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Thoughts on forever

There is nothing that is still. Nothing is static. Everything is moving, changing, evolving into something new.  Some change quickly. Others change slowly. Each has its own speed or vibration. And even when things seem like they are perennially frozen in time, they are actually going through a metamorphosis, albeit too slowly for us to realize. But trust that it is happening. That is the way of life and the world.

I once saw a video on the Internet that showed a new born baby sleeping. To the naked eye, it may seem like nothing much was going on.  That’s how it appeared when it was shot with a regular video camera. But when it was filmed with a super high speed camera it caught the many previously unnoticed movements he was making. Parts of his body were practically pulsating here and there non-stop together with the beating of his heart.

One can say that the irony of it all is that you only notice the aliveness of everything and the direction things are taking when you are in a state of stillness and awareness. It is only when you take stock by pausing, detaching and stepping back do you see what is really happening.

I have seen fortunes change quickly. I have also seen it change slowly. Money not only changes hands but it also grows and gets depleted. Friends have come and gone. And new ones are always made. Loved ones were once there. Some have died. Others have moved away. Some have moved on. My own youth once seemingly endless and eternal has frittered away with the passage of time.

Some people get surprised when they see me in person and tell me how much I have physically aged. These are people who used to see me daily on TV. Little do they realize that more than a decade has passed since I was visible everyday on their TV sets. They did not see changes happening incrementally. And much less do they probably realize that they too have aged just as much.

It is tempting to romanticize and imagine that there are things that last forever.  But do they really?  I ask this rhetorically, because the truth is, I am not sure.

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People form partnerships. These are deals or agreements made where they promise to invest their energies, emotions, love together in pursuit of happiness in a future that is full of beneficial potentialities. In short, these agreements are investments with forever in mind even if the future may or may not deliver. It is always an open future. Things can go either way even if they are hopeful things will work out for well. But even so, people do this for many reasons that they imagine are mostly beneficial. One of them is, at least they don’t have to live life alone in the world.

But once loyal friends can and do part ways and may even turn into enemies. Lovers can go their separate lives even after promises are solemnly made before God and friends. Bonds, explicit or unspoken are made and often broken. This I have seen and experienced many times.

People disappoint. Fate plays cruel tricks.  I know women who have  awakened to the shock of discovering that their husbands were not the knights in shining armor they thought they were.  I have also heard husbands complain that their once sweet, loving, beautiful wives have changed into monsters. I knew of a young couple many years ago who were so much in love and got  married only to discover a few years  into their blissful  union that one of them was sick with a fatal disease and would not live long. The wife died of cancer after just four years.

Commitments, relationships and promises may last and endure until death. It doesn’t always turn out that way but some do. But I think they only do so when the parties involved are awake enough to recognize the dynamic nature of the people they invest into forever with.

With eyes wide open, we enter the gates that lead to forever but with every few steps, the road conditions may change. One moment it is a smooth, easy path pleasant to traverse. Suddenly it can get very rough with hardly a path to walk on. It is easy and even understandable at times to turn around and just abandon the journey. It may even be the wise thing if the path ends on a cliff and continuing to go on may mean great physical injury or even death.

But the wisest advise may be this:  before you make your commitments, consider the worst possibilities. If you think that in the end, you will gain more in terms of personal growth and that it is worth all trouble, then go and do so.

I mentioned long ago that I read article in Psychology Today that says  all types of relationships go through the perennial cycle of promise, disappointment  or betrayal and courtship. It is similar to what is described in zen as  great faith,  great doubt, great vow and great effort. St. John of the Cross says something similar. You attempt, you fail and rise to repeat the cycle again and again. It may sound senseless and cynical to some and may justify why things don’t work but to me it seems like a reasonable explanation why things can work despite the disappointments.

Through every cycle of it, if we keep our eyes open there can be qualitative changes on how we experience the stages. This may indeed be the cycle of things but the level of the experience of it may be higher each time. There are always lessons and realizations to be learned which include taming and adjusting expectations, keeping fears and negativity away and refining and improving efforts at what we do.

Sensei Sevan Ross, director of the Chicago Zen Center said, “If we have no doubt, we have no faith. If we have no faith, we have no doubt.” The doubt comes with the faith. The faith here is not about certainty, nor is the doubt here about denial. True faith and doubt will always go hand in hand. You will always feel free but you must continue anyway. Both are about committing to the continuation of life’s unknown journey but through a progressively higher level of experience.

Pema Chodron, a Zen Buddhist monk says, “We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice.”

People who buy into “forever” are not necessarily fools who are marching off to a cliff of disappointment and cynicism. “Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment. Take one leap after another in the darkness until the light shines,” is a zen saying. With eyes open and with awareness, the continuous jumping into the unknown may be better guided each times as we learn and grow.

 

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