– Thoughts on hope, on disobedience, and on impermanence –
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The other day we ran over a huge sea turtle with our kayak. This doesn’t happen every day. Sea turtles are extremely shy; if you see them at all, it is usually a dark little head far away sticking out of the sea for a few seconds, maybe a brief glimpse of the big shell before it disappears. This time we hadn’t even seen the guy, it hadn’t seen us either, and we actually ran right into it. A split second before we hit it Parvin let out a surprised grunt – the sea was calm, she was half asleep – I only saw the huge splash when the boat was lifted up a few inches. Then we saw its gigantic size (maybe 5 feet across!) under water disappearing fast.
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There are some really white beaches here; they are made up of fragments of corals. These corals are a special kind – rotolyth – that is not attached to the ground and kind of rolls around on the bottom of the sea. One time we met a girl who studied these rotolyth. Her PHD thesis dealt with the question whether these rotolyth are actually moved by wave action on the surface. She set up a camera under water and recorded thousands of hours of film to see if they moved. Finally, after a long season, she came up with a proof: they do move – not often, but they do. That’s how they proliferate.
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Parvin’s Yoga class
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We take the day off and listen to his music on the satellite radio most of the day. Bathing in this music with the Baja magic filling my heart I’m moved beyond words.
When humans can do things like this, perhaps the world is not going down the drain after all.
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Hope is disobedience
Most people perceive hope as something like positive thinking. For me hope is not the anticipation of an advantageous outcome of things, it rather is the deep understanding and trust that the very act of anticipation is merely a fairy tale, an invention of the mind.
For me hope is a willingness to be completely realistic, realistic not only in the sense of being careful to not exclude anything from the evaluation of a current situation and extrapolating it wisely into the future, not leaving out even the ghost of a chance for an advantageous outcome of things, but realistic about the whole process of evaluation itself, of judging, and about its intrinsic insufficiency. Hope is the calm, non-violent resistance against the dominance of the mind. Hope is disobedience, the attitude to not entirely believe what we think. Hope may be what remains when thought finally discovers its own “hopeless” inadequacy.
The absence of hope – hopelessness – is a thought: an interpretation of experienced reality; it is a conclusion, a judgment. Contrasted to that, hope is essentially no thought at all; it lies before thought, it is the attitude of complete openness, of not excluding anything from the full potential of the future, of not reducing it to just the “thinkable”. Hope is a willingness to be fearlessly realistic about our true nature, about the actual limitations of our mind. When you are hopeless you ‘think‘ there is no hope; when you have hope you know that even your most thorough thinking is limited and can never be entirely trusted.
If we accept that the future is inherently unknowable, and if we don’t get seduced by the elusiveness of anticipation and imagination we can see that it is unrealistic to have any bias toward the future, be it positive or negative.
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The Universe is held together by an infinitely complex fabric of rules and laws. Generally, it is the tool of science with which we discover these laws and with which we find structure in the relationships between them. Among these laws are some really primary, fundamental ones that we knew long before objective science came along; impermanence is one of them. Impermanence: The property of not existing for indefinitely long durations. Everything always changes, nothing ever stays the same. It is the quality of temporariness, of transience that kind of contaminates absolutely everything in the Universe. Like with all true rules, there are no exceptions. Everything eventually ends. Impermanence is the underlying mortality of everything. Loss is unavoidable. To have even the dearest thing is only one half of the story, the other half – inseparably, non-negotiably connected – is losing it again. In the midst of pleasure and joy impermanence is the ultimate killjoy. Death is unavoidable and final. All that arises passes away. We mostly experience impermanence as this unfortunate, brutal, merciless dictate. Sure, we know very well that we can’t do anything about it, but we hate it anyway. At least that’s what most of us do and suffer. Our hopelessly futile wish for an alternative to how things just are is the direct cause of suffering. Wrapped up in this aversion, we seldom realize that impermanence – actually like all natural rules – is in fact absolutely neutral, neither good nor bad, without any quality at all. Sometimes, in the midst of suffering, it’s nice to remember this: Not only good things end, bad things don’t last forever either, they are governed by impermanence as well.
When I spent weeks and weeks lately in various degrees of misery, just riding out this unfortunate plague of a parasite infestation, I once again came across this simple piece of wisdom. When you think you can’t take it any longer, remember: things change – bad things too.
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The worms were not fun! The medication seems to kill them alright, but it kills most of the good bacteria in the guts as well. So you feel miserable even after the whole ordeal and have to carefully restore the precious life in the digestive system.
When I was perhaps at the lowest point of my mood, a kayaker showed up on our beach. On one of those epic voyages he came paddling down the entire Baja peninsula, and he happened to be a physician and specialized in alternative medicine and digestion problems. Mark Dunn, his wonderful advice and pills brought the change; however, underlying it all, it was impermanence that threw the dices.
Today, on Beethoven’s birthday, I take the last course of Vermox, and I’m pretty confident that the story is over now.
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Klaus Baja – December 16. 2010