An excerpt from Moonlight Leaning on an Old Rail Fence: Approaching the Dharma as Poetry
You Think Your Future
a greater gift
of the note
is to be
of the drop,
you push at
that’s begging you
screaming at the
‘don’t come here’
what a clever
fellow I am
no wonder you are afraid
off the night
the nighttime is alive
with your ancient wealth
to the night
Commentary: You Think Your Future
You think your future depends on who you are. Friend, there is a greater gift than that. Imagine a card game in which each has been dealt a different hand, but each hand contains an ace. The hand we’ve been dealt is a gift – the gift of a “self,” an individuality. And each of us wants to play our cards right. There seem to be no clear rules about how to do this. And the variables in the game are overwhelming. But our future, and our ultimate success or salvation seems to depend on how we play our cards. This is the challenge we each face as an ego, an individual self testing itself against the world. We all naturally want to win; we all naturally evolve different images of what winning looks like; different hopes and fears; different strategies for winning; different strategies for defending ourselves from the fear of failure. Some of these strategies remain conscious, some unconscious.
This phenomenon of the self is an amazing and unique play in consciousness. It is truly, in some way, a gift – as if a father were to say to his children, “Hey, I’m staking you each with $100,000. Go to Atlantic City and hit the casinos. By the time you’re through you’ll be rich or poor, and you’ll have learned a lot.”
So the adventure of individuality begins. A great journey through the realms of experiencing pleasure and pain, gain and loss, suffering, love and wisdom. And, relatively speaking, it’s a great gift. “Relatively” because it’s based on the presumption of separateness; and that separateness fuels the fires of our ambitions, our strategies for success, our attachments to whatever enhances our sense of self, and our suffering. Along the way a lot of bad poetry and a lot of great poetry will be written. And the gods will smile at that.
But there is an even greater gift than that. The gift is simply that when we finally and lovingly surrender the fierce presumption of our separateness – on which our destiny or fulfillment seemed to depend – we experience the fulfillment of who we already have always been; not a separate individuality, but the expression of an individuality that is all-inclusive, and already fulfilled. We don’t need to retreat from the playing field of this life; but we gradually learn to surrender the desperation of our separate identity to a prior happiness. And, lovely as that sounds, all the forces of inertia and of separateness, all of our investment in a separate meaning and a separate fulfilled future, will resist.
It is like the note resisting being a part of the music; a drop resisting being part of the fountain, insisting that its meaning comes from its separateness. Take some time to imagine yourself in the position of the note or the drop to see how that feels.
In this relative world, our individuality is truly important; and naturally we don’t want to surrender it to peer pressure, codependency, family systems, mass culture, the church, the state, or to any collective or cultic structures of unconsciousness. Our true individuality is the ace in our hand, the divine spark, and the very foundation of our democratic ideals.
But when we surrender that true individuality, that ace, to its true source, its true lover – to the living music, to the living waters – we discover an intimacy that is all aces, a fulfilled individuality that is not about “me.” It is the ecstatic divine. This is only possible when our hearts become broken and expanded upon the rocks of that ocean; when the Secret Guest has come and stolen our heart in the moonlight and drawn us into his embrace; when the reality of love makes our identity willingly obsolete.
Right now we are clutching our little bit of water – the ace in our hand – while the whole river is calling to us. We are holding our breath in or holding it out, refusing to live or refusing to die, rather than surrender to the natural reciprocity and mutuality of the living breath. Imagine a tide pool staking a claim to its own kingdom, as if everything it was did not depend on its rhythmic surrender to the tidal flow of the great ocean. Imagine a rainbow presuming its insubstantial appearance to be real and substantial in its own right, and a basis for future glory. Given these conceits, how could we not fear the inevitable, progressive lessons of time?
We have staked a claim around the small and the separate, around what we think we know – and banished the unknown immensity of our own being into fearful darkness. But it is not dark. It is alive with the wealth of who we are. It will swallow us into joyful disappearance. It is the greater gift.