Sunday, May 16, 2010

That's Not What I Meant

I remember telling my children, back in home-school days, that life is like a big bowl of Silly Putty--stretch it, bend it, shape it into whatever you want. My artist-self knows that life is a blank canvas or a clean page. My "scientific" self might conceive of life as a sterile growing medium. Introduce an idea, and watch it expand.

It is especially easy to see the original "blankness" and "meaninglessness" of life when a structure of personal significance collapses. The kind of structure I am speaking of is nothing more than a mental/emotional relationship to a person, place, thing or idea; there is some kind of cessation, and then a gap, a void, an emptiness. Depending upon the degree of attachment to the situation (there is always some, or there would be no meaning), reactions can range from mild surprise to intense grief. If identification is strong, it seems to take a fair amount of time and effort to find equilibrium again, to frame the string of events in memory as somehow beneficial in the long investigate where and how the dynamics changed, and to apply any insight to the workings of our lives. We figure out how to move on, how to perhaps do things differently in the future. 

(A brother of mine used to cynically refer to the above process as a "YAFLE"--Yet Another F***ing Learning Experience.)

Having been around the block a time or two, I believe that I'm well-acquainted with various kinds of pain and suffering associated with structure-collapse. I am happy to report that, although pain is what it is and hurts by nature, the amount of suffering has greatly diminished, simply because I have learned not to beat Maria up for too long. The fact that I seem to be determined to live thoroughly and authentically in spite/because of it all probably has something to do with the fine art of pulling myself out of the muck, as well.

In all my emotional tripping, I have acquired another skill, hard to articulate, but as relevant to easier living (in my mind) as the "invention" of the wheel must have been to those folks sick and tired of dragging large burdens over rough territory. This ability involves taking the time to be very aware of the emotional storm surges as they arise, and to look through them, even while feeling the full impact of whatever they are (not necessarily negative). This ruthless honesty is akin to watching a very convincing movie playing out on a huge screen--a screen which must be empty in order to allow the technicolor images to exist--all the while knowing that, at the end of the show, reality again takes the form of a blank, white field; such a field is even now the hidden understanding of the energy pouring across my perception.

In other words, it is the very meaninglessness of life which grants me the supreme privilege of making meaning, for entertainment, for learning, for further understanding...maybe just because I love to.

Over time, I have grown to dread that void less and less, and make friends with its purity and selflessness more and more. I see myself within it (and vice-versa) as a meaning-making being by nature, learning by trial and error to be a life-artist, using the true extent of my own freedom. I don't rush to fill it with another play to prevent boredom, or to escape the brain-boggling fact that its massive spaciousness also fits into every form I encounter, including myself. It is very user-friendly, and much more stable than the temporal stories it becomes. It seems that its qualities as a medium expand along with the understanding and acceptance of its true neutrality.

I am aware that to label Being "meaningless" is itself a meaningless statement; I can only call it "neutral" by contrasting it with the positive and negative currents we tend to get so caught up in--the flows which are not truly separate from such absolute potential. However, I'm not interested in debating semantics or philosophy, here--I have nothing but this experience to use, to relate and to share, and its value seems to lie in how it feels. The feeling is not necessarily "problem" or anxiety-free, although there is always an element of bliss. What I feel while pressed up unabashedly to the naked universe is anything but neutral or meaningless.

What I feel allows me to recognize the difference between real intimacy and ego-stroking, between love and self-serving fear, between courage and defensive posturing. The curious Void is a meaning-before-meaning, an original quality that is most truly apparent in that which can be nothing but Itself. The scripts, roles, and costumes are shed; even the body is dropped like the concept it is, and all that's left is Nothing Most Full.

Perhaps the most profound effect of this willingness to admit such open, boundary-less Reality into thinking and feeling is the respect I have for my ability to choose my meanings, as well as the choices themselves. Yes, it's all on my head and heart, and I know it. Sometimes I feel like a hapless fool, an old blind woman talking to her deaf dog, a hopelessly clumsy little girl in school. But there is an innate love here that holds these characters in great affection, allows them their frustrations and mistakes, and always knows what strength lies yet within. My meanings carry increased responsibility and are far from what I used to think of as "perfect"...but oh, the colors, the songs, the texture! I fall down, my knee hurts, and I'm face-to-face with a whole new world to embrace--one which, in my more "balanced" state, I didn't see...