And At The Break of Day

About the only thing I can control in life is my artistic output (and what I wear). This is somewhat infuriating, as I tend to need control to feel safe and secure. Without that control, I often have to rely on others who are usually not as dependable as me. Sorry, but the truth is the truth, and one of my greatest strengths is my dependability and sustenance. (You don’t keep a website going with daily posts for eight-plus years, or hold down a job for almost ten if you are inconsistent or unreliable.)

That said, it’s not always fun to find the control, (and even those enterprises over which I have complete autonomy aren’t entirely joyful all of the time). This passage, another from John Tarrant’s Bring Me the Rhinoceros, has been teaching me to let go. It’s been a revelation – and a rather freeing one at that:

Maybe nothing will change and the uncertainty will continue. What has changed is that he doesn’t torment himself with his thoughts. He has breakfast, goes to work, comes home, has dinner, plays with the children, reads a novel. He lives. He does not require the moment to be different in order to be happy. He is happy…

The Buddha doesn’t say that nothing happened, that someone didn’t beat you, that no pain was caused. He is not encouraging you to pretend you are a robot, to go into denial, or to take up positive thinking. He just says that feeding the story of suffering makes you suffer. And he doesn’t say that not feeding the story of suffering will make you happy. His words are a koan; they take away the story about suffering. How happiness appears is your business.

This koan raises the idea that freedom might be freedom from your own stories about life and who you are and who you should be. When you first see that you suffer from your thoughts, you might want to get rid of the difficult, painful thoughts and put good ones in their place. This is not the koan approach. What might it be like if you got rid of the painful thoughts and didn’t put anything in their place? Then you might not be struggling to make the world fit your fiction. You wouldn’t suffer from bad art…

When the Buddha made his discoveries, he said, “I have found the builder, and I will not build the house of pain again.” Without your fictions, life has a simplicity that is full of beauty.

There is nothing I dislike.

~ John Tarrant, Bring Me The Rhinoceros

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