Around this time three years ago my life as I had known it fell apart and not for the first time. Looking at my past as a story, it’s had all the hallmarks of a tragic/comic, bitter-sweet drama with all the familiar moments of tension, suspense, surprise, very human humour and dare I say it, quiet scenes of everyday pathos.
In the starring role of course, was me: My life, my drama, my story, my tragedy and my comedy. The struggles with illness, collapse, failure, depression, confusion and a persistent inability to make the story better or craft a happy ending had, up until that point three years ago said and communicated so much about me… who and what I was.
In the scenes of triumph, celebration, joy and laughter it was satisfying and fulfilling to be the star of the movie. In those times, what the story said about me was comforting, affirming, satisfying and it felt great. In the darker moments of the flickering film of my life, in the scenes of despair, illness, fear and anxiety what the story said about me hurt deeply and gave rise to a longing to escape, to fall asleep and never wake up, to give in and accept defeat, to welcome the waters deep. In those moments of sheer fatigue, I yearned for final and complete rest.
I never expected to find that eternal rest in the very midst of the ups and downs of everyday life, much less in the apparent chaos and disorder of the world. And therein of course lies the great paradox. I didn’t find this rest… my seeking failed to deliver fulfilment in the future or success ‘one day’. All that is delivered is what is already here, now, in this moment… which is already happening and so isn’t delivered at all!
What fell apart three years ago was the ‘my’ in my life.
People often ask me how I faced cancer and survived or how I can stand up and talk of freedom, peace and joy while so many people face torture and abuse or while so many millions are massacred in the name of freedom.
The only honest answer to that is, I can take no credit for surviving cancer… and that the only way anyone faces the horror and hell of the world is to admit that facing it is beyond our limited capabilities as a separate self. Something with much greater capacity that you or I is what faces the horror of the world and the tragedy of every personal story.
That something is more like no-thing and is what is here before, during and after every scene in the movie of my and your life and the movie of the world. It is the screen on which the drama, tragedy, comedy and triumph are played out, never marked or tarnished by any of it.
Admitting that there is no way that I could ever achieve a permanent state of peace or bliss or enlightenment has been the ultimate humbling. Even that admitting was not something I could do, for I was too proud, too ambitious and far too serious about it all.
And so, this moment is seen to be all there ever is and along with it there is a deep gratitude for every scene in the movie, which paradoxically and graciously continues to play. But it’s not about me and it never was. And it’s not as serious as it seems, even when scenes of seriousness are just what the movie needs.