Sunday, September 4, 2011

How Do You Like Them Rotten Apples

Sometimes a person hits a rough patch when life is difficult and events are worrisome or burdensome. In the history of my life, unbearably hot weather seems to be the season when my life typically skids into hell. But, rough patches are the emery cloth that smooths our spirits into works of art, into useful gems of beauty and wisdom. Right?

When things go to hell, I normally do not panic. Eventually my life will swing back to true north and everyone left standing continues on. If it is a truly bad patch, I console myself with the knowledge that soon enough, it will all be over. I am not certain if fatalism is the best philosophy to inform and illuminate a lifetime, but at its rock bottom best, it is certainly true. Compared to the lifetime of a star, a human lifetime is infinitesimal, over in 1,000,000,000,000,000th of a tick in eternity.

My son is destroying his life with the precision of a surgeon and the glee of a maniac, though it is clear that these unfortunate events are not his intended results nor his desired consequence. It seems that no matter what he does right now, the worst possible outcome results. It breaks my heart but there is nothing I can do except suffer with him and for him.

My daughter has spent her entire adult life attempting to do the right thing. She has worked diligently to steer her life toward love and tolerance, toward the best possible outcome for herself and for everyone around her. Yet, her life is full of difficulty and pain right now, too. There is nothing I can do except suffer with her and for her.

As for me, the infrastructure of my life is literally failing, falling into ruin and decay. How can everything I own go to hell all at once?! The central air failed sometime Friday night. Even if I had the money to get it repaired, no one is available until next week. It is the second compressor unit to fail in less than five years, which makes it worse.

After coming to emotional terms with the dismal mechanical news, I realized it would be a good time to watch a long-anticipated movie recommended to me about a year ago and recently ordered from It is a story about elderly people escaping the old folks home in Iceland. Not surprisingly, the VCR would not cooperate. I struggled with the damnable thing for some time, becoming very frustrated. When I could not remove the tape cassette, I lost my temper and slammed the VCR to the floor with as much force as I could manage. It exploded into several pieces on impact. It felt so wonderful that I slammed it to the floor a few more times. With all of the working parts exposed, I saw that the VCR had wrapped the video tape tightly around everything inside. Good. I had just executed a video murderer.

By some undeserved luck of natural timing, an enormous mass of Canadian air moved into Kansas overnight and the temperature is cool. The forecast is for several days of cool weather. I will not need air conditioning for a few days. I might even be able to get by until next summer.

In answer to my request for perspective and advice regarding the challenges my adult children are facing right now, I gratefully received a phone call from my friend. She helped me gain perspective by reminding me of the Four Immeasurables of Buddhism: compassion, loving-kindness, empathic joy, and equanimity.

"May all beings be free of suffering and its causes."

This I profoundly wish for myself, my children, and for everyone. Once we are free of suffering and the causes of suffering, we are enlightened and therefore Free.

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