Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Why take life so seriously? It's impermanent!

I was driving today, listening to the first cd from a woman I believe to be one of America’s great song-writers and a scarily moving performer – who yes, also happens to be a friend of mine. You’ve most likely never heard of her, though her 80s band, Slow Children, did have some success on college radio and in the dance club scene. Pal Shazar’s first cd, released in 1991, is called Cowbeat Of My Heart, and several of the songs do indeed have a bit of a country twang, but her lyrics are always deeply thoughtful and often of a narrative bent.

Well, today, as I was driving, her song “Mon Cher Violette” was playing, seemingly echoing something I said to the Moksha Yoga teachers in Costa Rica last week; a statement I had read on a bumper-sticker back in Tucson, that perhaps we shouldn’t always take life so seriously, being that it is impermanent! Pal sings:

You’re so dramatic Violette,
You take life so serious
When life’s not serious at all
You’re like a missionary with that weight you haul
It’s a tragedy
So apologetic Violette
I find that curious
When your slate is super clean
Just like a visionary shocked by what she’s seen
It’s a comedy

In the Zen tradition, we are taught that all beings are without blame; that they (we) are perfect, whole, lacking nothing just as we are. So many difficulties and sufferings arise because we fail to see that. Practice isn’t about making it so, but more about leading us to realize that it is so!

All of us know drama queens (and perhaps have one living within us) who seem not to be happy unless they are embroiled in some complex, confused drama, all facets of which seem to be nothing short than a matter of life and death! I sometimes take a mildly sardonic pleasure in pointing out to such drama fiends that all stories end in death!

In another of her songs from this cd, “Go Jackie,” Pal exhorts a friend to “let it go,” and stop attempting to hold on to what he no longer has:

Oh let it go Jackie, nobody’s born to be
A prisoner of his fate
How long you gonna wait?

Many students misunderstand the teachings of karma in a fatalistic kind of way, yet it was the Buddha’s understanding of karma that points to the only possibility we have for freedom! Whatever hand we may have been dealt, how we choose to play it is what determines the outcome; it is not pre-determined how the game will go. And as Thich Nhat Hanh often emphasizes, if you wait for external conditions to be a certain way before you have peace and joy, then you are waiting for a future that can never come. There is no path to peace; peace is the path! If you do not claim and step into your freedom now, when else do you think you can?

So perhaps next time you’re feeling that the situation you find yourself in is so terribly, pressingly important, take a breath and remind yourself of what you’ll be looking like in 100 years. How will what you are fretting over be seen from that perspective?

And may you enjoy now!


  1. Thank you!... this resonates so much with my current family drama that pulls me into thinking and getting so serious. I'd much rather be light, forgiving, loving, and letting go. I will always remember how easily you said there is nothing to forgive when I was so sorry to have forgotton to show up on a class that I was suppose to sub. That response is still with me as a reminder to extend it foward. so much gratitude - Sally

  2. Thank you! this resounds such a great amount with my present family show that maneuvers me into considering and getting so genuine. I'd much rather be light, lenient, adoring, and giving up

    1. A sense of humor is a great boon when things get heavy. That's not to say we can't be serious or take situations seriously. It's simply a reminder that cosmically, we are nothing.

      Or, as a famous Vedantin puts it:
      "Wisdom tells me I am nothing; compassion tells me I am everything. And between the two my life flows."