Are sun, moon, or stars by law forbidden
To smile where they list, or lend away their light?
I wonder where Donne really comes down? He loved to tease, of course, and I suppose his real conviction was that the whole game of love was a house of worldly cards. This poem, like others, is a reductio ad absurdum. Take love seriously, and it leads you to conclusions like these: therefore love is not to be taken seriously.
Donne himself indulged regularly in that bizarre 17th Century habit of alternating (at least in poetry) between attempting to seduce women, and vilifying their inconstancy. But he could at least see that the two projects made nonsense of each other.
I think of myself these days as only vaguely Buddhist. Not apostate, but certainly careless. But I am brought up short by a Facebook friend, scorning merciful thoughts towards Osama bin Laden, and expressing the wish that his corpse should be hanged from the Statue of Liberty till he rots, and then that his bones should be scattered in the gutters for passing New Yorkers to piss on.
I deliberately did not notice Osama's death: I do not choose to regard him as an important man. I'm not shocked on his account. The karma of his life and death is as obvious as karma ever gets. Osama's great misfortune is that he found people to take him seriously: I won't add to his troubles by joining the crowd.
No, I'm shocked on my friend's account. He has no habit of introspection, no religious tradition to help him, and he has no idea what he's doing to his mind by cultivating this hatred, what marks that kind of thinking leaves, what impotence it causes. And there's no way even to begin to tell him. It would be like trying to explain calculus to someone with no algebra or trigonometry: the conceptual building blocks are just not there. So again, I come to silence.
But I also come to realizing that, impatient of ritual and skeptical of authority as I may be -- dismissive of such fundamental doctrines of reincarnation and enlightenment -- I am a Buddhist now down to the bones, and will be till I die. I would not sink my hands in a tub of human shit and then walk around all day without washing them: with precisely the same urgency, and for precisely the same reasons, if I found my mind sunk in thoughts like these, I would clean up immediately with meditation and prayer. It's ordinary hygiene: I'd do it for my friends and family as much as for myself.