the fog that turns people inside out

As I sit here staring out at the foggy woods, interrupted only by my compulsions to chase away the squirrels leaping from the house onto the bird feeder, I once again contemplate my general feelings of dissatisfaction. Yesterday, walking home from the park in the cool drizzle, I paused on the bridge over the interstate. I look down at this abomination: two strips of hot pavement running north and south, hardened abscesses cut into the Earth, supporting two-ton blocks of steel racing here and there, the blocks full of people (of all things!) going everywhere and nowhere all at once. I suppress the bile rising from my gut and walk on. I pass by the stream and stare at the trash floating in the water, the grotesquely shredded plastic bags hanging in the trees. I curse my sensitivity, my thin skin like a gossamer membrane through which I have no control over what passes in or out. But by turning away from the ugliness, by trying to dull the extremes and desperately seek out a middle ground (the Middle Way!), I only make myself sicker. The only times I come close to traveling on the middle path are while running or riding my bicycle for long distances. In motion, my mind stands still. When my body rests, my mind races without end. But I cannot stay in constant motion, so I continue in my struggle to find the right state of mind.

“Develop a state of mind like the earth, Rahula. For on the earth people throw clean and unclean things, dung and urine, spittle, pus, blood, and the earth is not troubled or repelled or disgusted. And as you grow like the earth no contacts with pleasant or unpleasant will lay hold of your mind or stick to it.

Similarly you should develop a state of mind like water, for people throw all manner of clean and unclean things into water and it is not troubled or repelled or disgusted. And similarly with fire, which burns all things, clean and unclean, and with air, which blows upon them all, and with space, which is nowhere established.

Develop the state of mind of friendliness, Rahula, for, as you do so, ill-will will grow less; and of compassion, for thus vexation will grow less; and of joy, for thus aversion will grow less; and of equanimity, for thus repugnance will grow less.”

~from the Majjhima Nikaya, translated by A.L. Basham

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3 Comments

  1. That Buddha was a smart guy. This post made me think of two things:- The scene in American Beauty in which the guy shows the video he filmed of the white plastic bag dancing in the wind. A piece of trash, yet so beautiful.- My own cruising in a two-ton block of steel today, along one of those strips of pavement headed out through Md into West Va. I saw lots of garbage, but also saw some amazing displays of nature.

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  2. My wife introduced me to your zine thoughtworm and I really like it. She sent me the link to this post and said this is “the guy who hates the city like you do.” I love the post – I have that same experience almost daily. Today, for example, I’m experiencing some very nasty noise pollution. A large commercial airliner flies over every ninety seconds for 60 minutes at a time. This goes on every other hour from 7:00 AM until 8:30 PM. All I can think of is all the fuel being burned and deposited directly into the atmosphere (in addition to the offense to my ears). Even up in the sky people are going nowhere and everywhere at once!! Mind you we do NOT live by the airport. It’s a 45 minute drive.

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  3. Glad you enjoyed it. I could’ve caught a double rainbow if I’d been about three minutes quicker, but it was still pretty amazing.

    Reply

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