Sunday, January 01, 2006

Emptiness according to D. H. Lawrence

I wish that whatever props up the walls of light
would fall, and darkness would come hurling heavily down,
and it would be thick black dark forever.
Not sleep, which is grey with dreams,
nor death, which quivers with birth,
but heavy, sealing darkness, silence, all immovable.

At first glance this verse from the poem “And Oh – That The Man I Am Might Cease To Be –“ sounds like sinking into depression. Yet, the title gives a clue that Lawrence is speaking more about emptiness – not the emptiness of psychiatry, but the emptiness of dharma, which is the emptiness of desire and attachment. It is not sleep, nor is it death. It is a place where each moment carries gravity and a solid meaning without referring to any particular experience or stories. Being in such a place is a positive experience, and is made available when we stop telling ourselves the same stories over and over again – especially the one that tells us who we are. This sentiment is reflected again in his poem Nonentity:

The stars that open and shut
Fall on my shallow breast
Like stars on a pool.
The soft wind, blowing cool,
Laps little crest after crest
Of ripples across my breast.
And dark grass under my feet
Seems to dabble in me
Like grass in a brook.
Oh, and it is sweet
To be all these things, not to be
Any more myself.
For look,
I am weary of myself!

This seems a fitting image for the start of the new year. One of the teachings of mindfulness is the uniqueness and opportunity in every moment. Such an approach to life makes the designation of one day, such as New Year’s Day, as special. I think this approach to life with holidays takes something away from the spectacular ordinary. Of course, it would be easy to disagree with my approach, as almost everyone I meet does! Of course, there is no harm in celebrating a holiday and enjoying what it has to offer. The New Year can be a time of fruitful reflection of where we have been and where we are going.

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