“The eye is always caught by light, but shadows have more to say.” Gregory Maguire
The Pali word dukkha means suffering and stress and unsatisfactoriness, but it also includes all the minor annoyances of life as well. It’s basically getting what one does not want and not getting what one does want.
I had a chance to see and experience dukkha in several ways this afternoon. There was a hot air balloon preparing to launch and I stopped to take some photos. I could see this was going to take quite a while so I had to leave to find a bathroom and come back.
I watched the crew struggle to drive the van with all the equipment onto the grass but it was too soft and muddy, and they got stuck several times. I spoke to the pilot who was determined to launch no matter what so he could get his certificate, though he was obviously frustrated.
About 45 minutes later they got the balloon hooked up to the basket and set up the fan to inflate it. I felt sorry for this guy as he pulled and pulled but the fan wouldn’t start. It turned out it was out of gas so they filled it up and were back in action.
His crew seemed to have no experience and had to have everything explained to them at least twice, but eventually the balloon was up, up and away and I trudged back through the mud to my car.
Because of the direction the van ended up parking I didn’t have the beautiful late afternoon light, but I tried to get an image I could use that would capture the essence of dukkha.
Novelist Hermann Hesse, author of Siddhartha said: “I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us.” Yes.
“After us they’ll fly in hot air balloons, coat styles will change, perhaps they’ll discover a sixth sense and cultivate it, but life will remain the same, a hard life full of secrets, but happy. And a thousand years from now man will still be sighing, Oh! Life is so hard! and will still, like now, be afraid of death and not want to die.” Anton Chekhov
“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” Havelock Ellis
Abraham Maslow was a psychologist best known for creating his hierarchy of needs. Of the five needs, the first four are referred to as deficiency needs, and are said to motivate people when they are unmet.
One day I was passing through Bird In Hand, and saw one of the hot air balloons filling up as they do most summer afternoons. I decided that I needed a great photograph of it and I was motivated. The light was good, it was warm, and they were launching three at the same time. I was as excited as a donkey on Donkey Derby Day (it’s an Irish thing).
There was plenty of time so I took a few test shots, checked the exposure and the camera suddenly died. Not having the extra battery with me, I stayed to watch for a while, pretending that it was enough just to see three balloons floating into the gorgeous blue sky, but it wasn’t, my needs were unmet.
The fifth need is self-actualization, and he estimated that only two percent of people would ever reach that state.
He is also known for Maslow’s hammer, popularly phrased as “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Or in my case, if all you have is a dead camera, go home, eat dinner and try again another time.