Picnic Blanket

PICNIC BLANKET

When my eyes slide over
there, just right,
and the dragonflys test the wind
in solidarity;
when the sun cries
“Foul!” and snatches two suspicious clouds
from above our heads and
moves them elsewhere,
so I can better see
when you stand and twirl, and your skirt reveals
smooth legs muscled
with intent…
when I respond with eyes and water
filtering the scene and bending light
as my mind bends to the way
you sit
back
down
and, laugh with
just a little too much joy
to fit in the basket you brought,
I will roll up and die
folding my silly life
and tossing it up to Heaven
from where I will be born a picnic blanket
and face up,
forever more
smiling, waiting
for another day
just like this.

Convenient Fictions, part 2

Our separateness, our selfhood and our identities are, at best, convenient fictions, employed by ourselves to escape fear and by others to exploit it.

So, since “I” am a fiction, how can others use and abuse this fiction to their advantage? And how can we still “be” this or that, “American” Black”, Catholic” etc. if these designations are ultimately empty?

Let´s take that last one first.

The traditional Buddhist notion of self, takes all the names we ascribe to who we are as mere designations, names for a whole which simply “tags” us though that “tag” has no real significance. Fair enough. But what if, within the context of my life in this place, and in this time, I remain committed to my ancestors; that I am proudly resistant to incorporation into a dominant narrative which has abused my people and tried to obliterate our cultural identity so as to mask the depth of their deed? This is my feeling as a Puertorican and it is shared by marginalized, oppressed peoples around the world. How does that comport with a broader, less fixed notion of identity as something illusory?

Well, the two are ostensibly contradictory but they function in different realms. In Buddhist terms, this is the difference between Conventional Truth and Absolute Truth. Conventional Truth is the truth we live and work under: I am a worker, I need to pay rent, etc. Absolute truth understand those things as fictions which, in the cosmological sense, are ultimately unimportant. Having the broader view while still living in the “real world” doing what I do is the tension of Life. Holding that tension creatively is my task as a human, as a Buddhist.

So how is that manipulated by others? Well, every time an appeal is made to the strong emotional hold my “conventional” identity in order to go kill others who are said to be “different” than “us”, that is a major example. And every day we are bombarded by appeals to our conventional identities to do this or that, to buy this or that (product, idea, etc.) and rarely is the Absolute truth of our shared humanity appealed to – for obvious reasons. Were we to operate with a requisite and healthy amount of pride in who we are while acknowledging others right to their pride in who they are under the umbrella of a universal, shared compassionate concern for the whole, our political, economic and social systems would look a whole lot different than they do now.

I´ll talk more about that, in part 3.

Convenient fictions

I am a fictional identity.

Not because I don´t exist in the conventional sense, but because all of my existence is provisional, transient, and dependent upon a whole series of causes and conditions giving this word “identity” an odd characterization for such a fluid and potentially open-ended process. (for a further elucidation of my ideas on this topic see Tirado, J. M. (2008) The Buddhist notion of emptiness and its potential contribution to psychology and psychotherapy, International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 27, 2008, 74-79)

Thus “I” am a  process.

This process moves quickly, but “I” (the guiding or dominant tendency within a number of sometimes shifting identities) am constantly adhering pieces of experience together to create a solid framework on which I build a story about who I am. This story I then take to be “me”, solid, immutable, and unmistakably a real entity.

But it´s not. Nevertheless, I hold fast to this idea because I am afraid. I am afraid that if this collection of thoughts and memories is not me, then I am, in fact, nothing. That somehow this identity I so long identified with, should it be discarded, then all I thought I was or am is discarded as well and I am left some terribly unimaginable blankness. I fear then that I will fall into some empty hole of nihilism in which life has no meaning and I am free of all moral, ethical, and socially binding constraints. I fear the “emptiness” of no meaning, no significance, and no ultimate perspective.

This would be a horrible misunderstanding, with obviously disastrous consequences.

When “I” am seen a s a fluid process in a cosmos that is fluid as well, where boundarious are porous and, at the quantum level anyway, nothing dies but all comes into magical being with Grace and Beauty, then I can let go of these fears and relax into the Wonder of Time and of Being.

Our separateness, our selfhood and our identities are, at best, convenient fictions, employed by ourselves to escape fear and by others to exploit it.

I´ll have more to say on that latter part in the next installment.