NAVEL FUZZ OBSERVATIONS #1 AND #2
The empty hours that Peace Corps volunteers have after the sun goes down leaves ample time for us to think about the fuzz on our navels. The night can be lonely. With only agitated dogs barking, disoriented roosters crowing, and hungry rats scurrying to keep us company, a volunteer either finds God or insanity – what have I found, I wonder?
Humor aside, I see that my time here in Guatemala will be more than just helping a troubled company, adapting to a different culture, and expanding my worldview. I find myself growing spiritually. My preconceptions of the world around me and my perceptions of reality are changing. (Don’t worry Mom & Dad. I’m not taking any drugs or participating in any “mind-expanding” rituals. I’ve just been thinking a lot lately.)
At the risk of sounding like a typical Ganja-worshiping Humboldt student, I would like to share these thoughts that I’ve been having. When I return to the States, the length of my hair may neither be down my back nor may I have six-month’s growth of a beard, but I would still be different inside. It would be nice if my friends and family knew what these differences are. Navel Fuzz Observation #1 is my reflection on the differences between love and attachment after reading Anthony De Mello’s The Way to Love. Navel Fuzz Observation #2 is my thoughts on the concept of self after reading a chapter in Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching.
Your opinions would be greatly appreciated.
ON LOVE AND ATTACHMENT
Love is redefined [after reading De Mello’s book]. Love is the sensitivity to all of reality, inner and outer, and one’s wholehearted response to this reality. What I referred to as “love” in my previous [journal] entries regarding the differences between men and women and their decision to love is nothing more than attachment. Men and women decide to cling themselves to one another because their criteria for attachment is different. A man decides to hand over the control of his own happiness when, in his mind, a woman appears to meet his expectations. He is willing to forsake his sensitivity and joy that the rest of reality may give him for the exclusive interest/thrill/excitement that possessing such a woman would provide. These met expectations are, at best, transitory (temporary) and, at worst, illusory (not real at all; imagined.) Women are more cautious to attach themselves. Perhaps a part of them is more sensitive than men to the negative consequences of this attachment-we-confuse-as-love? Nevertheless, after a certain event (i.e. first kiss, shared hardship, first time having sex, etc.) a woman may feel obligated, through guilt or other pressures, both personal and cultural, to be attached to this man.
Using this new definition of love, a man and a woman, then, can only love one another when they do not fear losing each other and are free to be as Nature intended them to be. At no moment should one feel “I must change this-or-that about me lest she/he stops loving me.” Love exists when we respond to the reality of the other person, not our expectations of him or her – and the reality of that person is different every day, at every moment.
There should be no fear of loss because a person is not to be possessed in the first place. If so, one might as well say he can possess the sun. As the sun’s good light shines on us all, so should the goodness of a woman or man be free to benefit others.
Love is not exemplified when a man says “she is my girlfriend.” He might as well say “That rose is mine. I first found it, appreciated its beauty and scent. I spend the most time with this rose and only I can understand its inner beauty.” His declaration of possession does not speak of his love, but of his attachment. His possession gives him a thrill, an excitement – not love. Love would come from understanding the reality of the rose. It grew to bloom not for his possession, but to be just a rose – something that some people will come to appreciate, others would ignore, and a few would take the time to see the rose’s reality. Those few would do well to avoid the desire to possess it, to cling to it, to be attached to it. This attachment would only bring him suffering, deprive others of the rose’s beauty, and, at worse, harm the rose itself.
So… what does this mean for the concept of boyfriend/girlfriend and husband/wife? What of marriage?
THREADS AND COLORS
If I imagine my father and mother as two separate pieces of thread, then their threads twisted together is who I am. The aunts, uncles, and cousins in my life, all the teachers, friends and loved-ones that I have come to know are other threads woven beside me. Their colors may be so bright that I can’t help but have some of them rub off on me.
My concept of self is the misperception that I am my own piece of thread in the tapestry of life. When I look at the make-up of my being, I find that I am the threads of my parents that have taken a different hue due to the influence of family, friends, and chance strangers that I’ve met. In the same way, my parents are interwoven threads of my grandparents whose colors are also a product of their environment. This “interwoven-ness” goes back further still, beyond what I can imagine. Perhaps in terms of Christianity, these threads go back to Adam and Eve, and from them, to God? Perhaps in terms of Taoist imagery, these threads go back to the Nameless, spun from the essence of the yin and the yang?
I am not my own piece of thread cut from the spool with a dangling beginning of string called “birth.” I am a continuation of the threads woven before me. I am a thick cord of rope of my ancestors. My actions may create an interesting pattern, but it is the movement of the hundreds – thousands – of threads around me that maintains the design in this small part of the tapestry labeled “Guatemala.”
Neither does death result in one’s thread being cut, leaving a frayed loose end. The Weaver would not allow such an unseemly design in the tapestry. The death of my brother, for example, did not end his life’s thread. His colors live on through the people he has met, and his thread is now tied to those family and friends closest to him. His thread and colors are finely entwined with my own, and I carry the essence of who he was before he died whether I am conscious of it or not. The threads and colors of my parents will also continue through me when they pass away. And when I die, my threads and colors will continue through my friends, my close relations, my wife and children (uh… future wife and children. Hopefully.)
In this way, I was never born and I will never die. I am but a continuation of a collection of threads that has been and will continue to be woven through infinity. My concept of self is only the perception of the point when my parents’ threads entwined (my birth) and the point where this same thread melts, ties, and weaves itself with others (my death).