Monday, November 28, 2011

Suffering Solstices

It's easy to see why there are so many religious and secular holidays and festivals occurring near the winter solstice. It is, in the northern hemisphere, simply a dark and gloomy time of year when we all need cheering up a bit. And, for most of us, the festivities do a lot of good.

The problem arises when we are experiencing seriously real suffering at a time of carefully constructed joyfulness and merriment. Especially when we are either subtly or overtly told to ignore our suffering for the sake of everyone's enjoyment of the season. It usually doesn't help that Buddha told us in the Second Noble Truth that this would happen simply by building the merriment infrastructure.

So how do we manage this? How do we understand suffering, as Buddha exhorts us to do in the First Noble Truth in this time when we would much rather understand joy? We remember that sickness, old age and death do not respect the seasons. We find our moments within the suffering. We could even invite someone to spoil our party.

If we can see past our own suffering to use this time to evoke our Avalokiteshvara sense, and open our arms to the suffering of the world, then the possibility of awakening shines through the rocks. When our own suffering joins with the stream of the world and we understand it as reality we have a chance to awaken and move towards realizing Cessation. When we retreat and try to blank it out we become mired in delusion.

Bring forth your suffering!


Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday

Choosing random images to inspire writing off the page and I got this today. On "black friday", the day of consumerism gone nutso I get a photo of the building area at the Holocaust Memorial.

Let's just say that I'm a firm believer in coincidence. That is that coincidence is just that. No superstition or anything like that. Karma is natural law of causality and all of that. If you chose to read something else into it than that's your problem.

Does consciousness, however, have the ability to interact with the universe in ways other than the animation of flesh and bones? I have been in the ICU twice (once not expected to live) and my best friend's mother had a mass said for me. A real Roman Catholic mass. The top dog in current superstitious stuff. And I lived. Is there a connection? Or did it just make her feel like she was doing something? That same time my husband came and somehow found a way though all the other tubes to put my headphones on me so I could listen to some loud rock and roll on my WalkMan (google it). Was my life saved by rock and roll (like Jenny - google it)? Or did it just make my husband feel better?

If we assume that consciousness arises and, in some way, instantiates the material form of life that we inhabit (which is buried in Buddhist philosophy fairly deeply) then shouldn't consciousness alone be able to interact with just about any arbitrary matter? The cool thing about Buddhism is that there is not a super intermediary consciousness to go through. If this sort of interaction is  possible than we can all do it. I wonder. I wah wah wah wonder.

Of course the lack of the super intermediary means that there is no governor either. So good stuff and bad stuff can happen as the result of just desire. Perhaps.