“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” Lao Tzu
I was driving down the local back roads this morning watching the Amish farmers get their fields ready for planting. They don’t like to be photographed but it’s hard to resist, fortunately he hid behind one of the horses and all you can see is his hat (I planned it that way).
It took a few minutes for him to get close enough and I heard him singing an old song I recognized. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed as clear as day and it went like this:
“Green Acres is the place to be. Farm livin’ is the life for me. Land spreadin’ out so far and wide, keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.”
There are eight million stories in the naked county; this has been one of them.
Cow graffiti on the broad side of a barn in Smoketown, Pennsylvania has been reported by local farmers. Suspects are believed to be very tall, artistic cows, although they likely had help from friends.
“When you practice looking deeply, you see your true nature of no birth, no death; no being, no non-being; no coming, no going; no same, no different.
When you see this, you are free from fear. You are free from craving and free from jealousy. No fear is the ultimate joy.
When you have the insight of no fear, you are free. And like the great beings, you ride serenely on the waves of birth and death.” Thich Nhat Hanh
“The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated.
And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.” Ted Hughes
Here in Pennsylvania the tulips are in various stages of maturity. The beautiful yellow ones in front of my house dried up and blew away, while the others are somewhere near the end of their life cycle.
I found these in a local park and they seem to be in their prime, but in a few weeks they will be gone forever-dust to dust. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m getting older or maybe I just notice it more, but things seem to move a lot faster now.
Watching the flowers come and go is also watching the days speed by, and I know I’m running out of time. Of course this is how life works; we’re here for a while and then we’re gone. And whether we acknowledge it or not, suffering comes from wanting things to be different than they are.
W. Somerset Maugham, author of The Razor’s Edge has a great perspective on impermanence: “Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.”
Along the way, take time to smell the flowers, in as many ways as you can for as long as you can.
This is a photo of an illusion; the table and cards are reflected in an old mirror. The objects may be real, which as you will see is debatable, but the reflected image does not exist.
In an attempt to understand what is and what is not real, I give you The Eight Similes of Illusion by Patrul Rinpoche. These should be taken seriously, and with careful contemplation, you may be able to use your illusion.
“As in a dream, all the external objects perceived with the five senses are not there, but appear through delusion.” This explains all those times I couldn’t find my car.
“As in a magic show, things are made to appear by a temporary conjunction of causes, circumstances and connections.” It’s an illusion Michael; a trick is something a whore does for money.
“As in a visual aberration, things appear to be there, yet there is nothing.” I can easily observe this by looking deeply into my checking account.
“As in a mirage, things appear but are not real.” If you have an illusory royal flush you may want to bluff.
“As in an echo, things can be perceived but there is nothing there, either outside or inside.” Note to self-test for echo.
“As in a city of Gandharvas, there is neither a dwelling nor anyone to dwell.” Fun fact: while Gandharva literally means smell eater, it’s also a term for singers in Indian classical music.
“As in a reflection, things appear but have no reality of their own.” See mirror image.
“As in a city created by magic, there are all sorts of appearances but they are not really there.” This is Disneyland in a nutshell, but you don’t have to tell the kids until they get older.
The Buddha said: “We live in illusion and the appearance of things. There is a reality. We are that reality. When you understand this, you see that you are nothing, and being nothing, you are everything. That is all.”
Deal me out, I got nothing.
Getting on the right track isn’t easy, even figuring out which is really the right one can be confusing. For example, the track on the left in this photo is actually the right track for the returning train, and sometimes they have to switch to the middle one to get to where they need to go.
It might be easier to think of it as a path, and as you may have discovered for yourself, people sometimes go down the wrong path to get to where they think they need to go. This is true for addiction and all kinds of things that come with living in this world of illusion.
Finding the right path takes as long as it takes, if you realize you’re on the wrong one, get off and begin again, repeat as necessary. Mahatma Gandhi said the path is the goal; my goal is to find the path to freedom.
This is a line from a song called Daly City Train by Rancid: “Some men are in prison even though they walk the streets at night, other men who got the lockdown are free as a bird in flight.”
There really is no easy way to be free.
“There are those who fear the sunset, worried they will never see light again. There are those who ignore the sunrise, squandering dawn, believing they will never run out of daylight.
And then there are those who have learned to live in the sun’s warmth, gauging time by its positions, thankful at night that the day happened. Be aware of time. Use it wisely. Be thankful for the light allotted.” Richelle E. Goodrich
The Mayapple was once called the witches umbrella, and was thought to be employed by them as a poison. The English version of this plant is called Manroot or mandrake, and is believed to be alive.
According to folklore, its screams when pulled from the ground would render a man permanently insane. The plant is almost entirely poisonous and was once used by Native Americans to commit suicide.
There is also an old mountain superstition that a girl who pulls up the root will soon become pregnant. If you can ignore those few little things, many people say the fruit makes a great jelly. I think I’ll pass.