“This garden that I built for you / That you sit in now and yearn / I will never leave it, dear / I could not bear to return / And find it all untended / With the trees all bended low / This garden is our home, dear / And I got nowhere else to go / So bring it on / Bring it on / Every little tear / Bring it on / Every useless fear / Bring it on / All your shattered dreams / And I’ll scatter them into the sea.”
I’ve decided that my first “Tuesday” book will be Thich Nhat Hanh’s Peace is Every Step, and this morning much of what I read felt immediately relevant. Without getting overly sentimental about the power of “mindfulness,” Nhat Hanh focuses on recognizing the emotionally perilous chore that is perpetually preparing for a life that is to be lived at some point in the future. People make goals—and goals are fine—but goals are made in the now, and the now is good, and to struggle to actually live in the present while constantly yearning for more only backs his point that “we are good at preparing to live, but not very good at living.” That line really stood out to me. And then there’s all this…
“All around us, how many lures are set by our fellows and ourselves? In a single day, how many times do we become lost and scattered be cause of them? We must be very careful to protect our fate and our peace. I am not suggesting that we just shut all our windows, for there are many miracles in the world we call ‘outside.’ We can open our windows to these miracles and look at any one of them with awareness. This way, even while sitting beside a clear, flowing stream, listening to beautiful music, or watching an excellent movie, we need not lose ourselves entirely in the stream, the music, or the film. We can continue to be aware of ourselves and our breathing. With the sun of awareness shining in us, we can avoid most dangers. The stream will be purer, the music more harmonious, and the soul of the filmmaker completely visible.”
As I read it, this seems to nail down an idea I was trying to write my way through a couple weeks ago. That idea focused on a near-constant desire I was feeling to remain disengaged by watching videos on the TV or my computer when alone at home, particularly at night before falling asleep. Mind you, this isn’t me reading books—it’s gorging on the Internet equivalent of junk food. Nhat Hanh calls that situation like he sees it: “Don’t you want to close your windows? Are you frightened of solitude—the emptiness and the loneliness you may find when you face yourself alone?” Well, kinda. Part of it might be a fear to face myself. But also there’s fear of missing out on “important” information, or the desire for novelty, or just wanting to disconnect with something momentarily amusing (meme-hunting is excluded from this discussion… memes are hilarious and vital and that’s a hill I’m willing to die on). But those moments are increasingly rare, and even in the short term I tend to recall little of the articles and videos I graze on—let alone others’ social media opinions—which might be leading me to some kind of point here: If what I’m watching or reading is not even entertaining or informative enough to be remembered shortly after it’s consumed, is that time and space and attention better served by leaving it empty? Or at least less cluttered, constantly engaging with someone else’s “lure”?
I don’t know what Nick Cave has to do with any of this, but when I was showering after exercising I went into relaxation mode with one of the Bad Seeds’ albums before “Bring It On” came to mind (the above performance doesn’t really hold a candle to the studio version, though I do get a kick out of David Letterman’s pre-performance banter with Paul Shaffer). The first verse could well reflect an idea of defending a home—a life—rather than escaping danger only to return to find that life no longer exists as it once had… That hit my chest as something of an Us versus the Rona kinda anthem, but when accounting for the rest of the song, that theme quickly falls apart. It doesn’t matter. It provided comfort tonight. Now, even if only for this evening, I think I’m going to close some of the windows and read myself to sleep. Yeah, man. Bring it on.