When everything gets to be too much I run away; I am a coward; I cannot face my demons head-on. Instead I seek out the space between the desires that drive my life and the mystery that is the foundation of experience. Each time I find myself overwhelmed by the world I seem to find my way into the mountains where the air is hard to breathe and my dreams are surreal; they are filled with a potency they lack in the lowlands.
Deep in the mountains day breaks very early. Everything is quiet. A late January dawn comes stepping so quietly over the mountains that they are barely visible above the nascent pines. I don’t quite know what it is that wakes me... the chill of the air, perhaps, or the crack of stone falling from on high.
Or maybe it is the mystery.
I crawl from my bedroll intending to kindle a fire to brew coffee but first I stop. I stand without thought drinking in the morning. The breeze rattling through the trees is speaking in tongues. Though I listen long I cannot decipher its message. The wind has no interest in me. It does not care if I am here or not here. The days are constantly being reborn without any help from me.
I am alone. I have walked four days to reach this spot; I have not seen anyone else during my journey. Hunting season is over so like every year at this time the forest seems abandoned. I know I have never been so far away from another human being. If only I could I would go even farther until no one remembered my name or that I ever existed at all. I would dream a dream of myself and know I was dreaming.
I would become as disinterested as the mystery.
The mystery that comes before experience is like the crack of dawn deep in the mountains; it is disinterested. It sees these things that I name as that which arises, flourishes a short while, and then all is destroyed. In this way experience is constantly renewed and yet it is never exhausted.
I’ve known countless people in my life. Each has left an indelible mark upon me. Some of these people were takers who would never think of giving; others were givers who never thought of taking; a few neither gave nor took. Were I more like the mystery I would inhabit the space between this giving and that taking.
By attempting to injure others I am injured in return. By trying to please others I am merely adding fire to fire and water to water. There is no end to these signs of deferral. By entering the space between these two I bend to no one and yet I accept the world in all its suffering. I have heard of knowledge of the wise. I have not-heard of knowledge of the unwise.
In all manner of human discourse there are two cautionary considerations: one is what is naturally right while the other is the conviction of what is right. A child discovers duty in the love of the parent; a follower finds their obligation in serving the leader. When the child and the follower, the parent and the leader, do what they cannot but do virtue enters in the space between these two.
In all things this is so; people are at first sincere but always end by becoming rude. In the beginning things are treated as trivial but as the end nears these matters assume great proportions. Hasty vengeful thoughts arise and no one knows why. By keeping a reference to unavoidable obligations the mind finds enjoyment in the circumstance of position. The best thing is to be ready to sacrifice oneself; this is the most difficult of my teachings and the most far-reaching.
I am disinterested. I witness people being born, flourishing a short while, and then passing back to the mystery from which we all both move away from and back toward. In this way this gathering of lovers is constantly renewed and yet it is never wearied.
As I walk the rocky paths high in the mountains I recall a time when I held onto hope even when everything seemed hopeless. I could think of no reason to expect anything better so I quit expecting anything. I took a breath and then another. In my defeat I found victory. In my every victory I am defeated.
The space between that which I name and the mystery of the nameless is a breath, nothing more; it is merely an inhalation followed by the exhalation, a heart skipping a beat, the whispering grass under the rustling serpent meandering through the weeds.
The shapes of these things change but their forms remain. If this were not so I would wander like a new-born baby full of wonder and empty of regret.
Long speeches weary the listeners. By keeping to the center I avoid the extremes.
This is the way of the universe.