Impermanence is a hard idea to properly grasp. (It’s amusing how “grasping” implies some form of control, some ability to hold on to something… I don’t want to go down the silly rabbit hole of whether impermanence is itself impermanent, it’s just a fun, absurd thing to laugh about.)
But yes. I look at myself in the mirror and I see that I’m a different person from who I’ve been holding on to. I’m a 25 year old man. Tall and skinny, but over 80kg (as opposed to the 65kg that I’ve always been in my head.) My face is more tired than I thought it would be at this age. I’m more concerned about things like diet and sleep than I thought I would’ve been at this age (though on hindsight, upon examining of my own thinking-through-writing, it’s completely obvious and to be expected. I suppose in a sense everything always will be.)
Despite everything I’ve said and done, I’m still in a sort of funny middle-stage in my life. I have a bunch of realisations about reality, and yet I hold on to a bunch of illusions that I know are invalid– but are familiar and “comforting” (although they invariably lead to some forms of hurt, damage, suffering.)
I find myself smiling and laughing at how “Buddhist” all of this sounds. A part of me wish it didn’t, I wish it was somehow new or original, but of course it can’t be. Of course millions of people have struggled with this exact condition and have figured out all sorts of different approaches to living with it, being with it. The important question for me is, what will my approach be? What is my relationship with myself and with everything around me, if everything is impermanent and will ultimately fade away? What is my relationship with achievement, with building, with growth and so on? With relationships? What am I really trying to do here, if I’m really being honest? And why is it so hard to be utterly, completely honest with myself? I suppose because it’s still scary. Each time I think I’m telling the truth, I find that there was something I was probably holding back, with a sort of nervous laughter.
What is the real, unvarnished truth? It must be something uncomfortable. It’s still true that I’m scared to die, even though I tell myself that I’m not. It’s still true that I FEEL like I have something I need to live up to, even though the truth is that there is no such thing, and that it’s all invented, constructed.
I walk around every day feeling like I’m being pushed and pulled in all sorts of directions, and while the pushing and pulling is real, it’s almost all in my own mind, all internalized, all constructed. And I do believe that it’s probably possible to discard all of that. It would be far less exhausting, to operate from first principles.
I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but it’s like breathing or floating or getting am asage or something– I seem to need to do it over and over again to declutter, the reduce the fog in my head, to see more clearly, to be calm and still.
Everything is ultimately meaningless in the absolute sense. The universe is vast, the human is small. Accomplishments will fade away into nothingness. Everything will probably fade away into nothingness. I will die, I will cease to experience sensations and have thoughts and so on in the sense that I currently do. I do not believe in an afterlife in the traditional sense. I do agree with Alan Watts that– if there is an infinite nothingness after death, the next thing that will be experienced, even if it’s after the death and birth of an infinite series of universes, will seem to be like waking up after going to sleep– almost instantaneous. Maybe. I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense to worry too much about tomorrow if the only guarantee is today, cosmically speaking.
I feel like I’ve drifted away from what I wanted to meditate on. I think I was looking at myself in the mirror and thinking, I’m a child in an adult body. Or I’m an adult carrying around the baggage of my childhood on my back, constantly trying to make up for things that happened a long time ago, constantly telling myself the story of my past before I can even begin to think about my present. What IS my present? There is only now. What if I had just awakened for the first time in my life, to inhabit this present moment as my reality? What would I do next? Well, I would go up to the other human being in my home and say hello. And we would have lunch together, that would be nice. And a nice coffee.
And then maybe I’d look at the sky and clouds for a while, and then I’d think about how I can contribute. That means doing work that is useful to my peers. I want to be useful– this is a feeling I have that might be related to the guilt I felt as a child, but it also feels like something I still feel right now. What would I be doing if I weren’t being useful? I guess I’d just be exploring random things. But even exploration should feel like a joy. I have a bookshelf of books that I had chosen for myself, but instead I tend to explore Facebook and Twitter in a state of semi-mindlessness. Why do I do that? I shouldn’t beat myself up over it. It’s okay. It is what it is. But I’d like to be more aware. I’d like to be here while I’m alive, I’d like to be present. To show up.
I can do that, I’m sure. I just need to practice it more. I can’t think of anything more important to do on this long lazy cosmic afternoon.