Tuesday, August 16, 2011

FIGURING THINGS OUT (while stumbling)

What can I figure out today?  I wake up with that question in front of me.  I wrap the question around my morning routine...and my morning routine embraces the question.  Think: yin/yang
Every day, my dog and I take a walk with the rising sun.  This morning our first view of the sky showed a flock of small silver-y clouds to the northeast.  Overhead, a comforting coverlet of soft grey clouds holding some promising raindrops.  As we reach the foot of the winding, gravel driveway, pink and coral edges begin to surround the small clouds.   I stand on the quiet road and watch the sky fill up with a new sunrise---a totally original once-in-a-lifetime, perfect sunrise.  I breathe this high desert air--deeply.  I listen to the conversations of the birds and the hum of the distant highway getting up to workday speed.  I break off a tiny twig from one of the still-dormant chamisas that lines the driveway.  I turn it in my fingers...
Another Good Morning. 
I begin to review my tasks and appointments for this day.  The review takes me on side trips, tangents, dead ends.  Many times I linger a bit too long at the dead ends.  I have a need--a crazy need--to resurrect them.  (A dead friendship; lost through carelessness or hastiness or thoughtlessness.  A self-sabotaged opportunity; missed through laziness or forgetfulness.)  
These admissions of failure prompt me to re-group; and I resolve (once again) to be more diligent, more present, more aligned with an open, unbiased bias (as if that is possible or makes sense; as if one could have a bias towards being unbiased?  Or could one?)
What do I mean?  What do I mean to say?  To do? To figure out?
I'm searching for Truth.  I'm yearning for it.
When I discover it--if I discover it--what will I do with it or about it?  I wonder.
I reach into my store of thoughts and experiences---into the coincidences and accidents and happenstances contained in my past and present days.  I do this in a never-ending (borderline naive) effort to figure out my destiny---my true purpose---my Life:  My Life's Purpose.
"Is it possible?" I ask the day?  Is it possible to know, with any certainty, my Life's Purpose---right now, while I am still here---somewhere between the beginning and end of this mysterious life span of mine?  

For a long time, I have been conducting an ongoing informal survey among friends and acquaintences in which I pose the question:  What is your Life's Purpose?  Many people respond by saying, "to be happy".  This strikes me as too vague---not enough, not a big enough answer.  No, to be happy--just happy---is not enough for my life.  At least not this morning!  I'm already happy in most every sense of the word or concept of happiness.  That's not to imply that I'm content!  I keep telling myself, "There's something more to do, to be."  And then I sing my own version of that famous Peggy Lee song, "Is That All There Is."

...In a remote area of Myanmar, in the Southern Shan State,  I asked a young English-speaking Pa-o (ethnic minority) woman guide my question.  Her answer:  "To end the cycle of suffering".  I couldn't quite relate---but then, I'm only a fair weather Buddhist.  Many of my responding friends simply (and I don't mean "simply" in the simplistic sense of the word) want to be good parents or a great musician or a successful doctor, lawyer, painter...Sure, all well and good...but is that your Life's Purpose---your purpose in this mysterious world of ours?  One friend said, "To be."  That's it...for him his Life's Purpose was "To be."  Ah, yes!  A wonderful my world.  Of course you want to be...but simply (?) Be?  Don't you want to "Do"?  Perhaps my question needs "to be" re-stated so I can get some new answers.  I know how important properly phrased questions can be with regard to figuring things out; getting to the so-called crux of the matter.  What is the crux?  What is the matter?
When I began asking the Life's Purpose question (which was originally posed to me, by a man named Nicolai, long ago at a Peace meeting in Russia) I drafted my own response: My Life's Purpose is the search for and rescue of Truth and Beauty
 Lofty, huh?  "Well, why not have a lofty pupose to one's life!" I say aloud, straightening up in this chair, making myself a bit taller...puffing up.  Wait! Lofty is not the same as it?  Recently I asked myself, "Well, Durham, how are you doing with that searching for and rescuing of Truth and Beauty thing?  Tell me, did you just tap into your rambunctious super ego to formulate such a (ahem!) lofty-sounding purpose?   You may have made up a phrase that could mean anything?  Or nothing?  Did you, Linda Durham, make a conscious choice to be so unconscionably vague!  So SAFE!?"  

I used to think the "purpose" was profound and noble.  I want to be........noble!  (This speaks to my personal and abiding loneliness trait of wanting to do something astonishing and beautiful and real).  Maybe I could simply (I clear my throat) BE astonishing, beautiful and real.  Nah!  That's so fake!
I can't stop wanting to make a positive difference in the world.  I want to wake up filled with kindness and forgiveness and clarity.  And curiosity!  Who, pray tell, am I meant to be?  Is the answer from the Universe "Nothing"?Is the answer to it all "humility"?  No, I cannot find my way to humility.  Not now; not yet.  (Aye, there's the rub!) 
 Humility seems so boring to me at this stage of my life.  I equate it with a kind of surrender---one that will catapult me into failure and disappointment and expendability.  My darn ego is not ready to be expendable although I understand that we are---all of us---expendable.  But, please don't expend me yet, I tell myself.  I have a feeling that I have some purpose that I have not yet approached; a purpose I have neither achieved nor understood and I am stretching to find it, to figure it out.  I search. 
This search takes me to far away places on the planet and in my mind.  I stretch toward those an effort to make my life worthwhile---not merely to me, not to those who know me or like me, not to those I've helped or haven't harmed, not to those I've hurt...But to our World...
In the question is the answer/in the answer is the question.  (Think: yin/yang again) In the wrong space, the profound becomes trite and the trite...I am profoundly stuck...Still, I am moving through remarkable, opportunity-filled days, losing time and choices with every moment and choice. 
I am recalling a phrase from a child's prayer, one my mother taught me to say before going to sleep... "if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."  Really?  Is that a nice thing to teach a child!  How many times did I recite those words before I figured out that I didn't want to assume my death might occur that night.  In fact I wanted to assume the opposite.  One more day, one more opportunity to figure it out.  One more chance to hold the world as it holds me.  One more day to begin to be...Or?

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