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I can start the day by criticizing myself for not having gone to sleep earlier, for drinking that extra glass of wine. True, true. But this kind of truth doesn’t set me free. Why not be thankful, instead, that I opened my eyes and got out of bed? To take this for granted would be the day’s first mistake.
I’m grateful for the birds who are singing this morning. Though I don’t know what they’re singing, I know it’s not a song of lament. Brushing my teeth in front of the bathroom mirror, I stare groggily at my reflection. Yes, I think, that’s me, knowing the mirror would never lie, so I’m grateful for mirrors. Soon the sky will fill with light. I’m grateful for the light. I’m grateful for the trees outside and for their winding roots. They go down, down, down, so I’m grateful for darkness.
Putting out The Sun each month continues to be hard work. The long hours and the tough decisions sometimes wear me down. I’m not complaining, just observing — the way I observed how difficult it was to sit still at the meditation retreat. I was trying to follow my breath, but the pain in my legs was profoundly distracting, as were my wandering thoughts. I’ll never learn to meditate perfectly. But I breathed in, I breathed out. I’ll never learn to be a perfect editor. But I put out one issue, then another.
In A Dialogue on Love, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick gives an account of going into therapy for depression after being treated for cancer. She comes to see that her quickness of mind was actually holding back her progress, because she expected emotional change to be as easy to master as a new literary theory. “It’s hard to recognize that your whole being, your soul, doesn’t move at the speed of your cognition . . . that it could take you a year to really know something that you intellectually believe in a second.” She learned not to feel ashamed of this.
I continue to be amazed at all the bad habits I’ve picked up, as if I brought home another man’s suitcase by mistake. The oddly tailored suits. The garish ties. And that hat! What sort of man would wear a ridiculous hat like that? I try it on, and I’m surprised: it fits perfectly. I stand in front of the mirror, give the brim a little twist. I turn to the left, turn to the right. Not bad!
What does it mean to pray for all living beings? Is that just a grandiose gesture or is that the only prayer that makes sense? When I pray for my family, for my friends, am I praying for lives that are separate from mine? Of course not. The Buddhists pray, May all beings be happy. May all beings be free. At the very least, such a prayer reminds me that liberation isn’t waiting for me like some reward after years of diligent effort. There is no liberation if I think of it as mine.
Since this separate personality isn’t who I really am, I’m never going to become enlightened merely by improving myself, or understanding myself better, any more than I’d become enlightened merely by changing my name. Sy will always be Sy, convinced of his essential Sy-ness. He wants to know God, he wants to feel loved, he wants a new watch, he wants to lose a few pounds. These desires seem quite different, but they all arise from the belief that he’s a separate ego.
According to Mohammed, God has veiled himself in seventy thousand veils of light — and, as we join with God, we experience an unveiling of these luminous barriers.
Here I am in the lap of luxury: a roof over my head, good food to eat, a wife who loves me. In this world of woe, I’ve done quite nicely. The newspaper lies on the front step. I’m in no hurry to read it. What will it tell me that I don’t already know? That I’m lucky? That I’ll die someday?
“What could be more wonderful,” I asked Norma, “than not to be afraid of dying?” She asked if I knew what the French word for orgasm meant. “Yes,” I said, “the little death.” She nodded. “Maybe dying is the great orgasm,” she said.
In my dream, the marriage was kept alive because every morning, instead of making the bed, I took the bed apart piece by piece, then put it back together.
“Maybe when I’m able to be in the same room with God,” I said, “being in the same room with death will be easier.” “Maybe when you’re able to be in the same room with death,” Norma said, “being in the same room with God will be easier.”
In the moonlight, I study the face of the woman I’ve loved for eighteen years. I’m thankful the moonlight traveled such a vast distance tonight, just so I could see her sleeping.