A HUMAN LIFE

Evolution

In evolution’s grand drift.
human beings: special only to ourselves.
lineages come, lineages go.

Still, leaving the room,
I turn off the lights.

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Notes on Suffering

1
Suffering includes the vain hope that right now things can be other than they are.

2
Not distinguishing pain from suffering, physical and emotional, is itself suffering.

3
All things, including our thoughts and emotions, arise spontaneously; not realizing this perpetuates suffering.

4
The notion that you are the author of your life, however popular and seemingly useful, is fundamental to suffering.

5
Happy emotions come and go, so do unhappy ones.
These are, in themselves, not signs of suffering, potential or actual.
They are signs of living.

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If I could change my mind, I would.

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Emotions come, then go,
nothing to do . . .
clouds always leave the sky.

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When emotions lose transcendent import, we relax:
sadness, simply sadness, joy, simply joy;
no avoiding one, no clinging to the other,
they come and go as they will — as do all the rest.

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When the window in the chest is open, songs fly in and out.

(with thanks to Rumi and Hafiz)

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Each moment is as it is. To say that it should be some other way
only burdens the one who says it.

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Having the “truth” won’t set you free, but it will blind the hell out of you.

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Good friends are love in the Way made flesh.

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memento mori*

1
The denial of aging is the denial of death.
The denial of death, of course, is the denial of life.

2
like autumn leaves I am dying,
much more slowly,
no less certainly

* Remember, you will die.

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On the difficulty of accepting one’s own mortality

How can it be that someday I will die,
when, for myself, I have never not been alive?

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Time

1
This moment
is now
the next one.

2
Only now!
Then is now!
Only now!

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True enough: we cannot be happy in the future,
we can only be happy now, in the present.

The same is true for unhappy.

Go figure.

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The Law of Karma

1
The “law of karma” is a story told to tranquilize people who suffer with the unfairness of life.

2
The “law of karma” is a story told to encourage people who behave badly to behave better.

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Life is never fair, sometimes people are.

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A hard lesson,
Unhappy, perhaps,
Just so, nonetheless —
God doesn’t care.*

Care is a human phenomenon, not a divine one.

*For the East, see the Bhagavad Gita, for the West, the Book of Job

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For good or ill human beings can believe just about anything . . . I know, I have.

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Looking forward into the stream of living,
I see hopes, dreams, plans, expectations;
looking back, it’s all the luck of the drift.

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In any practice, in any art, the invaluable gift is the critique of the master.

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It’s not only that life is short, it’s that it’s ever shorter.

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Most everyone wants to be happy all of the time . . . And no one ever will.

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Good to have peace with what happens;
everybody wants, but nobody gets it all.

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Without guilt, regrets are nothing to regret; they’re just regrets.

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Being present, being here now, is not a choice or an act of will, but an outcome in living well characterized as a gift.

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I no longer ask God to give me a different fate;
after all, for whom does S/he grant such appeals?

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Outcomes are always in doubt.

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There is nothing certain in this life but the leaving of it.

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Seeking certainty in the words of the dead is as futile as seeking it in the words of the living.

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Certainty is a temptation, an illusion, a curse.

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Any question concerning ultimate origins is unanswerable.

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Years spent learning to think for myself
only to discover it’s not the self that thinks.

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If you meet the Buddha on the road, invite him over for tea.

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Older age is a time when earlier griefs and sorrows may turn out to have been good practice.

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Listening at the edge of silence brings wonder.

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Two notes on wisdom

1
Wisdom includes a disposition to be where you are.

2
Wisdom includes dwelling in possible possibilities, not impossible ones.

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Notes on the notion of self

1
No thing is any thing in itself, including this thing we call the self.

2
On a clear day you can see
thoughts occurring of themselves
and the I, one amongst them.

3
The self arising at this moment can never see itself.

4
It’s not the I that speaks, the I itself is spoken

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Fortunate to recognize when your time has come,
equally fortunate to recognize when it has gone.

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Enough

1
You can only have enough if you can also have uncertainty.

2
Without dwelling in the question of how much is enough, we are unlikely to have it.

3
Two questions for hard (or any) times –

What matters?
How much is enough?

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Language

1
Transparent: air to the bird, water to the fish, language to ourselves.

2
We are fishes in a sea of words just beginning to feel wet.

3
Somewhere in the middle
was the word,
and the word brought forth
the beginning.

4
Poetry is the word making flesh, flesh.

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Reflecting on a Cup

That all things are empty
doesn’t mean that any thing
is other than it is.

A thing is what it is
by virtue of how
it arises for us.

Thirsty, I fill the cup.

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Faith

1
Faith is embodied belongingness (as emotion)
and interconnectedness (as understanding)
to and with all that lives and is.

2
If you see that control in life, of life is an illusion, the (apparent) choice is faith or despair.

3
Faith is skill in living without a net.

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Revenge

1
There is no end to getting even; one blow leads to the next.

2
Revenge is a dish best served not at all.

3
Forgiveness is the best revenge.

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Only the strong forgive.

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None of us is spared the exactness of a fate.

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Homo Sapiens?

Could we be the species
that entertains itself
into extinction?

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Smiling first befriends the other . . . and oneself.

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There is no end to acceptance or, perhaps better, accepting.

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For human well-being, in every sense, love is not an option.

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The talking primate may, upon reflection, realize s/he is an animal, too.

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Aging in two worlds:
Singapore: old and perhaps in the Way
America: old and definitely in the way.

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Life

1
Life isn’t what you expect, life is what happens.

2
Life doesn’t turn out the way we want; it turns out the way it wants.

3
Whether we trust the current of life or not, it takes us where it will.

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None of us was present for our birth — we all arrived later.

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Attitude, as much as character, is destiny.

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Beauty occurs first in the body, not the mind.

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Sometimes I fear the Beauty will never stop
and all that will be left of me. . .
molecules. . . flying apart.

(for Jorge Luis Borges)

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Riddle

Q: What is most wondrous?

A: Each day death takes lives beyond counting,
yet none who live think:

This day
death
can come to me.

(Adapted from William Buck’s translation of the Mahabharata)

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Only love satisfies;
only love knows,
only love satisfies.

 

 

 

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