“Anyone who has a continuous smile on his face conceals a toughness that is almost frightening.” Greta Garbo
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.
The Buddha said that we all have monkey minds, with dozens of monkeys all clamoring for attention. Fear and anxiety are very loud monkeys, pointing out all the things we should be wary of and everything that could go wrong.
Daniel B. Smith, author of the book Monkey Mind writes: “Admit the anxiety as an essential part of yourself and in exchange that anxiety will be converted into energy, unstable but manageable. Stop with the self-flagellating and become yourself, with scars and tics.”
In other words, everybody’s got something to hide, except for me and my monkeys.
I remember this day like it was yesterday, even though it was more than fifty five years ago. I told the photographer the light was bad, the sailor suit was cliché, and that we should ditch the teddy bear. But he just told me to shut up and sit still.
Looking back I can’t help but wonder if this was really me. I mean, I no longer have blond hair and I’m considerably taller. Is any of this person who I am now? Does this happy looking kid still exist in me somewhere? Basically, who the hell am I now at 59?
Sadhguru and many others have said that I am not the body or even the mind, which would make it very hard to choose clothes that fit. Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, author of I Am That says that I am not the person I think I am.
But I think E. E. Cummings said it best: “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” Dammit.
I could have screamed, you could have screamed, we all could have screamed but Mom’s is closed for the season.
Update: Not only is Just Mom’s not closed for the season but I found out they serve homemade ice cream as well as a full menu of appetizers, lunch and dinner.
Kaytlyn D. of Douglassville, P.A. gave the place a five star review and said: “Excellent food. Excellent service. New addition is beautiful and clean. All hoagies/sandwiches and pastas are better than most in restaurants in the area. If you’re lucky enough to get Tarkus behind the bar, ask for a dirty martini.”
I’d ask for a dozen dirty martinis but I quit drinking about fifteen years ago. What about the ice cream Kaytlyn?
“Everything’s dead, but good, because it’s dead before coming alive, not dead after being alive. That’s how I look at it.” Alan Sillitoe
“Black and white is abstract; color is not. Looking at a black and white photograph, you are already looking at a strange world.” Joel Sternfeld
“Your job is not to judge. Your job is not to figure out if someone deserves something. Your job is to lift the fallen, to restore the broken, and to heal the hurting.” Joel Osteen
The fierce wind rages
And I see how trees survive
They have learned to bend
Haiku by Don Raye, wind by Mother Nature
One night when we were teenagers my friend Jeff jumped in front of a train because he thought it was the best way to handle things at the time. A group of us had gone to the movies and as usual Jeff was out of control drunk. After another argument with his mother, a recovering alcoholic, he made his way to the tracks and waited.
Somehow he didn’t die but only broke his pelvis, and he continued to drink as heavily as before. He had his problems: two alcoholic parents, one who shot himself playing Russian roulette and a couple of missing fingers from a homemade bomb explosion, but which one caused such deep depression? Maybe all of them or maybe something else.
I lost touch with Jeff in my late twenties and watched other friends attempt to handle their depression in various ways. Most drank and did drugs as I did, and as time went by several ended up dead. After a breakup with his girlfriend my friend Cary tied a bayonet to his steering wheel and drove into a bridge. Others overdosed or shot themselves, and a former boss chose hanging.
Forty years later I still continue to struggle with depression and see many in the same boat. A photographer I used to follow, Don Graham, often wrote about his battle with Bipolar disorder and several months ago took his own life. He was in therapy and on several medications.
Depression is a fight we have with ourselves, completely created by our thoughts and we get stuck there. Antidepressants will only take you so far and often the side effects are unbearable. Therapy may help, but unless they’ve been there themselves it can seem like just words they learned from a course in college.
I think of depression like a train: Sometimes you can see it objectively, and despite all the smoke and noise you can distance yourself from it and get through the day. Other times its headed right for you, and like my friend Jeff, you stand there as it runs you over.
My favorite author, Charles Bukowski wrote: “Nobody can save you but yourself and you’re worth saving. It’s a war not easily won but if anything is worth winning then this is it. Think about it. Think about saving your self.”