Further through the porthole

Still recovering from prostate surgery, I began this morning with another distressing incident of extreme urinary urgency. Very frustrating. But then….

I remembered that today is the 22nd anniversary of the deaths at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and on Flight 93. And then I remembered Friday’s earthquake in Morocco and February’s earthquake in Türkiye-Sūriyā (Syria). And then all 2023’s fatal floods, wildfires, and armed conflicts around the world….

No one person can fix all of this suffering; no one person can bear to feel all of it. We don’t really even want to know about it. But unless we harden our hearts, we do.

"Time’s Arrow" (1987), by Hiroshi Sugimoto (seascape: 1980; reliquary fragment: Kamakura Period, 13th century) Gelatin silver print, gilt bronze.Recently I shared two blog posts about the openings I have had from pondering Hiroshi Sugimoto’s 1987 photo montage “Time’s Arrow” (“Life without backgrounds or frames”  and “Stepping through the porthole“).

How do we step arm in arm through the porthole into the groundless sea and sky of the Real World?

How do we help each other to let our hearts grow more spacious, so that we can hold within them more and more of the suffering beings around us?

Montage of maps of 2023 earthquakes, floods, wildfires, and armed conflicts around the world

 

4 comments On Further through the porthole

  • Mike, I appreciate your insight.
    As you age, you two might enjoy Kendal at Oberlin. We have a great Friends Meeting representing all 4-5 branches of Friends. We have gay couples and gay singles. We are environmentally concerned w solar panels on garage roofs. Lots of wildlife grace our 110 lot.

    • Thank you for the comment, Lyn. And Kendal is certainly one of our options.

  • i have a loved one who models for me a rather unpopular but crucial perspective in all this when i carry that kind of load on any given day. she has boundaries. she says “this is too heavy for me. i can’t carry all that….but neither can you! it’s not healthy for you either!” so she is my role model for letting go, better and better… noticing but letting go. she raises the thought for me how can i stay in a space of infinite resources and infinite light and what is too heavy for me (much of it is….and i am never infinite anything, but it’s a goal).

    i wish you infinite resources and infinite light. i fully embrace your boundaries and needs. it may look like trying to redeem Quaker quietism. i don’t believe that the world’s worries don’t matter, though. but i truly believe in you waiting in divine wholeness until the power is given you to do something about them and otherwise, knowing that action is not yet clear and not yet yours to carry. wishing you freedom and grace and boundaries of the flesh to rest in.

    • Thank you, Friend. This is very helpful.

      I like this passage: “…she is my role model for letting go, better and better… noticing but letting go…. she raises the thought for me how can i stay in a space of infinite resources and infinite light and what is too heavy for me….” And this one: “…waiting in divine wholeness until the power is given you to do something about them and otherwise, knowing that action is not yet clear and not yet yours to carry….”

      Yes, this may look like but is not quietism. It is waiting worship. Seeing and feeling into the world’s painful concerns and holding this, without trying merely to fend off one’s own distress by jumping into unclear action.

      One Buddhist perspective that helps me is expressed well by Pema Khandro in “When We Have No Choice,” an article in the Winter 2021 issue of Buddhadharma. Here is an excerpt.

      [The] phrase, “to take joy and sorrows as the path,” appears in numerous, maybe hundreds of Tibetan prayers. It refers to the ability to take an experience and make use of it to train, to see into the nature of reality, to clarify what we are. It also refers to the power available in extreme hardship, the way that petty concerns are naturally silenced. Things get very real, very direct…. In that hardship there is a silence, and with it a liminality. This is the space needed for a certain kind of work to be done in mind.

      There is a prayer, “Carrying Joy and Sorrow onto the Path”…. It teaches us how to suffer. It reads, “If suffering comes, use the opportunity to take on the burden of everyone’s suffering. May an ocean of suffering be emptied.”

      This is a practice of radical empathy, a Buddhist method for dealing with suffering by opening to feeling the suffering of others. In our greatest suffering, we consider people who are also in a situation just like ours. We contemplate the other mothers and daughters, sons and fathers, brothers and friends, the people who are also facing this same pain. We connect into their suffering as well as our own.

      This, of course, is a practice for discovering the altruistic enlightened intent where, with our broken open heart, we easily find the wish that the suffering of all will be cleared away. This is how we suffer—together, with others. We dedicate our suffering so that it might clear suffering for all.

      This is counterintuitive—in our greatest hardship, to also think of other people’s sorrow seems like too much. It is already too much. But there is something that happens by the power of our interdependence with beings, something at the core of what we are. By acknowledging this interconnection through open-hearted presence, we actually find relief.

      Blessings, Mike

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