Looking For Action While Death Laughs


  For as long as I can remember I have been resisting the pull to join the throngs of people who are 'on their way to somewhere.'  Actually, it's not much of a pull anymore. In fact, I'd say that I've become completely indifferent to what it is that has got their attention 'this time.'  

 My feeling has been that if a lot of people are planning to attend some event that that is a sure sign that I should head in the other direction.  

 Perhaps I have been missing out on a lot of things over the years?   I could have gone here, there and everywhere. And I'd be richer for it all, right?  

 What might I have gained in the restless search to experience everything that could be experienced?  

Well, I've been reading Goethe's Faust. Here's the prime example of the man who wished to know and experience everything.  

 In Faust, we find the man who 'wanted it all.' Intellectually, he'd achieved doctorates in several subjects. He'd taught for many years. As a result, his feeling was that he had learned nothing and had nothing to teach anyone.  

 The play begins with Faust sitting in his study - poised to poison himself to death. The way of the mind had gotten him nowhere.

 The way of the mind alone had failed Faust, so he then tried the way of feeling and emotion. His soul reached out to nature until he felt one with it.  His focus became on how he could get himself into mystical and expansive moods. 

 But, as the story goes, Faust learned that this, too, was not enough.

 Faust's third attempt to find meaning was through action. He determined to  help change the world. This, too, proved not to satisfy.  

 The point of drawing attention to these three ways of searching for meaning is not to say that these do not matter. The point is to say that there is something that matters more while you're thinking, feeling and doing.

 It has to do with something Gurumayi says in her book, Enthusiasm. My wife, bless her, has been reading it every day on our holiday and read me these lines:

 "When your body is healthy and strong and all your physical limbs are intact, when your senses and nerves are functioning impeccably, you have a lot of energy."

   "And you expend it in a breathtaking variety of ways: You rush about.  You climb mountains. You create hundreds of computer programs. You wrestle.  You travel at lightning speed.

     "You give highly motivating, energetic, powerful and compelling speeches.  You cook special meals and please all your loved ones. You go to weddings and parties. You work until the early hours of the morning."  

       "You go horseback riding or parachuting from airplanes. You start campaigns and fight for causes. You keep yourself busy for a hundred different reasons. Your body is healthy, you feel so strong, you have so much energy - you must do somethin

         "You are motivated by all sorts of things:  A desire for name and fame.  A need to fight off emotions or to fill up your time. An urge to look important or to make yourself feel inferior." (people do work hard at that, you know.)  

           "But mainly you are willing to go to any extreme as long as you don't have to be alone with yourself. That old, ancient loneliness is what you want to avoid. Anything to get away from the deafening silence that resounds within…"

 Gurumayi then asks her readers to consider how it will be when you are no longer able to be the 'energizer bunny.'

 "What happens when your limbs lose the power to run around? When you are physically incapacitated and cannot move a millimetre?"  

  "At a time like this, how do you manage? When your mind is still intact but the rest of you is atrophying, when you are toxic with the poison of boredom, how do you battle with your own unending restlessness? Your unfulfilled desires? The uselessness of your days? The burden of your existence on others?"  

   "How do you rise to the continuous challenge of quieting your desperate thoughts, your sinking willpower, your unbearable dejection?  How do you fill the nights that seem to go on for."

     "Where do you take refuge at a time like this when your body is no longer healthy, when it cannot move? When you have lost all the physical strength you thought you could use to win over the world? "

      "You long to find a resting place, a little peace and quiet. Where does such a place exist? And if it does exist, how do you go about finding it when you can't even move? You can't travel to a holy place. You can't visit your friends. You can't even pick up the telephone to call someone and say you are dying."   

          "How long can you curse your destiny? Who is there to blame?  Whom do you call for? Who will listen? And in the final analysis, who can do anything that will help? Where is your refuge? Who is your refuge?"

 Gurumayi continues: "In one incisive song after another, the Indian saints throughout history have sent out the warning: death is laughing at you.  They say, when you think you are busy with so many activities, when you think you are so important, pay attention: death is laughing at you."

 "Kings who thought they ruled the entire world, where are they today?  What became of those kings? Death ate them for breakfast. What then will he do with you and me?" 

   "You saunter around in the garden like a dandy with a flower in your turban. One blow of death and you will forget all your gaiety in a moment.

 Says Kabir: "It is idle fantasy to say that your soul will atomatically merge in God when you die. If the Lord is found now, He is also found then. If you don't make an effort to know Him now, then you simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death."  

 Gurumayi asks these questions and cites these poets to make the point that we should be aware of "the ultimate helplessness of the physical body."  (Enthusiasm, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, pages 46-48)

 She says that the body is transitory, and "the happiness you find in it is short-lived."

 There is a "greater happiness," and that is to be found through the "light of God within."  

 I will soon be home from this vacation and expect to be asked how my time was. The highlight has been what happens when I sit on my meditation cushion in the early hours of the morning. I enter a refuge, an abode, a place of light within. An inner fire is kindled as I enter that transcendent dimension of true being and bliss that was missing in the life of Goethe's character, Dr. Faust.

 I do not want to be someone who cannot be alone with himself. I do not want to be someone restless for action.  

  I am so grateful for the meditation practice.