April 21, 2017

21 04 2017

Doing puzzles is a bit like Buddhist sand paintings. All that time is taken to create the image or solve the puzzle, and then it is done. The sand is blown away. The newspaper is recycled. The picture is taken apart and put back in the box.

I am sitting in bed on this rainy morning, sipping tea and working on a jigsaw puzzle. (Or, I was until this thought occurred to me.) Through my open window I can hear gentle dripping. Birdcalls are subdued. The ducks are about and quacking, enjoying the weather. It is a peaceful, soothing morning. I don’t have to be to work until one.

Because cats, I do virtual jigsaw puzzles. All three cats are asleep on the bed with me. I have my laptop open to a site I like, working on a scene with flowers and an old barn. I have done dozens of puzzles on this site. Put them together, admired the image, and then moved on to the next. Nothing of lasting value is accomplished. Some would call it a waste of time.

What is lasting value? How long must it last? Some folks laminate their puzzles and hang them on the wall. They cannot let go of their accomplishment and want to preserve it. Eventually, when they are gone, it will likely be thrown out anyway when it doesn’t sell at the yard sale. All things pass.

Some work hard to build a business, to amass a fortune, to rise to greatness. Within a few generations, it has dissipated or become subsumed into someone else’s quest for greatness. Within a few hundred years all is forgotten, except perhaps for a page in a history book. Within a few thousand years, other events eclipse it and even history doesn’t remember.

All things pass. Nothing is permanent. All attempts to preserve ourselves in our accomplishments is folly. Does this thought depress you? Does it discourage you from trying to accomplish anything at all? Why?

Only because we human creatures are blessed and cursed with long memories of the past and the ability to imagine far into the future. And for some reason buried in the depths of our psychology, we place value on things that persist over time. Well, it’s good to build things of quality; useful things like buildings or furniture. Still, they must be faithfully maintained or they won’t last either. We busily run about fixing things, maintaining things, patching them up and washing them down, in an attempt to make them last. Nothing wrong with that. As long as we know that eventually, despite all our efforts, time will undo it all. And that thought saddens us.

It shouldn’t.

This moment is real. In this moment I am writing a blog that will be read by a few people and then descend into the virtual sediment, becoming buried under layers of future blogs. It is ephemeral. I derive great satisfaction from writing it, ordering my thoughts, choosing words, making manifest the thoughts in my head. I am pleased at the thought that someone else might enjoy reading it it, that the thoughts in my head, through the medium of words, can become thoughts in another person’s head. It gives me a sense of connection with others. They may comment, it may lead to a discussion. If that happens, those moments will be pleasant.

None of this is permanent. None of this will be remembered in a century or two, or even a year most likely. What of it? The happiness in this moment is real.

Because that is the nature of true happiness. It occurs in each moment and is not spoiled by anxiety over its impermanence.

My tea is growing cold. I need to refresh it, and then I’ll return to my puzzle.

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5 responses

23 04 2017
Paul Sunstone

Good post! I think it’s the nature of the psychological self — the ego, the “I”, normal waking consciousness, or whatever you want to call it — to value the endurance and duration of an experience over its quality.

24 04 2017
justinegraykin

It’s how we are wired. It takes monumental effort to recognize it and change the way we look at “I”. It’s what Buddhists try to achieve through mediation and mental discipline, and even after a lifetime of practice the habit of “I” is still compelling.

23 04 2017
heretherebespiders

Because cats! Oh yes. Not done a real jigsaw in decades because cats 🙂
I don’t mind not being immortal. But I’m the type who never wants to be in charge, and still sometimes find myself in that place. Yick.

24 04 2017
justinegraykin

You have to be a person who doesn’t need to be in charge if you are going to be owned by a cat. They require it.

24 04 2017
heretherebespiders

I am fully owned. Can’t do ANYTHING without “help.” I’m grateful we don’t let them outside, or I’d never get any peace!

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