I am desperately vulnerable to being unable to move beyond beginnings….as witnessed by the following attempts…INTOLERABLE VULNERABILITIES
When we begin – anything – we begin with. We start out already always somewhere as some one, some thing. Some entity or element among others. There are no, is no, such thing as a ‘fresh start,’ as a living organism.
From our particular inceptions we are loaded and formed with genetic baggage – our cells and context shaped by conditions far beyond and external to ourselves. And nary a freedom is advanced. Sure we participate in the shaping and construction and continuance of us, but we are never extricated, abstracted, or independent from an environment, a shared and shaping surround – it’s the contingency for existing: Other(s).
A world not formed by us. A plural existence, NEVER a solitary, isolated or uniform one.
Many find these ever-initiating constraints intolerable. That one is unable EVER, to start from scratch, re-invent, re-formulate, or create ex nihilo. Nothing, absence, void, simply – is not.
Therefore, ever existing in the already-established, already formulating, already-begun, we come together and transform.
Cells and genes, energy, matter and air conscribe to carry on in ripples and subject/objects of being. Including, colluding us – we, you, me, I.
Wholly integrated (smoothly or with great difficulty) into the ongoing flux and flow of languages, practices, thoughts and behaviors of a very large and intricate, complex and dynamic world – we arise – conditioned, constrained and subject to our sort of organization – make-up, culture, circumstance, arrangement, perception, emotion, body, reason, available resources, types, renditions of being A being in this possible world. A world, impossibly, that is just this way.
And the task is (always has) already begun – how will/does this particular, unique combination and configuration of elementary particles (a living, bounded, active, exchanging system/organism) adapt, effect, adjust, infect, evolve with its environment?
An environment of people, places, activities and things ALWAYS ALREADY begun, and also always already NOT-YET…awaiting, accepting, adapting, adjusting with US.
Our configurations, energy, activities and behaviors. Nothing the same with us. Nothing without.
You, me, we make all the difference – along with EVERYthing else.
Some call this a paradox. If you did not begin, it would make no difference. If you do, it makes all difference. Both, always, true.
Nothing is the same with you. Nothing would be the same without you.
The world is a situation = both / and / more. A complex and indiscernible system that just seems to work this way. Call it “Butterfly Effect,” “Creation” or “Evolution,” “Chaos,” “Order,” “Life” – it all makes NO difference AND ALL the difference to actual experience.
And it is so.
Thus we begin – embedded, embodied, and extended – in an environment always long established, ongoing and begun: constrained, constructed, collaborated, and free.
I begin. I beg – “let me start over”, fully incorporated, already begun – I: in.
“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth” – Pema Chodron
I modeled for the painting above. It is propped beside the bed as I write. A large painting, and heavy, maybe 4.5 feet long and 3.5 feet tall, loaded with layers of paint. She called it “Praying Man,” but I wasn’t praying – the way it turned out I felt like a longshoreman, a hauler, tensed with the energy of pulling things out from the deeps. I see why she called it that.
We’re reorganizing the house, and in that process I notice what’s gone, and discover things forgotten. Today it was When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron, “heart advice for difficult times.” I’ve depended on this one before. It’s written with the situation in mind in which a human feels there is nowhere to escape. Suffering floods in weights that compress one toward no option. Chodron says that “No one ever tells us to stop running away from fear…the advice we usually get is to sweeten it up, smooth it over, take a pill, or distract ourselves…but by all means make it go away.” “We don’t need that kind of encouragement, because dissociating from fear is what we donaturally.” “Cheating ourselves of the present moment” according to Chodron.
Instead, she suggests, “we could step into uncharted territory and relax with the groundlessness of our situation…by inviting in what we usually avoid…adopting a fearlessly compassionate attitude toward our own pain and that of others.” I am taking this on as the work of the “praying man.” The longshoreman and hauler, reeling hand over hand over heart over hurt into the tumult of the pain of being. “…getting to know fear, becoming familiar with fear, looking it right in the eye – not as a way to solve problems, but as a complete undoing of old ways of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and thinking…having the courage to die, the courage to die continually.” The traditions align. “He who saves his life will lose it.” The terror that drives the boundaries, isolates the organism. Protectiveness cuts the supply chain. Security stanches generative flow.
What happens when we stay? Nailed to the present misery. Chodron suggests that when we move into rather than away from our life-threatening pain a kind of catharsis can occur – an acceptance that we are “precious beyond measure – wise AND foolish, rich AND poor, good AND bad…and totally unfathomable.”
another painting by Holly Suzanne, emptied of me
“The trick is to keep exploring and not bail out, even when we find out that something is not what we thought. That’s what we’re going to discover again and again and again. Nothing is what wethought. I can say that with great confidence. Emptiness is not what we thought. Neither is mindfulness or fear. Compassion – not what we thought. Love. Buddha nature. Courage. These are code words for things we don’t know in our minds, but any of us could experience them.These are words that point to what life really is when we let things fall apart and let ourselves be nailed to the present moment.”
Preying Man then, hunched over and hauling it out, rhythmically breathing into the present, a turbulent pain fueled by fear…searching into what I usually avoid. Hopefully not so much as a way to solve problems, but an undoing of native ways of seeing and hearing, smelling and tasting and thinking…along with the courage to die.
-all quotations Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart
Such a powerful prompt this week – yowza! Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields and her continuous work at Friday Fictioneers for providing us with such fare to engage and reflect. Please join us if you have an urge to translate experience into words.
(this prompt was so good I’ve included 3 responses in the manner of brainsnorts)
She grasps while he flees. The horror of everything offered. He’s reaching all the same. She clings, and thus submerged, loss becomes attachment. He yearns. They’re vulnerable. Their hold and flight are balance. A panicking fail like this can require only one thing – somebody’s everything – which she offers, and which frightens him to terror. She lays it at his feet and pursues – without her he would fall – traumatizing him, for there will come a day.
Everything depends on it. Seems to.
This risk, this reach, this grasp.
All has been let go, ripped away for this advance.
She’s nothing left but hope and fear.
Submerged in this suspension.
And he in silent trauma – terrorized.
What would be the gain – of grasping or clasping; a yearn or a vortex; great loss or its threat?
A possible life? An wholistic vitality? The “whole hurly-burly”*?
We leave it here. NOW. In the reaching.
*Ludwig Wittgenstein’s phrase for the complex background, context of human life
“Do you not get it?” she stressed, “can you seriously not see what I’ve done?”
“EVERYTHING!” she cried, “EVERYTHING I’ve left and abandoned, deserted, let go, in order to offer myself up to you! – to come for, reach out to – YOU!”
“This is unbelievable!” she, exasperated. “I really and truly cannot!” she, bewildered.
And he – silently terrorized, traumatized, afraid.
Trapped in this suspension – the grasping or clasping; the yearn or submersion; the loss or its threat.
And what of the gain – a possible life? An wholistic vitality? What – ?