I've been thinking about that George O'Malley (Grey's Anatomy) quote that was a few posts back. I've been thinking about it a lot.
Here it is again to remind you:
CRISTINA: "There's a club. The Dead Dads' Club. And you can't be in it until you're in it. You can try to understand, you can sympathize. But until you feel that loss... My dad died when I was nine. George, I'm really sorry you had to join the club."I've considered trying to help George out with some advice but then thought, naah - too sentimental (even for a sentimental old fluff like me), too potentially didactic, too sad, too open, too personal.
GEORGE: "I... I don't know how to exist in a world where my dad doesn't."
CRISTINA: "Yeah, that never really changes."
So each time its floated into my brain I've been rejecting it and trying to forgot about it. But the thought wouldn't leave me alone.
I have four great vows:Zhaozhou seemed to enjoy whatever was happening. If it was cold he enjoyed winter and the fire; if it was hot, he loved walking in the evening. If he was happy, he laughed; if sad he was just sad. He didn't clench up against life.
When I'm hungry, I eat;
when it's cold, I put on more clothes;
when I'm tired, I stretch out and sleep;
when it gets warm, I like to find a cool breeze.
I realised that I'd clenched up in my thinking and these two Zen masters gave me permission to be sad.
That's quite a relief.
The other shove I got was from a saying by Sengcan:
The great way is not difficultAs John Tarrant explains it in his excellent book Bring Me The Rhinoceros, the koan shows you two conditions for your mind: a with and a without condition. What you are either with or without is your map, your cherished beliefs, your story about how your life should be at the moment in which you find yourself.
if you just don't pick and choose.
The with condition is what, in an unexamined way, I believe to be true. Beliefs have consequences; they build their own fictional world.
In the without condition I see the world without wanting it to be different from the way it is. The koan is suggesting we live in the without condition, when we don't pick and choose.
This has all been percolating and floating around in my brain for a while and it has informed my response to George's implied question (how do I exist in a world where my dad doesn't?) and to all other members of the Dead Dads' Club. It's my way forward and my way is very peculiar to me.
It's important because without a way there is dukkha (suffering, pain, discontent, despair, unhappiness, sorrow, anxiety, dissatisfaction, discomfort, anguish, stress, misery, and frustration).
George's use of language is quite interesting (and deliberate I think). He doesn't say, "how do I live in a world without my dad?" Of course he will keep on living in a world without his dad. There's no suggestion in George's words or character that he is considering anything other than living. He says he doesn't know how to exist (to be) in a world that doesn't contain his dad.
Hamlet is there in the background - 'to be, or not to be, that is the question'. But ultimately George isn't going through the same crisis as Hamlet.
Yes Hamlet has joined the Dead Dads' Club and he struggles throughout the play to be in a world that doesn't contain his dad. In his famous soliloquy he is considering whether to be (live) or not to be (die).
From that thought he considers what it might be like to die and the thinking leads him to the conclusion that the great unknown of death is too much to bear so he determines to 'rather bear the ills we have than fly to others that we know not of'.
But, again, George isn't Hamlet. He simply feels his compass, his way to be, has been removed and he no longer feels on solid ground. It's a jarring feeling losing your dad and a thing that does make you question your place in the world.
To be honest, that's how I felt upon joining the club myself (like George, not like Hamlet), and it's something I still feel from time to time at 2.55am.
For what it's worth here's how I do my best to avoid dukkha and live in the world without wanting it to be different from the way it is:
• I consider my father (what would he do? is an examination I use). That way his compass is present.
• I listen to a lot of music.
• In my own way I communicate with the people I love and I send my love out to them like little lovebirds. Sometimes they are aware of this, at other times they are not. That's okay for me.
• I reflect and examine my own feelings (the unexamined life is not worth living according to Ralph Waldo Emerson).
• I allow myself to feel sad sometimes and happy at other times. If I laugh I laugh in other words. If I cry I cry in other words.
• I remember the maple leaf poem (search the blog - you'll find it) and I often recite it in my head.
• I think of myself as a Jedi knight with the force flowing through me.
• I am here now.
• I take one here now day at a time.
• I write posts like this one and I hang it out there in the blogosphere.
Love and peace - Wozza