Living in the questions

Imbolc                                                                 Imbolc Moon

1957 or so

1957 or so

1948. Polio at one and a half, paralyzed for six months, some time in an iron lung. Relearned to walk. The beginning of childhood. October, 1964. Mom dies of a stroke. 17, childhood’s end. Just realized this last week that my childhood had these two inflection points. Strange to think of childhood that way.

Hard to know the true pathways of the mind. But. Alcoholism. Smoking. An anxiety disorder. A constant focus on existential questions. Maybe. Maybe these were causative. Or, rather, my responses to them.

At 71 all that seems so long ago. I call those times the long ago and far away. Isn’t true, of course. That little boy still struggles with learning how to walk. That high school senior still grieves, is shocked, stunned. Compassion for the young man in his twenties, the one who lived after, unconscious largely, angry, hurt, determined, passionate. He didn’t understand the powerful psychic currents pushing and pulling him, making him yearn for knowledge, making him demand a changed world. Wish I could go back and hold his hand, comfort him. Reassure him. He needed it.

AheadNo matter our birthday, 19 or 99, our past selves come along to the party. I’m unclear about the reality of self or soul though I believe in them both. Whatever the self is, it’s a composite, a melange of key moments and the reactions to those moments. And, as time goes on, the reactions to those reactions.

Whatever the soul is, it represents that of us common with other souls, that of us common with the unimaginable creativity resulting in life. As such, the soul is our literal birthright, unimpeachable by our actions, our hopes, our nightmares. No matter how sullied or glorious our life our soul retains its pristine quality, its eternal character of universality. The afterlife, if there is one, lies hidden behind the veil; but, if anything passes into it, it will be this. Would the soul be stripped of the barnacles attached by our long or short lives? Hell if I know.

I’m happy to have lived this long, 71 years. And, I can see now that answers are not part of the search. It was always the questions. As Kate and I lived in the move for the 9 months  before we left for Colorado, so have I always lived in the questions. Then, in the long ago far away, and now, in 2018 on Shadow Mountain. Tomorrow, too.

Imbolc                                                                         Imbolc Moon

Valentine's Day Cupid-Postman-GraphicsFairy1“Valentine’s Day began in commemoration of St. Valentine. It seems that in the third century A.D., Emperor Claudius II of Rome issued a ban on marriages and engagements, to encourage young men to join the army instead. But Valentine went ahead and continued marrying couples in secret. When the emperor discovered this, Valentine was condemned to death and beheaded. The year was 278.” Chronicle

Burned Love

Imbolc                                                                              Imbolc Moon

ash wednesdayThe first day of Lent falls, this year, today. That means, as Allan Metcalf, the author of the article quoted below says, that we’re dealing with hearts and ashes. Makes sense to me that my 71st would fall on such a day. Since hitting three score and ten a year ago, I’ve passed into birthdays that commonly show up in the obituary pages. Ash Wednesday reminds us that we deconstruct, returning our enlivened elements. #Recycle Me as the green burial folks said.

This reminder,  a mark made from the ash of palm leaves used a year ago, would be good for all of us. It doesn’t have to come with the whole freight train of Catholic dogma. We could use soot from the chimney or ash from a burned log in the fire place.

yamantaka3

Minneapolis Institute of Arts

It invites comparison to Yamantaka. “Yamantaka is a violent aspect of the Bodhisattva Manjushri, who assumes this form to vanquish Yama, the god of death. By defeating Yama, the cycle of rebirths (samsara) that prevents enlightenment is broken.” Met Museum

The holiday of Easter, which comes at the end of Lent, celebrates a god who conquers death. We do not defeat physical death though Christianity posits that great wakin’ up mornin’ sometime in a future dimly understood. Mebbe so. Mebbe so.

As for me, I’m with Yamantaka whose wonderful mandala hangs in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. It encourages a focused meditation on your own death so that the Bodhisattva can help you clear your mind of fear. That is the victory over death that Yamantaka offers, release from the fear of physical death. An ash mark on the forehead once a year is a start, but the Catholic one comes with strings created by texts. So let’s create our own and use it to recall our work with Yamantaka.