Miracle Cure

After all the therapy and all the refills, I should be myself again. How unbearable—to be yourself as God or your doctors intended! If the doctors say there’s nothing wrong with you, ask God for a second opinion.

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Just A Poet

“Who I am is who I was made to be, and that’s OK.” My teacher, a kind soul, asked what this means to me. I said I don’t know. I’m just a poet.

Like everyone, I suffer. Like everyone, I hope.

Who I am is who I was made to be, and that’s OK.

A double reading here: (1) the fact that I am who I was made to be is OK; (2) I am who I was made to be, and I was made to be OK.

Let’s assume both are true. Still, how shall we define “OK”?

Who I am is who I was made to be, and that’s OK.

Does OK mean “average”? Am I average? Perhaps. Compared to whom? Is average a bad thing? Am I an average guy? An average poet?

Who I am is who I was made to be, and that’s OK.

“OK” means something like: “There’s nothing wrong with me.” But here we’re saying what I am not, which is fine, but—compared to what I am—there are many things I am not.

Who I am is who I was made to be, and that’s OK, but who made me?

We’re getting into God territory here and we must tread lightly.

“Lightly.” God is called “almighty,” and this is fine, but right now I want to write: “God is lightly.” God exists lightly. The world—even gravity—exists lightly.

What the world is, is what the world was made to be, and that’s OK.

A step further: Who God is, is who God was made to be, and that’s OK.

But nothing made God, so how does God, without a creator, know God?

Perhaps through my suffering. Perhaps through my hope.

Does God need me to know God?

I don’t know. I’m just a poet.

Pebble Poem

BLASPHEMY

My life is a word
on the tip
of God’s tongue.

I take my father’s
name in vain.
There’s no reason

for my being here
beyond expression.
My life is a thought

ahead of its time
each moment reached
already gone.

It’s a miracle
to feel so small.
A pebble poised

to alter tides.
The moon beside
itself with laughter.

c b snoad
12-1-13

Face To Face

For my 30th birthday last month, my mom put together a collage that now hangs on a wall in my bedroom.  It’s full of family pictures, with shots of me through the years sprinkled in here and there.

A huge part of who I am is reflected in the people who know and love me.  Some are gone, many remain, but all of them have affected how I see myself.

But something struck me tonight. 

Of everyone captured in these photographs, I’m the one I know the least.  Well, it’s beyond not knowing myself–I mean, everything I experience is filtered through me, through my being.  The oddness that I feel in trying to “know” me lies in the fact that I am the only person in the world whom I can’t encounter in the street.

There’s no me outside of me.

The only concrete way to describe this is to think about my answering machine at home.  If I call and leave a message for my mom, and then arrive home to play it before she returns, I find myself listening to my self.

And the closer I get to me, the further away I feel.

The Lives We Keep

I’ve spent the last few days sorting through some things.  Things in my closet, that is.

Old poems, research articles full of highlighted passages, hard copies of blog posts, graded schoolwork from my college days–I’ve rummaged through stacks of paper, condensing and organizing and recalling.  Recalling where I’ve been and how, through all the twists and turns, side tracks, roadblocks and dead ends, I’ve arrived at the point of reference known as my current self.

Of course, I’ve accumulated more than paper over the years.  My closet also holds dusty baseball caps, CDs that rarely come out for a spin these days, letters from my first love I simply cannot part with, and envelopes of important financial and legal documents that comprise my numerical-based identity.

But it’s not simply a matter of what I’ve collected or where it’s stored.  It’s the why of it all.

Why have I held on to this item, at this time?  What significance does it possess, and has its meaning shifted over time?

As is often the case with me, a simple task like cleaning out boxes of stuff lead to some serious philosophizing.

Mementos are objects we hold dear.  Memories are ineffable sensations in the mind, an image-bursting circuitry of thoughts and perceptions, self-produced snapshots depicting who we are or seem to be.

Both mementos and memories help us construct the narratives of the lives we keep.

Self Is Fiction

“There is no attainment of a higher self in Buddhist theory; instead, only an exposure of what has always been true but unacknowledged: that self is fiction.”
–Mark Epstein
Thoughts without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective
New York: Basic Books (1995) p. 154

Pay attention to the last three words from the above quote: self is fiction. It’s difficult for Westerners to accept this genuinely Eastern principle. We in the West strive daily to “do things,” to “make things happen” in our lives.

Our Buddhist friends from the East see things very differently.

Although we like to assume that we can improve our “selves” through hard work and persistence, we forget one vitally important truth: self is fiction. Contrary to what the plethora of self-help books at our local Borders might proclaim, the self is not an object we can manipulate to our liking; it is not a thing, like a rock is a thing or a chair is a thing.

In reality, the self is an illusion we use for staying grounded; it’s like the ropes tying down a hot air balloon that, if it were not anchored to some fixed entity, would float into the sky without anyone manning the controls. Rather than allowing the balloon simply to be, to let it exist in its current elements, we wish to tighten the ropes of self that, while keeping us “safe,” never grant us true freedom or the wisdom to accept that we are inherently nothing.

The truth is, we are all balloon-like and we are already floating, even if the gravity of self wishes to tell us otherwise.

The self is a fantasy, a futile attempt (out of our yearning for attachment to something, anything) at achieving an inkling of permanence in an ever-shifting world. We try to make our “selves” into things and end up failing miserably.

This is why, as Epstein points out, “there is no attainment of a higher self in Buddhist theory.” How can one reach a “higher self” when no self existed in the first place?