The salvation of the great love

APRIL 15 05

The idea of the great love as some form of salvation is just as much a craving and illusion as any other, and one that is perpetually fallen back on as if I've learnt nothing. Salvation isn't in the eternal ideal of the soulmate, or even in the mist-topped mountains of my dreams of Daoist wandering, it is in simple stupid things, like seeing a lot of ladybirds or hearing a gull cry. If I was as wise as I aspire to be, I would realise that having salvation so close to hand is something I ought to appreciate, and I do in the moment, but then on lonely nights I am off again, pursuing the ideal of the perfect relationship or desiring to make real the fantasies of a truer life I create when sitting down reading a book of Chinese poetry, inevitably set in great natural solitudes, and only briefly do I stop that river of vain emotions on hearing the dog fox bark in my garden or the rain water flowing along the gutter into drains on a stormy night.

Why, I ask myself, despite coming across such simple satoris every single day, when all thought of wanting anything other is mysteriously absent, do I suppose myself far from enlightenment and a useless romantic dreamer unlikely to achieve anything I desire save what requires more work than I really want to put in but may yet begrudgingly accomplish in spite of myself. Why do I so rarely seem to realise that among my desires of, say, 20 years ago, were desires for peace and tranquility in the moment, without need of going anywhere or having anything that was not already present. Such desires then as now bustled with the whole panoply of great sex, money, and location dreams, but I should give more credit to those quieter desires for actually being the ones that have come to fruition in a proper way and once and for all rid my head of these vain lusts that even when fulfilled soon start to seem empty. How many times does this lesson need to be chalked up on the blackboard before I learn it?

The hot breath on the neck is inescapably entwined with the arguments in the kitchen, though that is no reason to avoid relationship since joy and sorrow do their little dance in solitude too, but it calls the lie to the idea of love as being the thing that will somehow rid us of unhappiness. If love comes, of course one should embrace it, but if love does not come one shouldn't let that always be the scapegoat when sorrow arrives. Our psychic space is a churning ocean, but on an ocean it is clearer one is in the hands of the waves and the currents and the weather, things that are not our fault. There is no need to walk around bemoaning one's lot saying why oh why when it is just the way the waves are. Equally, we should know what is our fault, the inevitable consequence of some ill-considered action, and not repeat the error. We can often see the connection between what happens and what we did to provoke it, either directly or more obscurely through fateful happenings that to the thoughtful seem related in pattern if not in direct cause-and-effect, but we do not so easily see that wanting life to be something other than it is in the present moment is an error right under our noses that we repeat endlessly, rather like a cat chasing its own tail.

Ah, perhaps I like the company of Mara the Great Deceiver, and that is all there is to it. And one of his greatest deceptions is that if you no longer have a hankering for a lover then a lover will not come to you. But the plain truth is that things come to us whether we actively desire them or not; it is a great mistake to think the end of desire is the end of having anything new. But we make this mistake and imagine our yearning is the force that brings things to us, that to cut it off is to cut off all hope of change we might find delightful. I have struggled with this one for years, though the answer before was the same as the answer now. Certainly the Buddhist path often seems like giving up on the only things that make life truly worthwhile, but this again is just Mara's deception, and the powerful restraint he imposes at the final barrier.

Spontaneously, I stop chewing it over and walk into the garden in the chill dawn air where there is a beautiful and loudly chattering magpie on the fence that seems to want to speak to me. The need to conclude the argument has gone. Having the last word is remaining silent.