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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Transience

Three times a week - sun or rain - I walk the three kilometres to and from the City  to attend a small but satisfying part-time job.   I am among that cohort of people who is fortunate enough to have always loved what I do for a living.

The walks back home are particularly useful for mulling over the minutiae of life, for sorting out the roil of thoughts that have pursued me as I've dealt with recent events.

On Monday this week, my walk home was particularly useful.  As I rounded the corner for the last 100 metres to my unit complex, dusk fell softly and the setting sun burnished the Brisbane River.  In the last moments of the dying day, from nowhere my thoughts suddenly settled on my father.

Now my Dad, Hals, is certainly one of the more interesting people you can meet - some would say eccentric.  And in many ways, I am very like my father.  I have has his same short temper, his same impatience with idiots, and share his interest in politics.  (Dad had two brothers who were the first foreigners to be accepted into the Komintern and who were thrown out of Ceylon - according to Dad - for subversive activities).

He is also a great storyteller (some would say, liar) and has been known to rip off someone else's yarns and pass them off as his own (the low point coming quite recently when, as Father Dear was holding forth I had to interject with mild outrage to tell him:  'No Dad, that happened to me.  That's my story'.

Like Dad, I am also prone to choosing random hobbies and past times on a whim, investing ridiculous amounts of money on equipment in a fit of enthusiasm then kind of sticking it in the garage and wondering what possessed me.

Like my Dad, too, I am prone to accidents and, certainly of late, it has been a bit of a competition as to who has had more near death experiences.  (My Dad wins: I mean, there is no way I can compete against stories of snake bites, motorcycle accidents, being run over by lorries and careening over canyons in wayward four wheel drives.)

But there are ways in which I fear I struggle to be like my Dad - especially in recent times - as I do believe he sets an example.  One is his ridiculous generosity.  My father would literally give you the shirt off his back.  He has never been particularly mercenary - although he is quite a good salesman and could sell fake sun tan to an African - and would give away all his possessions if allowed.  (My sister Nicky has taken after him in this regard).  It's really one of his lovely traits.

More importantly, I have been working in recent months to emulate my Dad in another of his traits or rather in his beliefs.

My father, you see, is a Buddhist (like many Sri Lankans) and, as he has got older, dad has really promoted his belief in disattachment.

Dad doesn't believe in holding onto anything, even life and quite frankly, his bags seem to have been packed in preparation for the Great Beyond for some time.  (Life is just a transit lounge y'all).

As a career Type 1 Diabetic, he's had a few close calls in recent years and I think we are all surprised that he's still here.  (He is down to the wire with his nine lives, I'm telling you).

But Dad's insouciance when it comes to long living is quite understandable.

My father comes from a family of short-livers (if not cirottic livers), his dad, mum, sister and two brothers all GTG (Gone to God) before their 65th birthdays.  The first to go was Aunty Mona died at 33, from memory.  Some of my cousins too, have not fared so well.  One lost her life when a land mine exploded, two years after losing her husband and two sons in the tsunami.  (Yes, this shit really does happen to real people).

It's no wonder my Dad is such a fan of Buddha.

Buddhism teaches the inevitability of suffering given the mutability of all things.   The transience of life is held as an ineluctable fact. And it is an absolute truth that the only way to deal with the inevitability of that slippage, is learning to let go (something op shop owners rely on).

In accepting that holding on is fruitless, we learn to appreciate the fragility of everything we know and have.

And from this comes a literally wonderful realisation.

Accepting the inevitability of loss teaches us that life is temporary and passing and in this we can reclaim our ability to  really appreciate this moment and all that it might.  Instead of looking ahead to what comes next ,we regain the ability to focus on what is happening right now (the state of mindfulness).

From this, most importantly we can reclaim our sense of wonder.  By appreciating what we have now, we can reposition losing and loss not as unpleasant or hurtful, but as reminders that something amazing and brilliant once existed.

Pain and suffering, while creating discomfort. also remind us of the inevitability of the transience of life and, in seizing that idea, we can look at what comes next - good or bad - with anticipation and wonder.

Certainly, in my often unpleasant trip so far, while I have been by turns enraged, perplexed, confused and disoriented, it has also been enlivening.

Because I look back and you see just how much I have overcome and how far I have travelled.  I look back ...with wonder.

And I look at what I do actually have with increased enchantment and appreciate everything that is good in my life.  I appreciate what I have right here and now... with wonder.

And I have come to understand that nothing we have can be held forever.

In ascendance, we come to realise that life really is a balance of knowing when to hold on and when to let go.

And even if you have to let go (by choice or force), you understand that what's happening is actually not loss or losing.

What is happening is the End of Suffering.

And it's wonderful.











1 comment:

  1. What a truly amazing post. Blessings to you and your family. Thanks for sharing your life. Respect for telling how it is, life is not always glamorous like many would have you believe.

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