Friday, January 30, 2009
Replacing a Mirror with a Window
Today is a better day.
In fact, things are better overall than they were a year ago.
For I have seen The Other Side.
I used to think there was only one side. Life was very two-dimensional. And even when life appeared three-dimensional, it still wasn’t enough. I wanted one more dimension.
I have seen The Fourth Dimension.
I haven’t spent a long amount of time in either of these places; The Other Side or The Fourth Dimension. But at least I now know they exist.
So there are two worlds for me now, whereas before there was only one; one that became increasingly smaller day by day. Moreover, I know that one world out of the two is better than the other. When I am in the new world, I apprehend its superiority with both mind and heart. When I am in the old world, I can only apprehend the superiority of the new world with my mind alone.
For when I’m not in The Other Side or The Fourth Dimension--even though I will have visited them just hours (or minutes!) before--I am convinced that I shall never see them again.
Or if I convince myself that I shall see them again, my desire to visit them is gradually snuffed out like a dying ember. You may say to me, “But why don’t you go visit The Other Side or The Fourth Dimension if you are so much more at peace there?” and I will say to you from the gurgling blackness of a heart strangled by material desires, “Why would I want to see those landscapes that are so beautiful when I know they are only temporary? Would that not just compound the misery I now feel? To apprehend such beauty only to have it snatched away when I least expect it?”
Plus, I don’t know how to get to the new world of my own volition. I possess no key to The Other Side. I paid no fare to see The Fourth Dimension. I arrived at them accidentally. Or perhaps some formless grace that emanates far beyond even that which we call the event horizon became as a giant cosmic hand and stretched itself forth to pluck me up from the prison of myself and grant unto me a spiritual parole.
What is this new world? Well, empirically, it looks and sounds the same as the old world. Which is a relief. For there are too many beautiful sounds and sights I would hate to lose in the abandonment of the old world. Physically, I function in the same fashion in the new world as I do in the old.
I think there’s only one difference, really. And that one difference makes a world of difference. A world of difference between the old world and the new world.
The direction of my concerns, my cares, my emotions and my thoughts is inverted. In my soul, I replace a mirror with a window.
One afternoon, about three or four months ago, I was walking in Chinatown (the one in New York). As the sun set, I found myself troubled by manifold desires such as I have never been before. It really doesn’t matter what the desires were, for having now glimpsed (albeit briefly) this new world, I know that (in the end) all desires are essentially one and the same. Specificity in regard to desires is mere window dressing (or mirror dressing!)
Just that morning, I found myself actually enjoying those desires. That is, anticipating their fulfillment at some point in the linear future. Do you know what I mean? Like the feeling of wanting to fall in love? Or the belief that if you just persist at something, eventually you’ll receive riches and fame? These aren’t bad feelings. If, that is, one can control them; to prevent them from growing gargantuan in one's mind--eating away all other concerns; not only for others, but also for one’s own psychological well-being.
But by the end of the day, those same desires that I had flirtatiously enjoyed that morning had indeed grown gargantuan! In fact, I thought, as night fell on lower Manhattan, that I would rather take my own life than go on desiring! I couldn’t imagine living another hour with the noise of want that was SCREAMING IN THE ECHO CHAMBER BETWEEN MY EARS!!!!!!!!!!!!
Suddenly, I found myself, by choice or by accident I still know not, at the doors to the Buddhist Temple near the Manhattan Bridge. I had been there many times before, but never in a state of spiritual despair.
I flung the red doors open and, in front of the massive golden Buddha that sits peacefully at the center of the temple on a flowered dais, I fell to my knees on the padded prayer pad beneath his mystical and idolatrous presence.
I clasped my hands as if I were in a church. And I said in front of this renowned Eastern image what essentially was a Western-styled prayer; hands clasped and head bowed, thus I whispered:
God, help me. . .help me. . .my desires are going to kill me. . .help me. . .save me from my desires. . .
I was afraid to finish the plea, yet I didn’t know what else to ask for. All I knew was that it was too early to return to the outside. I remained indoors lest I return to the despair that I knew lie beyond them. So I just kept asking the same thing over and over.
Help me. . .please, help me. . .don’t let my desires kill me. . .help me. . .
Then my refrain eventually condensed into only: Help me. . .help me. . .help me. . .
I must have been there two or three minutes when suddenly the two words escaping my lips were altered dramatically.
Thank you. . .thank you. . .thank you. . .
????????????? thank you ??????????????????
I didn’t know why I was saying “thank you” at first. Nevertheless, I couldn’t stop saying it.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I didn’t mean it at all. Not one iota. Gratitude was the furthest thing from my mind. I even said it through clenched teeth, with venom and bitterness in my heart.
Thank you! Thank you! Goddamnit, thank you!
I remained on my knees for at least another five minutes as a feeling of contentment slowly--and I do mean slowly!--washed over me. Eventually, I stopped saying “thank you” and started whispering it. Then I stopped whispering it and started thinking it. I got up from my knees and looked toward the ceiling and then at the golden Buddha whose shining head almost touched it--all the while with this new and strange loop playing in my mind: thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. . .
I left the temple thinking only: thank you.
And I went to where I was going thinking only: thank you.
As I went to where I was going, I saw people differently from how I had viewed them only minutes before. No longer were they a nameless, faceless mass conspiring to be in my way. Instead, they were The Way. A gorgeous sea of individuals each precious in their singularity. I stopped to talk with strangers. And as I talked and listened to them, thank you were still the only two words evident in my consciousness. How utterly different the world appeared! Everything seemed so indescribably beautiful! I felt so. . .innocent.
That was my first visit to the new world. It lasted about four days. I’ve been back about three or four times since then. The longest I’ve been there is about five days. More interestingly, the shortest duration I’ve been away from the new world, since discovering it, has been less than twenty-four hours. This new record was set yesterday evening when I left the old world yet again and returned unto the new.
Wish you were here!
You ask me why I believe in God.
I ask if you know the cadenza to Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.
You ask me why I believe in Angels.
I ask if you have heard The Beatles sing.
You ask me why I believe in Miracles.
I ask if you have read of the pilot who landed on the Hudson.
You ask me why I believe in Good and Evil.
I ask you which side won World War II.
You ask me why I believe in Providence.
Because I went looking for help and found gratitude instead.
You ask me why I believe in Salvation.
Because I said Thank you. . . with my lips,
while screaming Fuck you! with my soul.
Posted by Will Franken at 3:11 PM