"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"
Monday, March 23, 2009
Craving and suffering
In my Zen Sangha (it's a word that means a community of some sort) the teacher has recently been going over some of the basics. We started on the Third Noble Truth last week. I'm still working on mastery of the Second Noble Truth and getting pretty good at it. Today, for example, I thought I might die of wanting a new bicycle. But yesterday I felt almost the same way about wanting a new car, and last week I was practically bedridden with longing for a new computer, and the week before I was desperate for an electric guitar amp. Those are just (some of) the cravings to which I'm willing to publicly confess. I'm not going to talk about how many (boxes of) girl scout cookies I've eaten in the last couple weeks, for example. At least I can afford to buy a few (boxes of) girl scout cookies even though the price has gone up 228% since I sold them. (There's a story problem waiting to happen.)
And lest anyone doubt my mastery of wanting things, I am able to sustain any number of my cravings simultaneously. Like juggling bowling pins that stay up even when I'm not really trying to juggle them. I think I'm just about at the peak of my craving powers.
The discussion of the Third Noble Truth didn't go completely over my head, though. The teacher said all you have to do to stop suffering is stop craving. If you don't like what you're doing, just stop doing it. Anything that you can willingly start doing, you can willingly stop. Psh. Easy for him to say, Mr. Zen teacher smarty pants. Though he said that recently he really really wanted a new bike, too, and a 20-something year old body to go with it as opposed to the second-hand cruiser and the 70-something year old body he's got. He saw a college boy riding by on some little number with a carbon-fiber frame and felt a terrible pang. In a moment like that you can't really feel how fine a thing it is that you are able to ride around town on a bicycle of any description, or that your computer still sort of works and perhaps you can borrow one that works better, or that your current vehicle runs fine and you can drive it when you don't really feel like riding whatever bicycle(s) you have. I think it's easier to focus on things that seem to be lacking. I have so much stuff already that it would be too overwhelming if I were to focus on all of it instead.