Yours in the Dharma:  Essays from a Buddhist perspective by Sandy Garson

This blog, Yours in the Dharma by Sandy Garson, is an effort to navigate life between the fast track and the breakdown lane, on the Buddhist path. It tries to use a heritage of precious, ancient teachings to steer clear of today's pain and confusion to clear the path to what's truly happening.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

It's about time

All of us who have survived this breathtaking year racing to its close have been let in on an astonishing secret: life still works exactly the way Chinese astrologers predicted millennia ago.  Their circa BC 2600 right the first time Reality Version 1 nailed 2016 as a frenzy of devastating upheaval, scorched earth and nonstop chaos. They said 2016 would be the time of shenanigans and surprises, a year of the fire monkey.

It feels impossible to imagine how so long ago those non electronic people could so accurately foresee this year of cataclysmic earthquakes in Italy and Indonesia, devastating hurricanes, catastrophic fires in Oakland and Alaska and Tennessee, fatal floods in Louisiana, Fiji and North Carolina, Brexit, the end of the staid in the Noble Prize for Literature, two teams in the basement for decades suddenly rising to fight for supremacy in the World Series, the economic meltdown in Greece and abolition of money in India, dangerous escalation of military macho in the South China Sea, unspeakable atrocities in Yemen and South Sudan and Syria, the impeachment of governments in Brazil and Korea, Zika, humungously debilitating cyberattacks and hacks, a worldwide contagion of hate and fascism, the rise of a zombie Russia and the dissolution of a united Europe, the death of so many creative and compassionate minds, a tsunami of hapless refugees, complete rejection of Ataturk in Turkey and total demolition of democracy in America. 

Every day headlines were yuge and that was just the upending in public. The private lives of everybody I know became a roller coaster best described in an old Paul Simon lyric: 
"I don't have a soul that's not been battered,
I don't have a friend who feels at ease,
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered
and driven to its knees.

There was an excess of inexplicable firsts and lasts in my friends' lives: sudden deaths, women widowed and alone for the first time, people unemployed for the first time, people messed up by real estate deals for the first time, people whose routines were upended by family or medical surprises. There were all of us who finally broke through the cocoon of lethargy or apathy to come alive for Bernie only to be thrown off the bus by people whose arrogance drove it into a ditch. There were all of those burned by Samsung or brightened by Hamilton, the hottest show in decades. There were how many millions whose meals were suddenly affected by Cuisinart, and how many thousands ready to roll to Cuba. LGBT came to be or not to be. All of our major Dharma teachers told us now was the time to put down the texts and spread bodhicitta as fast and steadily as possible.

I had my own upheavals. I had my car stolen, my eyesight diminish and my younger nephew push his way into my life after a 20-year absence. I had the local police captain offer me a precinct position and had to go through lots of fingerprinting and eyeball vetting. After almost 40 years I suddenly had a letter from the great love of my life. I had the busiest summer and skimpiest bank account I can remember. I was thrust into an enormous Dharma project as its lead creator. I had to speed up the sale of my apartment to be three months earlier than planned and on short notice had to find a temporary home. I am not the person who started the year, and in equally obvious ways neither is anybody else.

All the high speed chaos and crushing of 2016 cannot easily be categorized as coincidence. The last time we went through a year of the fire monkey was 1956, and we can see in retrospect it was startlingly revolutionary in every way. Elvis Presley burst into our lives via Heartbreak Hotel and Norma Jean Mortenson became Marilyn Monroe. Morocco declared independence from France, Indonesia became independent of the Netherlands, Tunisia became a free country, Pakistan became a country (an Islamic republic), India remade its state borders creating three new ones down south, Hungary and Georgia both revolted against the Soviet Union trying to get free. Castro came to Cuba and the Nicaraguan dictator Somoza was assassinated. The last foreign troops left Egypt making it independent and Nasser seized the Suez Canal. Eisenhower started the US highway system and In God We Trust became the official US motto.

There was more: The luxury liner Andrea Doria sank like the second Titanic, the first commercial nuclear power plant opened, the  Ringling Brothers staged their very last circus actually under a tent. A massive earthquake upended the Cyclades and the largest mining disaster in history Belgium.  Asian flu epidemics began. Don Larsen threw the only perfect game in World Series history and the Methodists ordained the first woman pastor. The Supreme Court ended segregation with busing. My Fair Lady came to Broadway, As the World Turns started on TV and Grace Kelly married the prince. The drama of the year was Look Back in Anger, the book The Man Who Knew Too Much and the song sung by Doris Day Que Sera Sera.

It's all still alive and kicking, that stuff of 1956. And now we get the earth-shattering add-ons of 2016 seemingly aimed at blowing up everything that happened in between. Look back in anger. A hard rain's gonna fall.

The ancient Chinese also predicted a fire monkey year would inevitably be followed by the time of a fire rooster: crowing (flamboyance included), scratching (meanness meant) and a lot of fiery but witless behavior.  Que sera sera starts on January 28, just a week after the American President's inauguration. Damn if i know how the ancient Chinese figured that out.

~Sandy Garson "Wordsmithing to attest how the Dharma saved me from myself!"

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