Buddhism 212: Transcending Samsara–Brilliant Mistakes and Pure Dumb Luck

img_1111I don’t know who said it first, much less best, whether Nietzsche, Darwin, Elvis Costello or myself (?!), but the fact remains: we proceed by brilliant mistakes, errors in code providing some of the best clues to advancement, thus spectacular screw-ups are the order of the day, if we’re lucky, stumbling ahead on all twos, trying to remember to fall forward, when we inevitably fall…

It should go without saying by now, somehow, but still it’s worth remembering: no matter how strategically you plot your life and your plans, the biggest mistake could be the best thing that ever happened to you, and the most brilliant success could be the worst. You could have a motorcycle wreck the night of your book’s release party, or, on the other hand, a failed bizniz could start you on a path as spiritual teacher; go figure…

DON’T BEMOAN YOUR FATE! (because you don’t know what your fate is, you only know the past, not the future). Even the best psychics get it right only ten percent of the time. We’re fallible. I wrote an entire screenplay once without realizing that I had forgotten about another B-movie long ago with similar premises and foregone conclusions…

But that doesn’t mean that I copied it, though, and it was still plenty different. But it gave me pause. Then someone else even realized more than a decade later that they could do something similar, also, but make it a successful children’s book series, and then a movie starring Bill Murray, called ‘City of Ember’, and still not make any money from it—so, there…

And so it is with Donald Trump: he could be the best or the worst President ever, for reasons we don’t even know yet, just as ISIL could be the ones who save us from Global Warming, even though environmentalism is far from their list of issues. This is the way the world works, in fits and starts, backward and forward, in no certain order…

On the other hand: A diagnosis of cancer is usually the worst news anyone can ever receive, right? But cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me, the thing that turned me definitively toward Buddhism, not out of desperation, but out of inspiration. For the testosterone-killing drug Lupron (TM) that they gave me as ‘hormone treatment’, in addition to radiation, not only helped kill the cancer, but it killed all desire, too—instant Bodhisattva, Buddha in the flesh!

It’s not that I wanted sex—but couldn’t; I didn’t even want it! This is huge! Do you know what that means? Love is just a drug! So all the love stories, romantic adventures, drama, and trauma are just the hallucinations of a drug, and we’re the junkies! All the hair spray, all the lipstick, all the breath mints, and all the late nights are just cheap chocolates on the sacrificial pillow of personality…

Certain molecules can only bond with certain other molecules, and we’re the vectors that can make that happen—or not! If that’s the case, then life takes on new meaning—or not! Reproduction is optional, and so are all the competitions for turf that go with it. But this is not predestination, the Holy Grail of all religion…

This is simply an existential fact: that we are innately fallible, and this is Buddhist doctrine—that suffering exists. The world—samsara—will let you down every time; okay, so much of the time, at least. Your computer will crash and your car will not start, your spouse will cheat on you, your friends will betray you, your family will disown you, and your dog will die at the side of the road, later if not sooner, less if not more…

The world has its finer moments, true, but, “No one gets out of here alive!” is the way Jim Morrison, lead singer and songwriter of the rock group Doors always put it, ranting out of his mind during somewhat belabored concerts that often featured his penis as prime accessory, making it easy to obscure his genius…

But this is basic to Buddhism, that we are subject to the conditions of our servitude in this world of dubious appearances. And to this there is only one appropriate response: polite disobedience, refusal to cooperate with the standard model of possession and repossession, percussion and repercussion. This is the challenge to our lives and the alternative to silly daydreams and wishful thinking. Good luck out there…

Note: I am using the Sanskrit word samsara in its original Buddhist connotation as ‘the world’, i.e. the material world, something to endure, not in its latter-day Tibetan-Buddhist connotation as a synonym for reincarnation, or its latter-day American Buddhist connotation as something delicious to enjoy…

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