I remember vividly being a child, in my grade school years, and running against what appeared then as an essential dilemma. I was looking at two apparent opposites; one of them I felt to be true, and the other I knew to be true.
What I knew to be true, at least in a face value sort of way, was that some things were more enjoyable than others. Some people suffered more than others. Some days were better than others.
What I felt to be true was that somehow this all made deep sense and the “winning” and “losing” feel of life wasn’t actually that. It felt like there was a way of seeing that wasn't just like "yeah, it's too bad that bad stuff happens, but good thing it passes, huh?"
I felt in my guts that Something knew those unpleasant experiences as it Self as much as the most wondrous ones.
This "way of seeing" — if we want to call it that — was somehow both a total mystery I couldn’t name and had zero evidence for. It was also, even more mysteriously, already happening — if it existed then it never didn't exist — even though I couldn't name at all how that was true.
And all of that seemed in a most direct conflict with my actual experience that some things were more enjoyable than others.
These two [whatevers] were to me immediately, and obviously, irreconcilable.
If there’s some way it’s all an expression of the divine (not at all the language I would’ve had in my head at that age; I just had the feeling then, without language) and if, as indeed appeared true, there is suffering … Then what. Then what? I felt a need to know but also knew there was no doorway into this knowledge. Like it was either plain as day or might as well not exist. Another paradox in my young heart.
This memory revisited me recently. Upon diving deeply into a great sadness whereupon, after the tremors have moved through (for now), I feel so deeply changed, and also so deeply normal and like nothing has changed.
Whatever This is, it is nothing new. There is no glitter, there’s not even a thumbtack added to what’s always been plain as day, even to my very young eyes. I have changed a total of zero, using whatever metric of measurement. Nothing has changed.
And yet something is radically different.
If I could go back to that little boy with that Impossible Question in His Heart, I’d probably give him a huge hug. That might be it.
When I’m with him (in a sort of vivid, embodied remembering), he doesn’t even have any particular question — I remember so well how he knows words are going to be like throwing pebbles at the moon: maybe a decent way to spend an evening, sure, but if we’re talking about the nature of celestial orbit, it’s not the tool to illuminate the topic at hand.
Any word, any concept, even before it’s thought or spoken is already something else.