Monday, April 9, 2012

A Word of Caution

Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren't any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn't be here in the first place. [Buckminster Fuller]
I confess that I pulled these two sentences out of a paragraph clearly intended to be motivational, about how one person can change the world.  My take on that is, Yes, but a lot of the time that's not such a good thing.

Maybe I'm down on this kind of thing because it's one of those times when it's all I can do to live my own life, and not doing real well at that either.  For instance, getting to exercise or getting to the eyeglass place to order some needed new glasses.  Or . . . you get the idea.  I don't need anyone telling me to change the world. Usually, when someone does tell me that, they want my money.

As for the above, I think that first sentence is a good one.  But don't get above yourself thinking about your uniqueness.  Every maple leaf on a tree is unique, different than any other.  You don't need a magnifying glass to see it.  We cat lovers know that every cat is unique and irreplaceable, though also catlike and not doglike.

The second sentence?  ridiculous.  I was not put on this earth to be born in September of 1942 because the world needed another crazy artist (it does make me laugh to call myself that, so indulge me); I was born because my father came home on leave in December 1941.  Did they intend to make a baby?  I never asked.  But I know this - if they had an intention, it was to have a boy.  Furthermore, I don't think God or a conscious manipulative universe sent him home on leave and made them be careless or set out to make a baby.  Do you think it works like that?  Really?

For me, after a few minutes on Facebook I feel most or all of us would do better to stop getting motivated to do great things and have some humility - to compare ourselves, say, to blades of grass.  But we are blades that can jump up and down and shout, Look at me, look what I can do!  That seems to get many people in a whole lot of trouble.  I don't follow celebrity overdoses too closely, but they stream past me on the evening news.  In the world of popular music, death from wanting to be spectacular is common.  Uppers so you can give a pow concert; downers so you can sleep.  I wish I could have said to Michael Jackson (for example), Really, you and your performances don't matter that much.  Relax.

There are some things worth dying for, but being wonderful is not one of them.

(If you want to be wonderful, you could try to paint like this guy Charles Demuth. Though he didn't get there by trying to paint like anyone else, now that I think about it.)


  1. But blades of grass do great things.

    You know, when the Buddha met with 7 cosmic Buddhas before him, they said hey, you need some Bodhisattvas? We can give you some cosmic Bodhisattvas.

    Buddha said, nope, we have them popping out of the dirt here, thank you.

    Two sticks rub together; fire bursts forth; where was this fire in that wood?

  2. I am smiling (or LOL, we say on Facebook). I think, however, that meaning and greatness don't come from striving for them, but from trying to do your work fully, in the case of the arts, your own way. So that's where uniqueness comes in - real-izing it, not striving for it.

    The fire in the wood - what is the difference between potential and actual? The issues around abortion depend on how people see that question.

    1. I think the difference between potential and actual is like having kensho and living an enlightened life. You have kensho but what do you do with that? Chop wood and carry water, I think.

      Striving helps when it's all you have. The muddy water is still water, it's all mixed together.

    2. Then is before kensho the unfertilized egg?

    3. That feels like a completely different topic! Tathagata Garba is sometimes womb, somtimes seed- I wonder how either of those terms are compatible with the idea of sudden, complete enlightenment. In Dogen's Busso, he says know small Buddha, know big Buddha. He also says that if you think that all you have is a seed, you're missing the fully blooming branch...

      However, in the Lanka (And in Bankei's work), there is that concept of "the unborn" which is neither to be born or not having been born, but this idea of being complete in being unborn.

      I'd love to hear what you think about the unborn. I'm scheduling some dokusan with Jiryu (No Zen In The West) so we can talk some more about this.

    4. With my medically-fogged memory, and without looking up things, my thought is that we can have a great spiritual experience in which we are or understand the unborn; but. But we are born. We are completely these individual bodies. Then we are not. Some organ fails, a unifying force dissolves, and I hope we know again what it is to be unborn. But I don't know. Let me know what you come up with.

  3. Actually, I happen to LIKE the second sentence, and find it inspiring in a slightly Hallmarkish way. I like the way you make me think about things, really think and see things in a different perspective than my own. Is that all for nought? Think of who you've touched in life and see if it really all sounds like just an accident.

    Listen, you have more on your shoulders than pretty much anyone I know. My mother used to be nearly debilitated by her rheumatoid arthritis. She had many surgeries on her hands and her feet were such a mess, that she had to tape some of her toes together, just to be able to walk around as comfortably as possible. She could never wear pretty shoes, she couldn't go for long, effortless walks anywhere, but she was so vital to all of us. Maybe if we were here strictly for ourselves, life would be so much less bullshitty.

    And no, that's not an anecdote with the intent of saying "don't complain, someone's always got it harder, SQUEEK, SQUEEK, SQUACK, SQUACK..." What am I saying then? Some people get the burdens, and the nitwits sail on through.

    1. Maybe the unluckiest people I know are the oblivious ones. Karen, you have the wonderful Jack; a constant opportunity, I gather.