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Lions Roar : July 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2006 29 this issue, believe that suffering and unhappiness are quite dif- ferent things: suffering is the state, the reality, we are all given, but unhappiness is just the way we choose (or do not choose) to respond to it. Those rendered suddenly paraplegic often call themselves happy, after a year or so of adjustment, as frequently as those who win the lottery end up in despair. It sounds like such a simple thing, barely worth mentioning, until you think of the weather that is our constant companion. Almost every day I wake up and look out on the same room, the same desk, the same prospect from my window; but every day it looks different, colored not just by the light, the temperature, the time of day, but as much by the light inside me. Tired, I look with distaste on the very prospect that sent me soaring two days ago; after a good night’s sleep I see a mist itself as mystical, a veil, a story about the virtue of not seeing. It’s all in the head, in short, and my head is constantly spin- ning, ready to conceal from itself what is unchanging behind it. And yet I take each day’s perceptions as gospel. I read a book and write to all my friends that the book should be avoided at all costs. I don’t know what to say when I pick it up again in another mood and find it quite enchanting. My Zen-minded friends often speak about the dust or grime on screens that are among the many things that keep us from reality. Always the lens is getting cloudy, and then all I see is mist and bleary edges. And yet because this weather is inside us, less obviously shifting than what we see outside our windows, we give it even more credence than when we say, “Toronto is a hell-hole. I didn’t see the sun once in the six days I stayed there.” Admitting that just about all our responses and grand thoughts are temporary, the function of the moment only, no more than a trick of the moment or a product (quite literally) of which side ofthebedwewokeupon,is,atleasttome,quiteablowtomy otherwise exalted sense of my own rightness and authority. But then I look out the window and see snatches of mist steal- ing up the mountain slopes, now obscuring, now revealing again a blue that was intense ten minutes ago. I pick up the notes I wrote last week and realize that I am reading not so much my words as my moods; on many occasions I’ll pick up something beautiful and, in a hazy mood, scrupulously undo all the good I’ve done. Objective reality comes to seem, almost by definition, what I’m not seeing, and whatever is not changing while the ka- leidoscope is shaken—the dark in the room when no one’s here, the silence that lies behind and beneath these sentences I write. Our external weather forecasters are growing more and more adept at telling us what to expect two days from now: sun at last (so don’t despair!) or a sudden storm (so seize the moment!). But our inner weather seems impossible to foretell—until per- haps we see that it’s all just an illusion, the product of a non-contact lens. None of it has any more value than it has stability. The only thing I tell myself is indeed to seize the moment—and to recall that all my hard-and-fast judgments and beliefs are probably about as durable as that moon just rising over the ridge. ♦