darkness to light

‘Darkness to Light’ was the title of a heavy metal song that a high school friend of mine proposed writing, though never to my knowledge expanded beyond the chorus:

Darkness to light, darkness to light
Darkness to light, darkness to light

which he would sometimes lean over and emphatically whisper-sing to me and one of our other friends in the middle of Biology II class, much to the consternation of Ms. Geyer.

For a heavy metal song its message is uncharacteristically optimistic. Perhaps that’s why it’s become one of those automatic memory shards that frequently ricochets around in my head so many years later.

Who knows what triggers these recollections. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, course through my brain each year. Effluvia of the past, often with no clear relevance to the present or the future. And yet, still they persist in bubbling up and clumping together, forming a glut in the cerebral soup slopping around inside my skull.

The past always retains a strong magnetism, sometimes merely by virtue of its sudden incongruous intrusions into the conscious mind. Upon encountering this detritus, a natural inclination arises to ponder its significance—to sift through and separate the individual elements, perhaps searching for answers to some present conundrum.

The key, though, seems to be not holding on for too long. Each moment spent dwelling on/in the past lures one away from now and down into proverbial rabbit warrens. It feels safer to scan what surfaces with a neutral eye, then let it fall away and dissolve back into the unconscious. Its ultimate significance lies only in whatever self-imposed layers grow over it, all of which are no doubt discursive in nature and the inspection of which leads to nothing helpful whatsoever.

life’s splendor forever lies in wait

“Life’s splendor forever lies in wait about each one of us in all its fullness, but veiled from view, deep down, invisible, far off. It is there, though, not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If you summon it by the right word, by its right name, it will come.”

Franz Kafka

(thanks to kafkaesque-world for summoning Kafka’s splendor)

the fog that turns people inside out

As I sit here staring out at the foggy woods, interrupted only by my compulsions to chase away the squirrels leaping from the house onto the bird feeder, I once again contemplate my general feelings of dissatisfaction. Yesterday, walking home from the park in the cool drizzle, I paused on the bridge over the interstate. I look down at this abomination: two strips of hot pavement running north and south, hardened abscesses cut into the Earth, supporting two-ton blocks of steel racing here and there, the blocks full of people (of all things!) going everywhere and nowhere all at once. I suppress the bile rising from my gut and walk on. I pass by the stream and stare at the trash floating in the water, the grotesquely shredded plastic bags hanging in the trees. I curse my sensitivity, my thin skin like a gossamer membrane through which I have no control over what passes in or out. But by turning away from the ugliness, by trying to dull the extremes and desperately seek out a middle ground (the Middle Way!), I only make myself sicker. The only times I come close to traveling on the middle path are while running or riding my bicycle for long distances. In motion, my mind stands still. When my body rests, my mind races without end. But I cannot stay in constant motion, so I continue in my struggle to find the right state of mind.

“Develop a state of mind like the earth, Rahula. For on the earth people throw clean and unclean things, dung and urine, spittle, pus, blood, and the earth is not troubled or repelled or disgusted. And as you grow like the earth no contacts with pleasant or unpleasant will lay hold of your mind or stick to it.

Similarly you should develop a state of mind like water, for people throw all manner of clean and unclean things into water and it is not troubled or repelled or disgusted. And similarly with fire, which burns all things, clean and unclean, and with air, which blows upon them all, and with space, which is nowhere established.

Develop the state of mind of friendliness, Rahula, for, as you do so, ill-will will grow less; and of compassion, for thus vexation will grow less; and of joy, for thus aversion will grow less; and of equanimity, for thus repugnance will grow less.”

~from the Majjhima Nikaya, translated by A.L. Basham

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