Forgiving the City, the Fireworks, and Conditioning Itself
We watched the fireworks from up above the city the other night and could see so many human projects all at once. So much industry. So much fuss. So many humans throwing so much energy around, burning so much shit up.
I had such a neutral sense of it. This is unusual for me. I’ve often been so petulant about the bravado of these great displays of human endeavor. I used to be such a staunch environmentalist that I couldn’t take it. So much toxicity, so much risk, so much flash in the pan. I wasn’t much fun, back then. My poor mom. I basically made my mom cancel Christmas one year — too much waste.
I didn’t feel any of that last night. (...maybe a sign that I’m not such a jerk anymore?) Mom, are you reading this? I’m sorry about what I did to Christmas.
I remembered going on a hike in Pogonip with my friend, Ric Cole, lo those many years ago. We were probably a bit altered. I had fallen back on our hike, and when I caught up to him, I found him sitting alone, looking wistfully down on the lights of the city. I could tell he was having a moment.
“What’s up?” I asked, gently.
“Forgiving the city,” he said.
It stayed with me, the simple gesture of it. I forgave the city, too.
It felt like an important dividing line for me. There was life before and after forgiving the city. Before, I had to be so principled about everything. And by principled, I mean, an underground hater. So nice on the outside. A yogi and everything. All smiles, but always figuring out what was acceptable and what was not. In order to know who I was, I collected views on things, and I collected people around me who shared all the same subtle judgements.
I mulled a bit yesterday as to what it means to say 'Happy Interdependence,' which I've said so very many times on the 4th day of July. Interdependence is more important that independence, I have always maintained, but does it necessarily make one happy? Is interdependence a happy thing? And is happiness a goal, still, if one is a ‘spiritual person,' engaged in peeling away the ideas about things, and reaching oneself honestly towards the truth?
These days, our interdependence makes me a bit scrambled and soft, as I continue to try to pay attention to the world beyond my own sphere. Again today, I wring my hands over the chiseling away at the freedoms of the most vulnerable. I have kids, see, and I love them so much it’s painful. So just to think of kids detained sends me reeling, and this is only one of the upheavals that has me in a fetter.
But there is something underneath the friction that feels just as important, and staying connected to it is a priority for me. This is the truth serum, the space beyond beliefs, that compels me.
All madness rises up from the scramble of the mind that can’t settle itself. So it goes for all of us: For me, for you, for the power brokers, and for the hungriest amongst us. We are all afflicted by the same incapacity to settle into what is happening now. So back to the cushion I go, with sacred dedication, each day.
Once again, I suspect, I’ve composed something that doesn’t point anyone anywhere except, hopefully, towards the empty, open space of the mind, unhitched from concrete meanings or prescribed actions, and the willingness to become more comfortable there.
Sitting quietly really does help. It helps soften the stubbornness of conditioned mind patterning. It helps uncover all the myriad ways that ego pins me down. I am slowly getting individuated from my conditioning and reconnecting to my dharma. I can feel it, a burgeoning of space, underneath the "ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing."
I do think that the deepest, most central project of life is to unhook from all the stuff of conditioned mind: codependency, shame, the seduction of power and certainty; to unhitch, in part, because happiness is actually an objective worth holding... though secondary to seeing the truth. But more, because all those layers of judgmental BS aren’t really based in anything, and if we want to lose our drunkenness and our stupor, it’s worth the letting go. Funnily enough, letting go of conditioning is dependent upon forgiving conditioning. Once we forgive it, it softens all on it's own.
And then the "I" we were so cozy with, the one who generated conditioning, and the one who wants free of it, and the one who forgives it, all turn to mist. We discover that the "I" doesn't live anywhere; it's not solid; it's not the prison we thought it was. It evaporates, and we come into relationship with things as they are.
The gills opening and closing.
The waves rising and falling.
The flower stem, covered with the most delicate hairs.
The bursts of light exploding, because they can, in the sky.
The ants arriving on the page, spilling from somewhere, making ideas.
The child’s tiny hands.