Sunday, November 11, 2012

The King of the Waves

The sight of the rainbow sash across the chest of this aquatic deity I'd come across launched me into a Buddhist diatribe about the nature of mind based on the message of the Heart Sutra, reportedly a gift of the Naga King. Does that make sense to anyone? My apologies to the photographer who had to listen to this that day in early October, who would rather have been left alone with his camera and shutter speed and attempts at making the fountain's braiding arches of water stand still. I don't think he really bought my argument that we ourselves, and not the world, are responsible for our experience. No doubt, it's absolutely true and not true, flatly wrong and squarely on the money. What a boring world this would be if we had easy answers.

My shot was a blur, as you can see, as is my understanding of the ideas behind this fountain at Grand Army Plaza. What was there to influence the creation of the Greek Poseidon, surely thousands of years of folklore and ritual completely lost to us. But we are mostly content to think it stops there, because that's what we learned in school. How far back do to these water kings go? I came across one recently in a Chinese folktale, Wild Goose Lake, which also bore the trope of the simple-minded hard worker who lures the demigod from the depths with the beauty of her singing and her songs, winning blessings for the human world.

I was really in a funk on the night of Halloween, overwhelmed with dread. We'd just been hit by Sandy and I had no idea what was really going on throughout the city. For the last 24 hours the low lying areas of our city had been grated in an unrelenting atmospheric Cuisinart. Somehow at some point in the night some part of me worked out the thing I needed to remember: it's never the circumstances that cause us to suffer, it's our interpretation of them. We are never defeated by circumstances unless we agree to be.

I'm so happy that Occupy Sandy and all the other relief organizations are still working magic in helping people recover. They reinforce that lesson that doesn't always go down easy: We are only victims if we agree to be, because there is a part of us that is, always, undefeatable.  Maybe that's what Buddhists mean when they speak of Vajra. Perhaps other traditions have another way of saying it?

No comments: