The great Ralph Collier talks about all the recent shark sightings and encounters from North Carolina to Southern California.
If we are willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be terminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation…Begin the journey without hope of getting ground under your feet. Begin with hopelessness.
….We are raised in a culture that fears death and hides it from us. Nevertheless, we experience it all the time. We experience it in the form of disappointment, in the form of things not working out. We experience it in the form of things always being in the process of change. When the day ends, when the second ends, when we breathe out, that’s death in everyday life.
Death in everyday life could also be defined as experiencing all the things that we don’t want. Our marriage isn’t working; our job isn’t coming together. Having a relationship with death in everyday life means that we begin to be able to wait, to relax with insecurity, with panic, with embarrassment, with things not working out. As the years go on, we don’t call the babysitter quite so fast.
Death and hopelessness provide proper motivation for living an insightful, compassionate life. But most of the time warding off death is our biggest motivation. We habitually ward off any sense of problem. We’re always trying to deny that it’s a natural occurrence that things change….
….Can’t we just return to bare bones? Relaxing with the present moment, relaxing with hopelessness, relaxing with death, not resisting the fact that things end, that things have no lasting substance, that everything is changing all the time -—that is the basic message.
….Giving up hope is encouragement to stick with yourself, to make friends with yourself, to not run away from yourself, to return to the bare bones, no matter what’s going on. Fear of death is the background of the whole thing. It’s why we feel restless, why we panic, why there’s anxiety. But if we totally experience hopelessness, giving up all hope of alternatives to the present moment, we can have a joyful relationship with our lives, an honest, direct relationship, one that no longer ignores the reality of impermanence and death.
Summer school starts next week and I am supposed to be reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s book “The Sixth Extinction” and although I know it will be a well-researched, well-written book, I am avoiding it because I am happy right now in a state of forgetting. Forgetting that we are living through a mass extinction by remembering fragments of a movie I just watched: “An Unmarried Woman” from 1978. I am still channeling the weird chunky aesthetic of that time—how many things seemed woven and hippie,(chair backs, art objects) and also oddly preppy—women’s tailored jackets and miscellaneous plaids mixed with futuristic (silver picture frames and lamps). All of these designs carry emotions—hope for the future, a belief in tradition, in the safety and humble things of earth, and my own adolescent memories of art teachers who struggled to make me understand the horizon line and the mothers of friends, women who to my eternal befuddlement had once loved The Beatles, but by the late 70s embraced Anne Murray or Kenny Rogers.
I am thinking of how old movies return one to lost parts of the self. I remember how the red marquee letters spelling AN UNMARRIED WOMAN rose above the Daniel Webster Highway as my mother and I drove south to Massachusetts and how the red words made every movie seem like a potential scandal like THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH and I remember thinking, “What is it that unmarried women actually do?” Now I know that answer has something to do with cats and volunteer work, but then it felt drenched in sex.