EXISTENTIAL ANGST

Have you ever thought about your transformation? You know… from who you were to who you are; from who you are to who you will become.

Then it got suggested to me that transformation is not an issue of dichotomous comparable value. Meaning the self talk is not that we are better or worse now than we were. Meaning, we are more or less just going forward. Not like, poor now and rich in twenty years. Or not like, skinny 20 years ago and maybe not so skinny now. Instead, transformation is more about moving forward on a neutral and level continuum, with each stop of equivalent value.

Like a continuous range with just difference, like the colors in a spectrum. I used to be red, now I’m blue. Or now I’m blue and someday I will be purple. Not better or worse, just further down the line. This is to say that transformation is an endless unmeasured series of destinations rather than the accumulation of attachment … or the loss of it.

This past weekend I visited my daughter in Atlanta and was presented with endless subjects, arriving and departing from one destination in their existence to another. From one color in the spectrum to another, from one stage to another.

It all started where all good stories start… at the Church Garage sale. Two boys were directing traffic in the parking lot and as patrons arrived these fellas began the process of asking for money. Donations were accepted here. I looked at these two and saw them as younger boys and as older men.

The one in the front would marry young and have a couple of children. Then to his and his wife’s surprise, he would turn 45 and discover he was gay. He would then run off to be with his wife’s best friend who was a florist. The boy in the back would become a wealthy insurance salesman. Hell, everyone needs life insurance, don’t they?

The path our possessions take is sometimes remarkable. One minute it’s a toddler’s favorite toy and the next its a stained broken piece of plastic on a wobbly folding table. One minute our shoes are purchased for hundreds of dollars, to make us walk taller, appear better dressed and ultimately more appealing; the next minute they are discarded pairs of one dollar leather and rubber, spit up across an old blanket.

Such a great symbol of wear and tear are shoes. Such a great carrier of time and transformation. Ever think about buying someone else’s shoes for a dollar and walking in them?

How could we wait on line for hours and pay a fortune to buy our child that special stuffed animal that will give them immeasurable joy upon receipt, if we knew that someday it would end up in a heap on the Church’s front lawn, humping other germ infested pseudo furs.

The only way to see the world is a moment at a time, without past and without future. Thanks to this once extravagant pile of plush joy, I now get the gift of image capture.

While pedestrians pawed through other people’s past possessions in the front of the church, in the back of the church there was a boy scout car wash going on. Cadillacs were being polished with yellow shammies by big bellied troop leaders and obedient skinny sons wearing camo caps.

One can only hope that these good deeds of the present will not be marred by the future discoveries of pedophilia or church misconduct. The whole act of cleaning a car is a massive illustration of transformation. One minute shiny, the next minute dirty, the next minute washed again.

Rather than now and then, perhaps we need to look at life as now and now.

The other boys wash another car. The one on the left, bending over to pick up the hose will become a very successful plumber. He’ll be thin and charming till his mid-twenties then his belly will grow proportionately to the amount of beer he drinks. Soon his face and body will be unrecognizable under the layers of shapeless stained baggy clothes he always wears.

The three other boys will grow all grow up together and eventually start smoking way too much pot and cigarettes together and continue to hang out. Eventually they will all come to the first one for work as they will be unable to keep a job. One will be an excellent dry wall finisher, another will work in the sewers for 15 years before being laid off and the third will become fascinated with the bible.

None of them will remember this day when they all got wet from washing this car.

As we all transform throughout our lives, so does nature. Nothing is as great a statement of time as the way a tree grows from seed, to stem, to bark covered icon. Like the colors of the spectrum one day it’s green, the next day it’s red and soon after gold the tree stands bare till it flourishes green again.

Not better or worse in any progressive season just a different now…at a different place and in a different time.

Hyper puppies grow into sleepy lazy dogs. Young ladies surrender slender firm ignorance for maturity with softer, fuller wisdom.

We transform. One minute a full head of hair, the next a bald head. One day a blonde, the next day a red-head. There’s a time when tall women are outstanding to short men and at another time the disparity seems obvious. In some ways today is the same day we live all our lives and in other ways that day will never be repeated.

As we change color we change tone. Some days and years we are brighter and surrounded by like shine. Some days and years we live in darkness immersed along with others in our respective shadows. Then over time we transition to another tone somewhere in the middle.

Not better or worse, not more or less… just a little more black or white.

We transform in ways that are not visible to others. One day a shy child in the playground transforms into a fully grown roaring bitch on wheels who annihilates anyone who stands in her way.

On another day a child of wealthy parents will have a tantrum. He doesn’t want to wear what his parents have picked out for him.

