Everything Must Go
It is a strange time in one’s life to be kept silent by external necessity. I live for now in a low long crevasse; the sky is always distant, distorted as if being seen from a child’s worn out kaleidoscope. The crevasse looks to me like the Grotte Chauvet prehistoric cave paintings: instead of the lives of hunters and animals, however, I see the imprints of the dharma patterns and samskara of my own life, the lives around me, of my community and society, all intermingled in a tangle of dependency, struggle, and illusion.
I see, not with my eyes but with my body, the lives of those long dead, and the manner in which their own suffering and attachment and blindness helps to keep us, the living, tied to one another, addicted to the search for elusive safety. Through the dead we look for safe haven. Our poor ancestors are never allowed to rest. We continue the dialogue, the need, and then transport that need to the hapless beings who fill our lives.
The crevasse is a palimpsest. Story written over story. Pattern intersecting pattern. Cats cradle woven through a child’s fingers. An impoverished artist with only one canvas and many visions. Take the tip of the brush’s handle and scrape. Just barely, brush the surface, and count the images underneath. More and more I visualize life as a repetition, which is not always a horror, although we make every effort to ensure that it is. Repetition with subtle addition, or even better, subtle subtraction, makes for great art, a true spiritual practice, and a life emptied of delusion. The finest geniuses of the arts know this: from the symmetrical themes that dictated the purest perfection of Bach, to the cultural ruminations of Henry James, to the melodies of Indian raga, art cannot exist without both evolution and repetition.
Most of us though are just stuck on repeat. I certainly have been, for many many years. And now suddenly, indeed violently, this lifetime of blind need has been flung in my face. First the sting of it kept my eyes closed. Who does not protect oneself from the burning scent of acid?
Now my eyes are sometimes open. Cloudy, milky like an old woman, which is exactly how I feel. But open. The first thing I saw through the haze was that I didn’t need – I don’t need – anything. At all. Suddenly, my lifelong addiction to clothing, to surrounding myself with a cocoon of spare beauty, left me as quickly as a hummingbird abandons an empty sugar bowl.
Empty. My heart is an ache, but an open ache. It is an empty heart, but the emptiness feels like an invitation. Sometimes. Sometimes.
However. First I must divest myself of every object I’ve ever acquired. If it weren’t for my children I would be very much gone from this house and country, and I would be writing these words from a little stone room in Amorgos.
Furniture and dishes and pile after pile after pile of beautiful minutely sized clothing. Boxes of jewels authentic and plate. Yoga clothes for an entire studio, ballet warm ups and leotards to adorn 20 students. Chests of fine china from Ardenwald, my grandfather’s estate in Westchester. This, my assurance to myself, perhaps, that I come from somewhere, a silly egoic affirmation of blood that runs blue, all the while neglecting the bank account that runs permanently red.
The children need some toys. But mainly they draw and talk (loudly) and read. And eat. The youngest has a few babydolls, a love of playgrounds and swimming, could care less about the rest. They are possibly more minimalist than I am, and for that I am grateful. Because we are about to embark on an entirely new life.
No. This is not true. There is no such thing as a new life, even for the newly born reincarnated. We are all of us an antique collection, the finest example of latticed patterns developed long ago.