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Monday, May 05, 2008

Empty Bowls

I think a lot of people misunderstood that last post. For someone who's tried to adopt Hunter Thompson's
"Never apologize, never explain" as a credo, I seemed to be doing a lot of both there for a while. My little 2 1/2 - week period of dysfunction in April impacted some people, and I had to apologize for that, and assure them that I'm back up to speed (which at this point, I think I finally can say that I am).

The explaining part is a little harder, really, and I'm somewhat ambivalent about it. But I think some people read that last blog entry to mean that I was devastated by the death of my cat and would never recover. It ain't like that. Ms. Johnson has passed on, with my help, and I've accepted that. Yes, I'll always miss her. I just took her bowls to Manchester and ran them through a dishwasher (which I've personally never seen much use for) to sanitize them. She used them for over ten years, and I can't see throwing them away. I'm going to be putting her ashes (seen in the final pic on the preceding blog) on my little Zen altar along with pictures of my mother.

And people keep trying to give me kittens. I'm certainly not ready for a kitten at this point, and I probably never will be. My mother died five years ago; I don't want a kitten at this point any more than I want some other old lady pretending to be my mother. Lifetime attachments are just that. Paul McCartney should have learned.

No, that last post was supposed to be a little poetic, a little sad, a little philosophical. The point was not that everything will never be alright, not because Ms. Johnson died, but because that's the way things are. Things are never alright. As Gildner Radner said, I think, it's always something. There's always something keeping you from that perfect happiness you think you deserve. And the something is your own desire for perfect happiness. Trying to get from this real place to that imaginary place of perfect happiness is what keeps you unhappy.

But I'm not going to waste any more time regurgitating obvious truisms here. Go sit zazen and figure it out for yourself.

And developing the trust in your own perceptions that one develops from zazen can take you to very interesting places. I know for sure that my mother visited me after she died, and since; and that Ms. Johnson came to me the night she died and gave me a meaningful dream. There is no place for such happenings in the philosophy of Zen, if there is such a thing. But I know what I know. And I apologize to those whose beliefs and perceptions as to such things, I mocked a few years ago.

April is over, and I hope not to go back there any time soon. I'm not sure what caused or encouraged my temporary descent into darkness; I just know I'm through with it. Obviously, there was something I wanted or needed to learn, or to do. I did acquire a deeper realization as to some things I already knew, at least on a surface level. There is no normal "my life"; its's just a story I tell myself. "My life" is in eternal flux. I actually came through relatively unharmed. Maybe some people think less of me, as I told the truth about the incident; I feel like I cleared the air. If anyone out there hasn't figured it out, I'm far from perfect.

But I did get a fresh perspective on what's meaningful for me, and what's not. And I do need to look at making some changes in the sets and settings. But I did my first yoga class in a month yesterday, and I've realized that what's important to me, to reduce it to a physical level, is my own brain chemistry. From another perspective, this is the spirit. But I maintain this by:

1. Abstinence from intoxicants or toxins;
2. Meaningful physical exercise;
3. Spiritual practice.
4. Creativity.

Those all would take a little explaining; part of me gags on including zazen as "spiritual practice", but honestly other practices have worked in the past, just not as well, and they inevitably led to some sort of cognitive dissonance. Zen is what works for me. I don't insist anyone else try it, though I do my best to make it available when I can, and where it's wanted. "Creativity" includes a lot of things people may not see as creative at all; like wrapping myself up in good sci-fi. Yeah, someone else was creative. But my appreciation can be all I need to keep moving on.

Meaningful exercise? It just has to be something I like, and makes me feel good, in and about myself. Yoga works, but so do the few remaining step aerobics classes which are correctly done. Anything I don't enjoy doesn't work here (i.e., weightlifting, jogging). It has to be meaningful activity.

Intoxicants? This one is totally explainable on a chemical level. When you put chemicals in your brain to make it happy, it stops producing its own "happy chemicals". I've tried both, and the ones my brain produces are better.

So, moving on. Will the job produce enough income for me to survive? Dunno; I hope so, I actually like the people I work for and with, for the most part. But we're moving into a time of economic collapse, and we'll all share in that, one way or another.

My dad is 85; he's always raised cattle, but he hasn't kept any the last few years much; he tried last year, but it was so dry here that there was hardly any pasture for them. This year he's keeping four steers for a cattleman down the road. Yesterday morning, two of the four mysteriously vanished; the fence had been broken or cut. I suspected cattle rustlers and wanted him to call the Sheriff. But hours later, a Sheriff's deputy and someone else, along with eventually their owner, found the steers standing in the middle of a busy highway, and drove them home. So my dad, at his age, was out fixing fences yesterday afternoon. And I'm sure he was thinking, 'I thought I was over this....'

Tomorrow surely brings changes, but I no longer fear them. I should have known better, and I went through what it took me to learn. I keep thinking of Natalie Maines singing "Taking the Long Way Around."

The fences are mended, and the cattle are back in the field, for now. Next!


Mettai Cherry said...

Hi Bob,

I am truly very sorry for your loss of Ms. Johnson.

I think too few people who haven't been there fail to even try to understand how something like that can push one right over the edge when hanging on by a thread (or a berry). It happened to me about 13 years ago. I was close losing it anyway (maybe I already had - from the inside you never really know). My 15-year old feline friend Auslese died and I truly don't know how long I spent unable to function. I had to have a photograph of her handy at all times (you can see most of her on ). The little guy with her is gone now too, but he is the one who helped me thought it the most. I'm not saying you need get another kitten, simply that having already had another cat there, he was a big comfort to me. He also was acting a bit depressed about losing his friend and so I went to the pound to get him another companion. I don't know whether it helped me (I actually spent quite some time telling myself that I refused to fall in love with her - fat chance) but it sure improved his mood.

Anyhow, nuff said and I'm glad to hear that your life is back in as much order as can be expected.

--Mettai Cherry

Anonymous said...

Hi Bob,

I'm glad you're back and functioning. As far as Hunter Thompson, as I'm sure you know, I've never really been a fan; it's kinda like "Love Story" which I know he didn't write "Love means never having to say you're sorry." Not! Sometimes 'sorry' goes a long way to heal. However, I totally respect your view and opinion where that is concerned, even though I don't agree with it.

I think the bigger thing here, and I think you'll agree with this, but it's OK if you don't, as you know, but ... we all have warts, we all have times when we go off the deep end, and we all try to survive those times. After they are over, we look around, watch the dust settle, and wonder whom amog those we love are still there.

For me, the answer is, again, we all have warts. Those still around are 'real,' because they realize that these things happen and we are all here to be your friend and, hopefully, love unconditionally. For me, that's what it's all about.

So, again, I'm glad you're finding your footing again. And, I, along with many, are still here and our opinions of you have not changed. I still see you as a warm, caring person, and some, given your sense of humour may smile at that, but I know that's true of you.

You are my friend, and I love you unconditionally. I'm glad you're growing, I'm glad you're rising above, or trying to, your challenges, and I'm glad that life keeps rolling along

You are a good person, and I understand and empathize with your loss. Been there, done that. It's not easy.

Keep going, my friend, you will get past it.

With much love, Tanya