Over time he will transform, grow to manhood and become a monk. He will take a vow of silence and join a monastery that brews its own beer and makes its own bread. The pressure of the world will be too great for him and he will grow to love not wondering what to say or what to wear as he will don the same robe, sandals and rope belt every day.

Regardless of his future, how he will change or where he will end up, on this day his fight over horizontal stripes seems important.

Long ago these ladies shared a boyfriend. The boy belonged to one of them officially but the other just couldn’t resist him either. For years after that breach of trust, the sisters didn’t talk to each other. Separately they grew, their families grew and one day one of them needed a kidney transplant.

Because they were both of the same rare blood type, the more healthy sister gave up one of her kidneys for the sister in need. Over time they let bygones be bygones and became great friends once again. On this day they decide to go shopping together.

Back then when the one stole the other’s boyfriend, there was no limit to her scorn. Back then, this shopping day could not have been conceived of; yet here it is.

For some beings they suffer not the concern of the value of their day now, versus the value of their day in the future. These are the blessed beings whose sense of time can only be the now as they have no sense of time as we know it. Their memory is as long as milk bone biscuit.

A father takes his two sons shopping because his wife told him to. He’s in the IT Department at a large corporation and sets up new computers for new employees. He gets no respect on the job or at home and hasn’t had sex with his wife for years.

One day while doing his necessary business in a public washroom, he decides to strike back and decides to steal the valve from inside the toilet that enables it to flush. He gets so much satisfaction from this first dose of power that he strives to relive that liberating omnipotent feeling all around town.

Wherever he goes and whenever he can, he does his business in a public restroom so he can assault the public anonymously. So many bathrooms have been disabled over the years that the city he lives in has dubbed him “The Crapper Snatcher.” Long ago he didn’t know that he would transform into this person with this handle.

Ironically, some day in the future, he will really need to use a public washroom and he will be forced to squat over a disgusting overflowing toilet that hasn’t been flushed for quite a while.

Meanwhile at a sneaker store somewhere in Asia, a little boy imagines himself to be a tall basketball player shooting the final hoop to win the big game. He has known who he will become his whole life.

Down a lonely country road, two posts stretch up and out of the ground. One has always been for a mailbox. The other was for a lamp-post that was mounted to it long ago. The owner of the home wanted to up-cycle it into something useful rather than cut it down and dig it out.

He transformed what was once and always a light post, into something completely useless yet absolutely wonderful. Not better, not worse, just a different thing at a different time.

Once upon a time there was a lawyer who made most of his money defending DWI cases.

He becomes tired of lying, bending rules and defending the intoxicated, and takes a trip to Italy. He smuggles back a small grape-vine taken from an ancient line of grapes. He buys a few hundred acres of land in the North Georgia Mountains and starts a vineyard. He continues to practice law as he grows his grapes and transforms his land.

When it’s time, the lawyer leaves his practice and opens his winery to the public. Hundreds of people flock to his winery every weekend and at the end of the day, after tasting his delicious brand of fermented grapes, his sloshed customers drive back down out of the mountains the best they can.

Every weekend the police set up a road block just down the road from his winery and pull over more drunk drivers than they let pass.

All kinds of people come to the winery to taste this amazing wine. Some people bring their dogs with them to sit out on the back deck and enjoy the view, while transforming their week into a weekend relaxed with a full goblet. Some leave their dogs in the car to pose for pictures.

Wise dogs rest on decks while watching their people transform from sober professionals to whet whistle rock stars … for just a day.

A dog’s life is beautiful. Eat, sleep, stretch and play. Some dogs actually just accept every next thing without resistance,  question or comparison. For them, it’s just what we’re doing now.

Buildings once useful shelter, transition to delicious texture, shape and shadow for some wandering babbling photographer to capture. To some the transformation is from worth to worthless. To others this stop on the continuum makes this ancient shack priceless.

A turkey buzzard flies down from the trees to eat a freshly mashed order of road kill. So consumed with the delight of its meal, and oblivious to its surroundings, it gets mashed by a car driven by a tipsy winery customer that zooms by with a dog hanging out the window.

Once a road kill diner is now some other buzzards road kill dinner. Sometimes transformation is no change in position at all.

And further down the road a field of random flowers grow from nothing. Some near and some far, some pretty and some not. Some bright and colorful and some without bloom. They too think not of what they were or what they will become but simply what they are now… what color they are now.

