Wednesday, April 17

Delayed response to a birthday come and gone

Can it be that I am done with drama? Maybe I only can get up for the fives-and-tens, as in nine-gasp-oh coming up next year. Or could it be I’m becoming okay with living in a state of equanimity, a psychological condition to which I never give capital.

Equanimity! I mean, what kind of wasted wish is that when blowing out the candle? Why would I want to be undisturbed by neither experience nor emotion? I call that sleeping.

My life was living for the ‘ups’ and always managing to get through the ‘downs.’  Party hardy was the rule, and the blues was a Sinatra song after the party was over. My thinking was, ‘being emotional’ was ‘being alive.’ If you were composed and undisturbed by the events swirling around your head and heart, you were a dead fish. Having a disposition that accepted both the good and the bad with an even temper simply didn’t compute. In my mind, being ‘balanced’ was synonymous with being boring. How could that be a virtue?

Midway in life my sister met the Buddha and we often talked deep into the night about what attracted her to the chubby fellow. You know how it is with converts; they’re constantly talking about the new stuff they’re learning, waxing on about their ‘transformative discoveries’ as they try to understand the mysteries that intrigued them initially. The conversations led me to a path I hadn’t seen. I got a glimmer of the meaning of equanimity, although still well short of embracing it. Maybe it helped that she was living in Santa Cruz and Maui Wowie outsold the Marlboro Man, but in the words of Ziggy Marley, “I lit the pakalolo, and I said Mahalo.” *

Decades later, having lived longer than the paleolithic age, the conversations continue (with Arlene) without confusing Buddhism’s Four Sublime States with dry martinis, the Bears beating the Packers, removing a post-op catheter and Arlene and me having dinner overlooking Zihuantanejo bay. I get it. Kind of. Equanimity, along with unconditional love, compassion, and sympathetic joy, is one of the four sublime attitudes. Together, they create a divine state of mind that embraces the entire world and all the sentient creatures within it. (No small accomplishment).

There is no verb form of “Equanimity.” You don’t think it or feel it per se, you simply (simply?!) consciously come to recognize an unassailable fact: life is transient and within that overall scheme of things, events both significant and trivial ultimately are merely arbitrary thoughts and petty considerations. That’s where equanimity comes in, explained by this lush Buddha-speak: A mighty river fed from pure mountain springs flows into the sea but the sea level does not rise because an equal amount of water has evaporated, become clouds, and then falls as rain on the mountain again.

So I didn’t get the Lamborghini. Or a call from my son. So be it. I ‘care,’ but I’m not a mouse caught in the sticky glue. I’m not trapped in the muddle of assessing what’s good, and what’s bad. I accept what is.

Now that’s something to celebrate.  On my birthday. And every day.

*Bob Marley’s son… weed… thank you.

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