Raven 127: Impermanence

Brains were made for keeping us alive. Their capacity to imagine the future is for helping us mentally rehearse potential future situations so that we will more effectively cope, in the event something similar were to happen. It can't imagine nonexistence because its imagination exists solely to prevent nonexistence. Thus, it can only visualize situations with us -- or with people we might have to deal with -- existing in them.

Through many spiritual practices, including Zen, one may come to apprehend that the self is the world. This is not imagining or visualizing, not a preparation for an eventuality of becoming the world, nor a preparation at all. It's just recognizing the fact that one's self comprises all of reality. Thus, the one who visualizes "your" futures will someday cease, but the self will continue in all its multitudinous other forms: ants, sticks, grizzly bears -- mountains, rivers, stars.

Speaking of stars. If this doesn't make sense, try being pensive beneath a starry sky for a while.

One night, under the starry sky, the circle was quiet and members seemed pensive.
Badger broke the silence and said, "You know, I can't visualize myself expiring completely."
Raven said, "A ghost."
Badger said, "Even ghosts are impermanent, aren't they?"
Raven said, "Take care of your miseries now, and they won't abide."
The one who attends to misery --
My inner Kannon hearing the cries of the world --
Gathers anguish up -- a curious burden
that buoys as it freights,
and liberates as it compels --
Smelts it and blends it into my mettle.
Alloyed gold
Is more durable than the pure stuff.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon

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