21 thoughts on “EXISTENTIAL ANGST

  1. What a thought provoking post, as usual. I hope you don’t mind me adding my thoughts here.

    Five years ago I went through this life like so many others – working every day to get more money to buy more things that I thought I needed to enjoy a good life. The days and years slipped by faster and faster, the stress of modern western living grew and grew. I knew that life was passing me by, but what
    choice did I have if I was to be part of the modern world?

    That was when we stumbled on Lakeside in India, sold our home in the UK and moved out taking just two suitcases each with us. We realised that most of the things we had worked so hard to acquire were not necessary and now some of them remain in storage while others have gone to our own ‘church sale’
    .
    What we want or need today is so different to the things that were our priorities yesterday – and to the things that will be our priorities tomorrow. Accepting that then allows us to enjoy each day, each moment, for what it is. I’m not a Buddhist, but your post, and the insights I have gained over the last five years, seem to echo Buddhist philosophy. Maybe it’s a philosophy for all mankind, religious or not, which will bring us the true happiness that all seek but few find.

    If one were to take out the word ‘Buddhism’ or any references to religion from its main teachings one could almost see a reflection of your post.

    We should each try to develop personally to find an understanding of the true nature of life which is characterised by impermanence (your boy scouts), suffering (your sisters) and uncertainty (your turkey buzzard!). Nothing, good or bad, lasts forever and suffering is caused by us trying to stop this inevitable change. If we free ourselves from attachment to the material things we have spent so much time and money acquiring, if we recognise that our relationships will change over time and never remain the same, if we accept that our health will not always be at its best as we grow older, then we free ourselves from holding on to the past or to unrealistic dreams for the future.

    And with that freedom we can enjoy the here and now more fully than ever before.
    Dorinda

    • Thanks Dorinda. It’s funny to me what, how random pictures taken at any given time, provoke such serious consideration. This idea of the importance of now alongside the ultimate irrelevance of now is such a powerful yet meaningless truth. As those Buddha boys say, “…we spend a life time thinking about the meaning of life, only to discover that the key is to have no thought at all.” Thanks again for sharing your wisdom. Going so deep is rarely done and I appreciate the gift of your words.

  2. “The only way to see the world is a moment at a time, without past and without future.’ I absolutely love that quote! 🙂 Really lovely way with words and the photos compliments the lesson so well!

      • I’m so guilty of being promiscuous with my photos… especially for photo credit or linky-love. Yes yes yes, be free and share the glimpse with © in exchange for juicy re-blog links or credit like, Barry Stein at BarryCreative.com

        And of course be sure and send me a link to the spread of the word so I can post your story and use on my Linked In and Facebook and say… “look… someone else likes my pitchas.”

  3. I like that old house. I always wanted to buy an old house. Not sure why they are so attractive. Anyway, I can see that old house’s transformation. A hurricane like Katrina will come & farewell my love. Sad story…or perhaps an interior designer will leave it just like it is but make a it like a mansion on the inside. Or maybe it’ll remain with that unique beauty. Or perhaps I’ll buy it & seclude myself on weekends, countless hours writing and entertaining my three muses. Lovely, I always loved imagining things since my childhood & exploring a thousand worlds & endless possibilities. Even in my dreams sometimes I see stories. Thanks for sharing. It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one that thinks like this. When I read your blog it’s like my thoughts have been read & written on paper. I guess is a writer thing. Perhaps all writers have ink flowing through their veins & that’s why we understand our language. Who knows…

  4. Hey Anonymous. Yeah, it’s funny you write that because that’s exactly what I was thinking… before I wrote that blog. Formerly it was going to be a piece about how little separation there really is between people and how strangers are more familiar than most people think. I think in some cases we all think alike, in other cases we can’t conceive of how another thinks… and of course there are those conditions when it’s a little of both. And yes… stories everywhere we turn and other people have the best stories from their worlds, don’t they?

  5. That’ll be a nice blog “strangers are more familiar than most people think” Sometimes I could be talking to some people for 30 minutes and they still don’t get it yet for others I don’t even have to speak. They read my thoughts. I don’t find all the stories out there interesting. Only some. I’m very selective. I’m not saying their stories aren’t good but they are just not attractive to me. I like the rare and unique, the inimitable. I like stories coming from people who don’t chain their imagination but allow it to run freely.

    • Thanks Elena. Not sure if the Buddha boys choose to not think because it gets them to enlightenment faster or it’s just too painful if they did. But yeah, if one does go down that path one can feel the awesome weight of each moment as well as the absolute insignificance… at the same time. It’s a horrible catch 22 which ironically is just the kind of conflict that will put one’s mind at peace. 😉

G'head. Say it.

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