Saturday, August 17, 2019

From a Distance - #Retrospection #Spirituality #Compassion

From a distance you look like my friend
Even though we are at war
From a distance I just cannot comprehend
What all this fighting’s for....
~ Bette Midler, “From a Distance”

Just before I entered my senior year in high school, humans walked on the moon for the first time. With my long-time love of both science and science fiction, I was jubilant. The stars beckoned. Anything was possible.

Only months later, the Ohio National Guard fatally shot four Kent State University students protesting the Vietnam war.

Looking back, I cannot recall how I reconciled the elation and the horror stemming from these two events, though I know both affected me deeply.

We believed, back then, in the inevitable revolution. Things would never be the same. “The time’s they are a-changing,” Dylan sang, and we believed. We looked to a new world of love and peace, freedom and justice and moral responsibility. The Age of Aquarius.

Things didn’t quite turn out that way.

Well, the times did change. They always do. We impeached a president. We waited in long lines for rationed gas. We danced to Saturday Night Fever. We watched the stock market crash, rise and crash again.

Hijacked planes toppled the twin towers and claimed three thousand lives. Nightmare waves scoured the coasts of the Indian Ocean, killing two hundred thousand. Having finally quit the jungles of Vietnam, U.S. soldiers occupied the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan.

We elected a black man to the Oval Office—twice. We cloned sheep, transplanted hearts, sequenced our own DNA and that of our animal cousins. We haven’t walked on Mars yet, but our robots have. We know there’s certainly water on the Red Planet, and probably some form of life.

My siblings had kids, who grew up, graduated high school, went to college. My parents left the earth, after bountiful lives no one could call short. A dear friend succumbed to ovarian cancer at fifty two. Two of my former lovers committed suicide.

Technology followed the science fiction of my youth. Computers shrank to the size of match boxes. It became more and more difficult to distinguish fact from deliberate fabrication.

My spirituality is eclectic, but I do believe the Buddha’s teaching that everything is transient. Suffering derives from attachment, the attempt to resist changing circumstances.

Through the distance of six and a half decades, I find comfort in the constant cycles of change. No matter how horrible things appear right now, they’ll be different tomorrow, or next week, or next year. Of course this also means more hard times may be coming, but they will eventually fade away as well.

The only reality (again according to the Buddha), the key to breaking the chains of illusion, is compassion. That’s my focus now, in these latter days of my life. I am trying to release the hate and anger stirred up so effectively by today’s media. I don’t want to sweat the small stuff, but to do justice and love kindness and refrain from judgment if I can. I am trying, with mixed success, to be a center of peace, radiating to those around me.

Really, that seems to be the only option.

To quote Paul McCartney, another prophet from my youth:

And in the end
the love you take
is equal to the love
you make.

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