The Summer Solstice was yesterday. Most hours of daylight all year for us in the Northern Hemisphere, and we were not disappointed in San Francisco, that is for sure. It was sunny and warm, even at Ocean Beach. And the light did last long. It was a pretty day and lots of people did lots of super spiritual things to emphasize the day and the significance of the day. I imagine there was much thought to new beginnings and letting in the light, and doing innumerable sun salutations, and getting in touch with one goddess or another, or preaching about the right way to live (don’t eat this, don’t drink that, believe this, do that, be like Me to be happier, be like him to be happier, look at me look at me look at me)to achieve a higher self, or better understanding, or… something.
I am not absent a good sense of irony here. After all, yesterday I planned to write about how I have begun a yoga challenge (108 days of yoga) and I felt like I wanted to go on this big explanation of the significance of the number 108, which of course I investigated when I started wondering about all these people obsessed with doing not 30, not 100, not 365, (all numbers that held more obvious logic to me) but 108 days. I was planning on writing about this and how it was all spiritual and coincidental and (self) important. The significance of the number is interesting, but like so many things the meaning it takes on depends on how you might be feeling at any given moment. [The individual digits comprising 108 represent one thing, nothing, and everything (infinity), representing the belief that the ultimate reality of the universe as being (paradoxically) simultaneously one, emptiness, and infinite.] It suddenly seemed overly self-conscious, and totally cliché.
My writing has become more and more self-conscious is this medium, which for me compromises authenticity. I cannot tell you how many people have gotten on my case about things I have written, or even considered writing about, here. Everyone has advice, an opinion… an accusation of motive. But really, when I started blogging and was very aware that no one was reading it, I was writing for myself. For catharsis and, frankly, more often than not, to make myself laugh. Maybe to record my version of a memory or story that I didn’t want to forget, which also usually cracked me up. I treated it like it was just about me, it is my blog after all. Following lots of instances of critique, criticism, and actual hurt feelings, it turns out, even the most self-indulgent writing a person can do – blogging – is not really an individual activity. It has an effect on others. One – nothing – everything.
The temporary nature of things is an interesting conundrum – after all it is what might compel me to tell a story here (which, by the way are all true insofar as I remember them… so we can say, all based on actual events) because I want to remember something inherently temporary. The temporary nature of things also offers us the chance to remain sane: nothing lasts forever. Thank fuck for that. The temporary nature of things also allows us an excuse for lots of things that should not really be excusable. Example, my constant mental debate: I will just throw away this recyclable item this one time because I really want to dispose of the trash and I don’t feel like finding the recycle receptacle. No, if you throw one recyclable item away, and everyone on the planet throws one recyclable thing away, then where are we? But it is just this once, I will recycle forever more. And on and on it goes, generally until I take the shit to the recycling bin. Throwing away trash, while momentary, seems much less temporary somehow.
But, with the nothing lasts forever, and everything is temporary attitude, no one seems really concerned with long-term stuff. Live in the moment, people say. Do what makes you happy, people say. Embrace the now, people say. And in so doing, relinquish responsibility for the future we face. Rather than consider that there may be consequences to things, even if categorical proof is absent, people say, No. No, that is not a problem. It is not a problem because it is not a problem right now. And if it is not a problem right now, why should I believe it will be a problem then? [A more animal brain based instinct would say if there is a potential to cause catastrophe, that should be enough to avoid something....]
Because after all, you keep saying nothing lasts forever. Even you yoga challengers… after 108 days, then what?
Everything with an expiration date. (Nothing)
But not. (Everything)
Regardless of the temporary nature of anything, there is some logic to the infinite nature of things. Would doing 108 days of yoga change you definitively? Lorentz would say yes. If every person on the planet stopped littering would it make a difference? If we chose to consider that it was possible that our influence on the global climate could potentially cause us great harm and therefore we tempered all our behaviors contributing to said change, would it make a difference? Is it worth it?
When you look at it like that, it is pretty clear that the ideas tied up in the spiritual explanation of 108 are getting at something pretty important. It goes like this:
- In separation from ourselves we achieve unity.
- So, why can’t we just take care of our own selves and then its all good? a student asked me.
- I mean, it is logical to say, I’m doing the right thing, so I’m fine.
- But we are not fine, even if you temporarily are – just have a look.
- Well, this problem is not mine, it is not me, I am not doing that.
- It is their fault. I blame them.
- I dont’ kill sharks, abuse animals, poach endangered species, allow fracking, overly depend on fossil fuels, throw trash in the ocean, blow second-hand smoke in people’s faces, support the international drug cartels, endorse unfair labor practices, purchase inhumanely produced food, GMO food, use plastic. I am not homeless, in debt, obese, greedy, myopic. I recycle, reuse, reduce, buy organic, contribute to charities, give money to those in need when I can, spay and neuter my pets, spread awareness of issues, vote. I do the right things.
- But everyone says that.
- And we are not okay.
Which seems like the best evidence that, in fact, the paradox is true in our separateness we are united – like it or not – tied to each other. And while change happens and everything good or bad may be temporary – this connection is a dynamic reality.
I am still going to do the 108 days of yoga (today is day 9), because it will make a difference, possibly temporary, maybe not, in my life. I probably wont think about it being about the paradoxical relationship between separation and union, or nothing and everything, but it you never know, it might show me something about myself or the universe that is super important. I am also going to continue to recycle and try to act conscientiously – even though every day it seems harder to do anything at all while trying to do the right thing. I mean, really what can I buy to eat that is not killing me, the planet, a far off indigenous culture, the habitat of endangered species, wantonly destroying farmed animals by the cruel millions, supporting labor exploitation, dependence on fossil fuels, contributing to economic injustice, gender inequality, social violence, social stigma…. it is paralyzing on a good day.
And maybe thinking about all these things will help me to be more gentle in my life. Then again it might not.
But the possibility seems worth respecting.