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I read a passage in a book (The Parade by Dave Eggers) some months back where the protagonist, a serious and disciplined man, was constructing a new road in an unnamed country. The days were long and grueling and hot. At night he slept in a tent next to his work-in-progress. In the heat of his tent one evening the man had a thought that resonated with me, something to the effect that, however hot he's ever been in his life, he's always eventually made it back home. Being hot, like everything else in these delicate clusters we call lives, is temporary. Impermanent. Every experience we've ever had, right up until the one we're having now, has come and gone. And this one will leave us soon too. It's doing it already.

It is perpetually and offensively hot where I live, and thus, one of my duties/instincts here is to either find my way out of the heat or to find some comfort within it. While doing the latter, I often think about the man in the tent. He showed his monastic colors from page one. And I've long been drawn to such qualities. So by the time I got to the passage about the heat we were already engaged in a kind of communion.

Being hot for even just a few minutes longer than is comfortable can feed the more beastly things in us. I've observed it happening to myself, and later others, countless times. At first, I'd notice it after the fact. After I'd cooled down and rejoined my thinking mind. Where I'd been before that, or exactly what had been awakened in me, I can't say. But I have many times now, from various air conditioned rooms, or even just from the mercy of a human-sized spot of shade, looked back at that place/thing and seen something primordial, something elemental and very much alive in me, capable of showing up at will or when prodded awake by the sun.

Eventually I learned to see all this in the moment. To see the moment as temporary while still in it. To feel all those tiny galactic particles stirring to life in me, innately fearful and running from the threat of some indistinct force, and to just be witness to it. To apply this same thinking to other planes of experience. Because it was never really about heat at all, but rather about discomfort, the vague but pronounced discomfort that many of us feel in accordance with being alive, being sentient. And it's not only about discomfort either, but also comfort, joy and pain, life and death, body and blood and all the rest.

Lately, I keep coming across talk of water and waves. How thoughts and ideas are like waves. How experiences are like waves. How people themselves are like waves. How we are variables rather than constants, actions happening through the valleys of lives, rising and falling in the slowest of motions. I don't know if that's true, but I feel like it is, and I find much solace in that feeling. And it is to my great relief, and in monumental service to my awe and hope and mental health, that I might move through my days, and the many fluttering moments therein, this way.

 

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