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08 November 2009

On My 48th Birthday

Birthdays have never meant all that much to me, at least my own. In a sense I look at every day as a birthday of sorts. You never know for certain you're going to wake up. But this birthday seems more significant than others. I'm 48 today. I feel as though I've reached the end of a cycle of some kind, the end of a life as I have known it. In fact, my life has been disintegrating over the last 3 years to the point where there isn't much left in the material sense. I've never been too rooted in the material world to begin with. My material or physical aspect has been problematic shall I say regarding the things most people either take for granted, or eventually after some rough stretches figure out. Basic survival, family life, one's place in this world -- but not me -- I could liken the state of my evolution to a metaphor of an Indian holy man as written about by Tom Vater:

"They will walk the country naked, smeared in ash, live in forests and hovels and beg for alms. They are dead in the worldly sense. They are free of responsibility. They are free. Freedom’s just another word."

In receiving compassion, however, I've learned much more about it than I ever did when I was practicing it. I've now learned to see life in the most basic terms and to be grateful for the smallest crumb of sustenance. If this is the end of a cycle or the end of the cycle, what did it mean? I suppose that matters who you ask. Everyone who I've ever had any dealings with would likely filter their experiences with me by the lens of their own ego; how favorable was the deal? Only rare individuals are able to separate their ego from their observations if that's even possible: To remove the pain or the pleasure of the encounter and see the honest view of the relation.

The most dominant archetype in my life experience is probably the beggar as explained by Carolyn Myss:

"Beggar (Homeless person/ Indigent)

Completely without material resources, the Beggar is associated with dependence on the kindness of others, living on the streets, starvation, and disease, whether in New York City or Calcutta. It is easy to believe that the archetype of the Beggar is solely a negative one, but that is an illusion. A person need hardly be starving for food to be considered a Beggar. People "beg" for attention, love, authority, and material objects. We "throw a dog a bone" to give a powerless being a "treat" of power. From a symbolic perspective, the Beggar archetype represents a test that compels a person to confront self-empowerment beginning at the base level of physical survival. Learning about the nature of generosity, compassion, and self-esteem are fundamental to this archetypal pattern.

Films: Patrick Swazye in City of Hope.

Fiction: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens; The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain.

Non Fiction: Meeting the Madwoman by Linda Schierse Leonard, Ph.D.

Religion/Myth: Lazarus (the beggar in Luke 16:22-23, who is "carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom" after his death, while the rich man outside whose gate he begged went to Hades); Yeta (Japanese beggar who may be a disguise for Inari, the god of food or goddess of rice); Odysseus (who disguised himself as a ragged beggar when he returned home from Troy); Lan Cai-he (in Taoist myth, one of the eight immortals, who dresses in rags and roams the streets as a drunken beggar)."


Yet I do at times feel more like a disguised beggar. My father used to say I must have been confused about my life thinking I were really an aristocrat in a poor man's life -- only problem about me from my father's point of view was I hadn't figured out I was poor. I still have this sense of being so much more than I am (and I feel that about everyone, this idea of the divinity in everyone is so present in my heart and mind). That I am connected to and a part of a larger energy and consciousness, and I know my small mind and ego are not of it, yet I sometimes (far too frequently) hold onto the idea that this failure or death of my life, whatever the current death happens to be, is all that I am. I have mostly worshiped the down and out, not out of romanticism, but rather from a lack of true self-esteem. I have mostly run away from anything and anyone that would root me in the material world (except the weeds, perhaps). I've been given so much and not always allowed myself to receive the gifts, breaking them like a spiteful child for always wanting more or different - a slave of my ego that compels me to squeeze every last bit of joy and happiness from my life for wanting that illusive other thing.

The interesting thing about the plants, or weeds as the case my be, is that I always receive their gifts unfettered. I don't feel embarrassed asking for strength from a Stinging Nettle plant or warmth from the essence of St. John's wort as I do from a person. To a lesser extent I've felt that way around animals and even children. But when I look at a peer, mostly a man, and to a similar but different extent, a woman, I often feel a sense of embarrassment or shame that I should even acknowledge the fact that I need something from someone. Why do I thank people from whom I buy things from for serving me? I don't do it from some Buddhist sense of enlightenment but more from a shame that I don't even deserve the thing I'm paying for. For most of my life I did this with people. Exquisite beautiful exotic people were the ones I always fell in love with, but after a certain time period I believed myself to be so unworthy of that love, I dishonored the relationship with my own dysfunction. Why has it been so hard to accept the bonds that would connect me to others? I have no answer for that, but it is the one great longing of my life. Why I could not just sit at the fire with the other cave-dwellers and enjoy the meat of the kill and the fruits of the earth? In the pursuit of spiritual or ethereal awareness, I have often lost the blessed spirit in the common and material of this world, what I propose as being so worthy in this blog, falling prey to the false belief that only the "higher" self was worth nurturing.

1 comment:

  1. You're an amazing person, Marc. Know it.

    And increase the St. John's Wort--48 isn't even halfway done.

    ReplyDelete

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