Ever just sit? You know, those kind of sits where you forget you exist, what time it is, and what place you are at? Everything just blends into everything else, and suddenly everything becomes nothing. There is no feeling in you and all thought is gone. You exist but you don’t, you feel but you can’t.
Sometimes I welcome those moments. They help me escape and understand. I believe this is what my soul must feel when not in a body and mind. No thought. No feeling. No existence. It’s why our souls become human. They want to feel something, they want to experience. So they make the choice to go from that nothing to this something. We are born.
There is a certain melancholy to being human often interrupted by moments of pure happiness. To those enlightened masters who suggest otherwise, I’d ask them to explain to me what gave them their perspective. Each and every master who has ever preached the virtues of happiness does so from the perspective of suffering. Each and every understanding of enlightenment is born from the deepest parts of suffering. Transformation itself is suffering. We are born to suffer so that we can know something else.
Our first acts of existence outside the womb are to suffer. We are made to cry just to get us to breathe, that sudden slap on the ass announcing our arrival to this world. We know hunger for the first time, and we begin to know human needs. If we are lucky, we are born to a nurturer, someone who gives us her breast in our moments of need; someone who tenderly caresses our humanity in our moments of utter confusion. I often wonder if these needs and wants come as a dramatic relief to a soul who had just awoken from their own sit moment.
My most recent slap in the ass comes at the hand of a man walking by my car. I had forgotten about this traffic and the time I had spent in this same exact spot. I had forgotten about the frustration of sitting still in traffic on a Friday afternoon. It was welcome relief spoiled by this man just casually strolling down the sidewalk enjoying his walk. He had a smile that betrayed a joy, and his walk suggested that he had found some happiness in this moment. I could only wonder why.
What expectation was met that brought him here? Maybe he received an unexpected message from his lover. What did that message say? My mind conjured up the possibilities. “I just wanted to say I love you.” “You mean the world to me.” “Get home, I’m naked and waiting.” “I want you beyond measure.” I could feel a smile cross my lips at the thought.
Maybe he was just leaving from his lover’s house. The kiss goodbye and the promise of seeing her again had him smiling. The feeling of being loved and of loving when the gift and the giver unite to form one singularity of purpose can create such joy in the human heart. Maybe his expression was evidence of that joy. He mattered to her, and she wanted him. She gave his love right back to him, and it made him fly. She had made him feel superhuman, or rather exposed to him that part that was superhuman. He could still feel her there, and as a result couldn’t stop smiling.
I’m not unhappy alone, but I know that joy that rushes into me when made to feel like I exist outside of myself. That I matter. That I’m wanted. I don’t want to get all metaphysical here. Time is short and I simply want to experience. I don’t care what part of me is feeling that joy, or why. I don’t care what is happening. I’m like a hungry bear who has just found a jar of peanut butter. I just want to eat it, feel my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, feel the need for water to wash it all down. I’m tired of demonizing the experience itself for some notion of freedom that doesn’t truly exist in this realm. We are all prisoners of expectation, of need, of desire and of ego. Even those who preach the virtues of not having expectations suffer from having them. That very idea is an expectation. Even those who preach the about non-attachment seem to have an attachment to the idea. We are, after all, spirits having a human experience and not the other way around.
Maybe he is happy because he isn’t sitting in this infernal traffic. He can walk freely, without encumbrance, while I sit in this mostly plastic box going nowhere. To those who say a car is freedom, welcome to my world where I often sit imprisoned in a coiled line of vehicles all going nowhere quickly. Yes, if I was walking seeing this mess and the frustrated people in it I guess I would be happy too. Yes, Mr. Happy Man, smile away. Gas is $4 a gallon and I’m burning it just sitting here while you are burning calories rubbing my nose in my own insanity. Ok, I rubbing my own nose in it (I can almost hear your response).
Of course it could be nothing. Maybe he is smiling because he doesn’t have a lover. Maybe he is smiling because he doesn’t need a car. Maybe he is smiling just because he is here, or there, in that place he is supposed to be. He is something superhuman himself in not having those needs the rest of us seem to have. Maybe his life is just one long sit moment and that smile evidence of all of this everything I see being nothing he sees. We aren’t just literally in two different places, we are figuratively there as well.
So, Mr. Buddha Lao Tzu, you have found the key to not experiencing the experience. You think you are in the game because you are watching it. You watch players like me spill our blood and guts on the field and then take credit for the victory simply because you observed the sport. You play it safe in the bleachers. Your clothes stay clean while ours get muddy. I get it. I’m just not sure I could ever want to be there. Even through the suffering and the joys, the fights and the ecstasy I’m not sure I’d replace the experience with the observation of it. I may get next to you on the bleachers one day, but I will do so as a retired player of the game. You, my friend, are always welcome to come down to the field and join those of us playing.
Of course you could be retired having learned the game from the inside. If that is the case, good play, my friend, good play. Maybe you haven’t read the book, maybe you wrote it. Maybe you are me in some possible future. Maybe I’m seeing a future me strolling down the street to my empty apartment without a care in the world. The possibility itself seems so far away. I guess that is why they call it the future.
I look away to see the cars ahead of me moving again. I’m heading home, whatever that means.