One can’t start straight with perfection! To attain perfection, one must first of all be able not to understand many things. For if we understand things too quickly, we may perhaps fail to understand them well enough.
— From The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Life convinces me that those who graciously endure suffering and readily sacrifice themselves for others are the closest to realizing the most profound, enduring love. And yet the callous world would have us believe they are the very people most easily taken advantage of by the cruel and selfish. We’re warned against becoming naive. To be taken advantage of by others, we must first be attached to that which we’re not willing to give up. Identifying ideas, habits of thought and behavior, relationships with others, objects or desires. Attachments are endless. Perhaps we have to be willing to lose everything (or give of ourselves completely) to awaken to the deepest truths— to realize truly unconditional love.
When does the quest for self-preservation and security become unreasonable and a selfish pursuit of unnecessary comfort and overabundance? How insidious, our vile greed! What is vital in this life? How much can we give up before nothing is left?
How could we ever be completely separate from the ground of being itself, the ultimate source of fathomless love? Is it even possible to be cut off from that which sustains us while still being part of this life?
I feel like it’s all right here somewhere— nothing lacking, nothing in excess.* The problem then is all in my mind. The problem itself is empty and one of misperception and dormant realization. And yet that ultimately insubstantial challenge continues to confound me.
Truth, astonishlingly bright and resoundingly clear, is often obscured by me.
I want very much to understand the depths of this life, but I continue to trip over myself.
*While writing this post, “nothing lacking, nothing in excess” popped into my head. It is part of a line from “Verses on the Faith Mind”, a tremendous teaching poem from Seng-Ts’An, the third Chinese ancestor of Zen. This sutra has been tremendously helpful to me over the years. The surrounding chunk reads like this:
The Way is perfect like vast space
where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.
Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject
that we do not see the true nature of things.