I had a conversation about life with my 10-year-old. He’s been confused about its purpose and value for a couple of years now.
The thing is, I understand him. At about his age was when I asked my mother why she gave me birth – if she knew that “I was going to live in an insane world just to suffer”. The best she could do was tell me that she wanted someone with her in this world, a friend. The best I could do then was to call her selfish. I told my son this story.
He asked me why I brought him into this world. I told him that there is nothing like life and living. Sure there’s a lot of crazy-making all around us, but there are also things that literally light us up. We talked about the things that make him happy. We examined the lounging posture of our extremely large cat. We talked about how it’s always easier to focus on the pain, but that’s not the only option. We tilted our heads together and intertwined our fingers. I could feel his pain and confusion like it was my own.
I think there is a part of him that touched his own ability to feel happiness. I could feel him touch it somewhere in the indescribable dimension of what makes him alive. I recognized that place from a dream I had – a waking dream where I felt the life force in my body and compared it to death.
I know what it feels like to be dead and, obviously, alive. All I can say is that this feeling of living – at the core and beyond the noisy signals of existence – is why we are here. If we feel this urge to live running through us – even for a moment – and own it, many things would change.
Suffering is incredibly noticeable, don’t you think? There are days when this existence feels like a crushing weight that will literally take over if I let it and cave on me. But I hold on. I know there are people who want me to fail and prove them right. I just can’t give in to that. The destructive forces at play in this dimension want so badly to be right. I told my son I feel the magic that is life without fully understanding it, and I let that take over.
I think it’s too easy now to diagnose depression, anxiety, and who-knows-what. It’s become too easy to label or to Google labels to put ourselves in some box – maybe a wooden box, figuratively speaking. Yes, we are made of chemicals and these can be “out of balance” despite our best intentions. Yes, we can dwell on all the shitty things we have experienced and vivisect them endlessly in therapy and in our relationships. Yes, we may need to put a label in our sleeves so that those with similar labels can pick us out of a crowd – and then we don’t feel so alone. And perhaps we may need to do all of the above at some point. However, when we are done with that parade, we have to go back to our root mystery of being alive and recognize it for what it is.
This mystery cannot be awakened by medications or talk. It must be found in our silence, in the grace of our coherent being – no matter how seemingly damaged or broken we may appear to be – even if we take medication and despite the talk. At the core, you see, nothing is broken. It’s still not broken even after we piece together the pretty or grotesque factors of our causal chain of events.
There is freedom in accepting that being hurt can’t break us. Broken bones heal. Ripping muscles get stronger. I wonder what those bones and muscles think while rebuilding? Sure, we can let go into the idea that we may not come back from being hurt that one more time. But what if we don’t let go into that thought? What if we hold off on making such big decisions and just hold on to life’s grace?
I don’t know where this idyllic vision of life here came from, where people think that everything they value should be within their reach: “If I just control this one more thing, everything will be OK.” On some level you know that’s bullshit, right? There’s a lot going on on this plane of existence, and things don’t fit into nice little closet organizers. You do see that? But we can spend our entire lives trying to figure out how much we can tweak to make life easier and smoother – forget happy.
We will always do what we do even when we don’t know why we do it. But, can’t we at least pause long enough to feel that something altogether different has occurred when we came to be here? This is not closet-organizer material. This is not within the purview of our exact and inexact sciences. In fact, direct living is beyond most of humanity, which prefers to meta-live or live by proxy, watch other people live and die, and then stop short of fullness by wading in superficial emotions and cursory pattern-recognition.
I can only try to do justice to the grace that lives me, even if aspects of me are thrown under a microscope or telescope and deemed to be imperfection. Who cares that humanity has a tendency to view texture and call it “flaw.” I remember the time when idiots thought that planets were perfect spheres, until Galileo pointed his telescope at them and saw “spots.” He lived out his days under house arrest because he called attention to the ignorance of smoothing out life’s wrinkles. Today, we just retouch in Photoshop the magazine models and, for $7 extra, everyday people, to play the dulce notes of the Music of the Spheres.
It is in texture and nuance, in the spots and wrinkles, and in the best-laid-plans-gone-to-waste that we find the pulse of life careening our awareness. I know the complexity may feel overwhelming, but there is no other way. The tendency to flatten layers no longer serves any of us. Life is alchemy and more.