the people along the sand all turn and look one way;
they turn their back on the land, they look at the sea all day.

as long as it takes to pass a ship keeps raising its hull;
the wetter ground like glass reflects a standing gull.

the land may vary more, but wherever the truth may be -
the water comes ashore and people look at the sea.

they cannot look out far, they cannot see in deep -
but when was that ever a bar for any watch they keep.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

An Efficient Life

Recently, I watched the movie "A Serious Man." Being a typical Coen brothers movie, it was glib, dark and comic in a side-ways sort of way. At least no one was brutally murdered...a change from their most recent flicks, like "No Country For Old Men."

However, the central theme of "A Serious Man" was a brutally beautiful one...and that is, a life lived seriously is in danger of losing its meaning in a heartbeat. The protagonist in "A Serious Man" is a man who tried to build the meaning of his life on his possessions, his position, and the perceptions of others.

And, as the movie shows, that is a bubble that is perilously easy to pop. And once popped, what becomes the meaning of that life?

Our culture - and sadly, religious culture may be the most guilty of doing this - puts pressure on us to be "serious" and "efficient." We are given this view of adult life that is filled with discipline, control, and accomplishment. We need to look good, act good, and make sure there is no dust in the corners. We are expected to be efficient...budgeted and balanced.

The reality is, however, that life is not like that at all. There is dust out there, and mold, and dirt, and rot, and imperfection. Try as we may, we cannot keep clean. We cannot stay balanced - life demands inbalance and chaos. And it will get it whether we like it or prepare for it or not.

The concept of impermanence, which lies at the heart of Buddhist thought, teaches that nothing lasts. Nothing. A chaotic impermanence is at the heart of existence and reality, and struggling against that (by denying it, or putting more trust in rules than chaos) is what leads to suffering.

I don't know about suffering (still working that one out) but I know it certainly leads to confusion and exhaustion. The more we struggle to be efficient, the more frustrated and tired we become, because the universe just is not commited to efficiency.

In fact, the universe is commited to lavishness - and I think lavishness is the only way to live life. The universe does not seek to preserve energy, but to expend it. Thus, novae and nebulae and laws of inertia (which states that an object in motion remains in motion unless acted upon by an outside force).

I know this sounds alot like carpe diem - "eat, drink, for tomorrow you die" - and it is! And yes, even in a reckless way.

There is an old saying - nobody says on their death bed, "I wish I had spent more time at the office." I would embellish that - nobody says on their death bed, "I wish had been more serious and efficient."

A good friend once told me - "if something is worth doing, its worth doing wrong." I agree! Too many times, we wait until we have attained what we think is some level of readiness, or worthiness, or perfection before we launch out and live. But let me ask - were you perfectly ready when you had your first child? I wasn't - and yet it turned out to be the most amazing, beautiful, transforming and joyful experience of my life.

One of my favorite verses in the bible is from the book of Proverbs - "Where no ox is, the manger is clean. But, much increase comes from the strength of the ox." Yep - dirt, messiness, inbalance and inefficiency are all signs of a life well lived!


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