Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Midas Touch

They say that the pleasures of attachment are really suffering, too. Not just that they bring suffering along with them -- any fool can see that. And not just that they go away, and we're left licking the dusty husks. That's not hard to see either, and most of us are willing to just take our chances, that we'll have the sweet long enough to make the deal worth it. But that the pleasures themselves, if our eyes were subtle enough, could be seen to be suffering. (Now, we're only talking the pleasures of attachment here, mind -- pleasures that gratify us, ultimately, because they buttress our sense of self. But that takes in pretty nearly all my pleasures, at present.)

I've had this vividly illustrated for me, this past week. When I was sitting shamatha after all that anger last week, the anger would keep coming back -- a distinctly painful experience. Losing my awareness of my present sensations and having it displaced with all that dark red turbulence and confusion.

Then a couple days ago I got a very sweet email from someone I've long admired, but never corresponded with. The pleasure of that was intense. But when I sat down to shamatha again, that pleasure kept arising again, bringing exactly the same turbulence and confusion that my anger had. A different color, maybe. Indigo. Midnight blue. But the agitation, the physical unrest, and the inability to settle my mind were exactly the same.

And the effect on my subsequent day was also very much the same. The same inability to settle to my tasks, to pay attention to what was at hand, to what needed to be done now.

The point, I hasten to add, is not that people should refrain from sending me sweet emails. The point is that when those old texts talk about all-pervasive suffering, they're not being grumpy ascetic kill-joys. They're just reporting the facts. As long as I carry this delusion of self, I will be cursed, like Midas. Everything I touch will turn to suffering.

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