Sunday, January 3, 2010

The "Power of the Now"

"The word Personality is derived from the Latin persona, or mask. In ancient Greece the players in the sacred Mystery plays, which formed part of the Dionysiac Mysteries, always wore masks, which were conventional representations of the part they took. We can readily imagine the player, in the course of the play-cycle which formed part of the Mystery celebrations, assuming first one mask and then another as his parts changed with the play that was being performed. Thus we conceive of the immortal soul in the Mysteries; we think of it as assuming first one personality, persona, or mask, after another as it plays its allotted part in the successive Mystery plays which form the changing cycle of spiritual experience."

...... Dion Fortune
As the new decade and year emerges, and the knowledge of life's fragility and privilege is renewed with the sun rising over the familiar Catalina mountains of Tucson today............I feel like a good way to start the day is to thank everyone. For everything.

All the fellow travellers who have shared meals, thoughts, intersections, beds, battles, confidences, conflicts, delusions, divorces, betrayals, childish dreams and mature insights, ideas, shared creation, toys, personae, hopes, disappointments.........all the people who have, directly or indirectly, with good will or not, with profound concern or with utter indifference, from long acquaintance or as a nameless stranger, "resolved", "lost", forgiven or not, "connected" or "not connected"........all have my gratitude for graciously, for the Grace, of engaging me in the dance of life.

Back in Tucson, I have some difficult things to deal with, things I wish I could deny, but I'm finding strength in accepting the situation for what it is.

In a nutshell, my brother had a brain stem stoke over a year ago and is in a vegetative state in a nursing home, with no hope of any recovery. I do not have the power of attorney in this circumstance. Is he conscious? No one knows. I pray that he is not. I pray that he is not in his body, that he is somehow free on other planes of existence, that there are guides or angels or bodhisattvas helping him. I pray to what powers may be, I hope, but I don't know.

I would like to add here that (even though I personally have a "do not resuscitate" living will) I am not opposed to circumstances where life support is provided - obviously there are many unique circumstances where coma victims have recovered, and there are many people who are sustained by extensive life support who nevertheless lead conscious and meaningful lives. I define meaningful not by some cultural standard, but by the ability to experience some form of pleasure, and the ability to interact with the physical environment in some manner. But my brother, like the famous Karen Quinlan case, will never speak, or see, or touch, or taste, or interact with another person, or even breathe again. There are many people like him in that place, people who are artificially kept here by a technology that until very recently did not exist.

In the past people died more swiftly. There are many who would have died much earlier and did not (I'm one - I was a "blue baby"). Equally, death that is terminal and inevitable is now prolonged for months and even years, and occurs in impersonal institutions instead of within the family and community as it once did. I understand the ethical and even spiritual ambiguity here. And the truth is also that science, and ambiguous ethical issues, can now prolong the suffering of those who are dying immeasurably. I'm somewhat reluctant to make this entry, and yet, this is something that preoccupies much of my energy, something I do not know how to come to grips with, but must nevertheless find resources for.

So. Life is fragile. All we really have is the present moment. And some part of awareness has to step aside, even at the most challenging moments, and remember that it has to be savored. That's a choice and power one can develop. There's no great esoteric secret to it, no tantra or yogic discipline - just, reminding oneself of what the truth of our physical existence, here in the field of time, really is.

Then, I find, even if there are no solutions, there is always a rose, or a sunrise, a good cup of coffee, a warm pair of eyes, a idea for a painting, a sweet memory, a sudden insight, something, even everything, to be grateful for.

A Zen Tale

There was once a monk who was chased by a ferocious tiger. In order to escape the jaws of the tiger, the man caught hold of a vine and swung himself over the edge of a cliff. Dangling down, he saw, to his dismay, there were more tigers below. And, two mice were gnawing on the vine to which he clung. That's when he noticed a wild strawberry growing on the cliff wall. With his free hand, he plucked the strawberry.

"Ah", he said. "Excellent strawberry!"

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