Sunday, March 18, 2007

Amaryllis, and chili peppers

My wife elected to grow a large mass of Amarillys this winter. This picture, taken today, celebrates the results.

I had a hard time getting to this post today. Blogger was not working well as of an hour ago, and I had software issues in other areas which prevented me from posting the post that I planned to. In one of those hideous glitches all too familiar to regular computer users, the entire post was lost, and now exists only as a set of fading vibrations in some other part of the universe.

Long years of computer use have taught me that it is pointless to get upset about things of this nature. It is a case of dog bites man.

Today we took the famous dog Isabel out into the woods. There was a fierce snowstorm that ended with a coating of ice yesterday; we trudged out into virgin territory in Tallman State Park, shuffling gingerly along the top of snow-encrusted embankments, stumbling delightedly as the crust broke, falling and laughing, try to become more weightless than these bodies will allow.

At lunch, over a bowl of tomato soup spiked (by my own habitual hand) with chili peppers from New Mexico, I spoke with Neal about how I am beginning to lose my taste for hot foods.

This seems inconceivable: anyone who knows me will tell you that I have a craving for hot foods, and an excessive tolerance for them. Lately, though, I have been feeling more sensitive towards the taste of foods, having different experiences of them, and hot foods do not seem so interesting to me anymore.

This bothers me a bit; it reminds me of how I lost my taste for doing visual arts some five plus years ago. I have written about that before; the wish to do that still hasn't come back all these years later.

Those of you who read Mr. Gurdjieff's work, or who are at least familiar with some of his ideas, will know that he spoke often of the difference between essence and personality. Today I had an insight: I see that the differences that arise in me today are differences that are probably ascribable to the growth of essence.

We spend most of our lives enslaved by our personalities; as they grow, they decide what we will do and how we will do it. They decide what we will like and dislike; all along, we are willing participants, and unwitting victims. Our personality makes decisions for us that may have nothing to do with what we are actually like in essence.

After years of work, as we finally reach a moment when our essence begins to grow, things in us are bound to change. Of course this is bewildering; in actual fact, although we all profess a wish for change in our lives, we prefer the change to be superficial, that is, one of circumstances, not of what we perceive to be our overall character. Sacrificing anything from our exitsting state, that is, our personality, is a scary thing. It represents the death of something we are.

Everyone talks a good game, but no one wants this.

So here I am, finding out that essentially I don't like hot food. Not that much, anyway. This is quite a shock for someone who has crammed himself full of chili peppers for years. I am not quite sure who I am anymore. Or, as I put it to Neal, it is not a case of "I am this person," or, "I am not that person," but rather, "who is this person?"

So here I am, once again searching for who I am and where I am in this life. Once again I discover I don't know much about that. What I assumed was true is not; things that appeared to be certain and permanent turn out to be questionable and temporary; the earth, which looks solid, turns out to have fault lines in it. It may start shaking at any time and the buildings that I have erected over the last 51 years could come tumbling down like my art career.

I suppose it is fair enough discover that in our search for who we are, we find we are not who we thought we were.

What is even more sobering is to discover that we are not what we think we are. In these fleshy bodies, bags of skin and bones, as Master Dogen would put it, we fall victim to the cravings of the senses and they convince us that they are all there is. The fact that there is another world touching us at all moments, one we cannot see, and rarely, if ever, sense, escapes us.

If we open the vessel, and let the world flow in, everything changes. No matter what our reactions, what our prejudices, our irritations, if we practice, in this ordinary life, in this ordinary sense,we come to these three principles:

Accept, accept, accept.

When I come back to this over and over, it is possible to begin again to try to experience my life in more than just a superficial manner.

The sun has been streaming through my studio window as I write this; filtered through blue white reflections of snow, it blooms into the fiery red of the geraniums we have nurtured here all winter. I was going to post a picture of that for you, but the Amaryllis trumps them so handily- in digital format, anyway- that there was no contest.

Go with God, my friends. May we all remember to step lightly as we tread on the moments of this life, lest they break under our clumsy feet like a thin crust of snow.

And may we breathe in enough of that which feeds the soul to lighten us as we make our way through this thing called life.

Love to you all,

Lee

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