And over one more set of hills,
along the sea,
the last roses have opened their factories of sweetness
and are giving it back to the world.
If I had another life
I would want to spend it all on some
I would be a fox, or a tree
full of waving branches.
I wouldn't mind being a rose
in a field of roses.
Fear has not yet occurred to them, nor ambition.
Reason they have not yet thought of.
Neither do they ask how long they must be roses, and then what.
Or any other foolish question.
~ Mary Oliver
Foolish questions, indeed, but impossible for most not to ask. How long will I be here? What happens when this candle of "self" is snuffed out. then what?
The subject of impermanence sweeps me back to my third year of grade school. Unable to fall asleep one night, I began contemplating the Universe in all its vastness. Soon, my mind was swirling in a vortex of unanswerable questions and suffocating mystery. If the world has an end, then there must be a beginning, but if that's the case, what exactly was here before that? If the Universe ends at some definable point in space, then what lies beyond that? Emptiness? Death? Nothingness?
Perched inside God's balance, the song within my heart grew ever so small. How could it not? I was just a little girl standing in front a mountain of doubt and uncertainty that every human being before me had found incomprehensible and insurmountable, at least with the intellect, that is. There was no Horton hearing Whos in my bedroom that night - no comical elephantine presence whispering reassurances while the darkness weighed heavily upon my Peanuts Gang bedspread. Gasping for air, I decided it was just too scary for someone as tiny as me to figure out, and right then and there on the verge of my head exploding I decided I'd reserve such inquisitions for when I was an all-knowing grown-up - after all, I had my childhood to attend to. Certainly by the time I was 33, the answers would arrive, as they had for my parents.
A decade has passed since my 33rd year, and to be honest, my 40 plus years have done nothing to satisfy my need to know the meaning of everything, or for that matter, anything. There have been periods when I've thought I've known all the answers, but each was followed by some unexpected change or upheaval which proved my limited, boxed-in, protective viewpoints severely lacking. I identified myself first as an "atheist," then as a "Christian," followed by "Agnostic" - I've come very close to adopting the label of "Buddhist" over the last few years, but maybe the labels are confining, presumptive, easily misunderstood by others, and limiting. The longer I live, there is less I seem to know. The longer I live, the less I am convinced there is much I need to know, aside from the felt experience through the senses in this present moment. Life is a mystery. I'm a follower of the church of I No Longer NEED to Know, also known as The Church of Letting Go.
I know there are many who would judge my position as a kind of giving up - a sort of nihilism. I suppose people standing in my spot have and will slip into such unfortunate delusions, but a life revolving around a central theme that there is something inherently wrong with the way things are - the way WE are - sets the struggling up for failure. I wonder how much of our collective striving is born out of a mistaken view of our inherent insufficiency. The Church of Letting Go invites us to relinquish this and gently release the idea of self and other - yours and mine - every and any thing that calls into question the inherent sacredness and beauty of all living creatures. Like a rose opening its petals and extending the warm fingers of its fragrance to all who pass, may we all learn to open generously to each other - to find contentment with being a rose among many roses. After the fires of passion are over, when the embers of striving have burned out, all that remains is love. It is all we truly are, and all we truly need.
Posted by susan at June 3, 2009 11:14 AM