14 December 2011

On eggs, tenderly

Life is like an egg. This I read in a one-line intro to a poem written by my father which appeared in a collection called ‘Twenty Five Poems’, published about 35 years ago.  Life is like an egg, according to the proverb he was quoting; if held too tight it would be crushed and if held too loosely, would slip between fingers, fall on the ground and break.  Life, then is made for a delicate handling, between grip and carelessness. 

Twenty five years later, I read the Satipattana Sutra under the guidance of Ven. Athureliye Rathana, and realized that the above proverb captured the essence of the concept of upaadaana (attachment) and relevant commentary.  I was struck by the importance of understanding that ‘grip’ and ‘neglect’ are two sides of the same attachment-coin, that tight embrace and callous disavowal can both birth sorrow.  ‘Caress’ was the operative metaphor that touched my sensibilities during those discussions. 

It is eminently applicable to all things; objects, persons, political preferences, friends, parties, ideas, discussions, love etc.  If we grip anything too hard, it ends up possessing us. We go nuts.  The ‘other side’ is about rejection; throwing everything off the table with a swift, firm sweep of hand.  Bliss results? No.  Just a lot of stuff on the floor to pick up later. 

The point is, it is not a black or white proposition, but a black AND white one where intersection does not necessarily produce a dull, vague and blurring grey but a vantage point that allows us to see colour, colour separation, colour-mix and most importantly beyond colouring. 

We are fragile, imperfect, flawed creatures though, blundering along from one ‘grip’ to another, one ‘rejection’ to another, believing erroneously that we are doing the enlightened thing by rejection.  With passion and with dispassion, with enthusiasm and apathy, bull-headed objection and with meek submission, we perpetuate tyrannies of all kinds, including those which thanks to our fascination with them help lengthen our sansaric journey. 

We are imperfect and perhaps our karmic energies are of volumes and tenor that prohibit meaningful journeys on enlightening pathways.  Perhaps we can only hope to aspire to general comprehension and not vigorous application of principle.  Perhaps we are lazy.  Perhaps we entertain the wrong set of images whenever we consider the relevant philosophical dilemmas.  Perhaps we are waiting until we encounter the pathaagena aapu bodhiya (the tree that we’ve earmarked in the cosmic forest to shade under in anticipation of obtaining map to emancipation) and have forgotten that ‘tree’ is metaphor. 

The truth is that we are called upon to grip, kick aside or caress this or that every moment and most of the time we get agitated about nothing.  We grip tight the things we love (our life, our political projects, our work, our dreams etc) or we boot the things we can’t stand.  The former makes for sore fingers, the latter for sore toes.  And the things we love suffer grip-burn while the things we dislike get covered with foul odours that eventually will return and hover just near your nostrils when the ‘rejected’ comes seeking ‘unwanted embrace’, as is often the case.

Right now, as I write, and in the ‘right-now’ of your reading, someone is desperately trying to cling to an article of faith (let’s say ‘pertaining to constitution’).  Some cling to some articles, others to others.  Some want to flush this article down the tube while some others want to drag it out of the cesspit.  Someone’s getting covered in a lot of gooey stuff. 

Sure, it’s all for the common good, the ‘people’, the majority, as we are told.  We know, however, that no one owes anyone any favours, or, to put more accurately, few would acknowledge that favours are owed.  Someone is gripping an egg.  Another is looking the other way thinking ‘not my business’ even as an eggs slips through his/her fingers, falls and breaks.

Eggs.  That’s the future.  The baby.  I wonder if these agitators (of either sway) are aware.

[first published in the Daily News, September 8, 2010]