“’You see this goblet?’ asks Achaan Chaa, the Thai meditation master. ‘For me this glass is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on the shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, 'Of course.' When I understand that the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.’”
-Mark Epstein, Thoughts Without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective
My friend, a former heroin junkie turned amateur meditation guru whom I admire a great deal, acquainted me with the above little ditty back in the day.
It immediately spoke to me so deeply, and I recognized it as so profound, that I tattooed a broken wine glass on my left wrist.
The subconscious hope, I believe in retrospection of my decision-making, was that the constant reminder, like a dot on the hand used for lucid dreaming, would serve to root the wisdom into my psyche via osmosis. Then, I’d truly take it to heart instead of merely intellectually understanding it — the shallowest and most fruitless of all understandings, I believe.
Related: Nihilism: A Hell of a Drug
I can’t say the wisdom contained in this short lesson has fully worn off on me and that I’ve applied it to the raging OCD demon inside — the architect of what is seemingly an unbridgeable gap (for me, at least, and I suspect for many Americans raised balls-deep in advertising and cynicism and disbelief) between theoretical knowledge and practical application.
But, someday, I’ll figure out how to make that happen.
The continual cycle of creation into destruction into creation into destruction, of entropy into order and back again, appears to be the natural way of this mad three-dimensional world we inhabit fleetingly.
On considering these forces, I begin to question the merits of conservatism as an ideological commitment — an attempt to hold onto that which is perceived as valuable, either personally or socially or civilizationally.
“When we built these dreams on sand,
How they all slipped through our hands!”
-Rise Against, ‘Rumors Of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated’
Perhaps that which is good and decent and worthwhile, once it is vanquished by the agents of chaos — like the sacking of Rome and all of its civilizational achievements in 410 A.D. by the barbarians — will simply re-emerge like the Phoenix organically in another, unexpected form without any coercion or intervention. Europe was plunged post-Roman Empire into the Dark Ages for many centuries, but the brilliance of the Greek and Roman cultural legacy was ultimately rediscovered and rebirthed through the Renaissance and Enlightenment.
The impulse to manage and control everything — the purview of the World Economic Forum transhumanist technocrat, terrified of death and endowed with god complex — is the product of fear and cowardice, not bravery or righteousness or any nobler emotion.
Ben Bartee, author of Broken English Teacher: Notes From Exile, is an independent Bangkok-based American journalist with opposable thumbs.
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