How A Monster Became My Best Friend

person sitting near a lake on mountain in peace

By the time I noticed the boulder careening down the mountain, it was nearly on top of me. In a split second I would be dead. I now know that it really is true – much of your life does flash across the screen in your mind in your final moment. My death would be at the hands of a careless hiker hundreds of feet above me. I wonder if he realized that he had killed someone? Killed me. My final, light-speed thought, strangely, was pity for him. He would carry the burden, the irreversible finality of his actions, with him for the remainder of his life – accident or not. It would be nearly unbearable at first but with the passage of the years it would, of course, recede. But recession isn’t removal. It would always be there – always waiting to steal his hard won happiness – a wisp of sulfur appearing where once had lived a radiant flame.

It is perhaps quite an odd and paradoxical thing for a writer to say, but I shall say it nonetheless…

Words are perhaps the single greatest impediment to happiness.

Be that as it may, attempting to function in the world without them seems madness.

It has been said by philosophers, kings, philosopher-kings, chemists, alchemists, shaman, and scientists – words obscure the truth. They make it exceedingly difficult to see, to understand, reality as it actually exists. Words and all the symbolism they conjure force us to navigate a byzantine maze fraught with false conclusions, dead ends, and maddening confusion. Could it be that Sapien’s greatest achievement, language, could be at the root of all his unhappiness, his destructiveness toward the world, his fellow man thus, ultimately, himself?

“Great, hunky-dory, words are bad. What exactly are we supposed to do with THAT gem of wisdom?”

Not so fast. Words also happen to be an incredibly useful tool – practically speaking. No need to elaborate on that. Where words cause all of the difficulty and suffering is in the illusion they construct in our heads. From the moment we learn the concept of “I”, “Me”, “Mine”, we become hopelessly lost. From that moment forward we confuse the voice in our heads and its never-ending stream of words with who we really are and what the world really is. Words become the master magician that keeps us locked in the oh-so-real deception.

But there is a path out of the quagmire –  a tool as simple to wield as a wrench or hammer. And, like a wrench or hammer, it can build awe-inspiring structures. Some call it meditation, others contemplation, others yet, focused concentration. The label is wholly irrelevant. It is the practice of using our minds to find the space between and underneath the non-stop narration in our heads. By sitting and focusing simply and quietly on the breath, and when thoughts arise, not grasping at, clinging to, or resisting them, simply letting them go, as thoughts always will, we can begin to see beyond the veil that words have tied across our understanding. We can begin to see true ourselves, the world, and reality as it truly is – in the light of pure consciousness – unmitigated, unfiltered, untarnished by words.

Coming out of meditation that abruptly, that crudely, can be a shock to the system. But not nearly as shocking as being crushed to death by speeding, tumbling boulder. Had my mind been in its normal state of internal blah, blah, blah – yada, yada, yada, my awareness would have never been acute enough to afford me the nano-second reaction that saved my life.

And somewhere, a young man would have sworn off hiking forever and be locked in a waltz with darkness.

As for words, I’m a huge fan…

The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky
I Have A Dream – Martin Luther King
Gettysburg address – Abraham Lincoln
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

Hopefully I’ve learned when, and how, to use them so they serve their true purpose and shine as the miraculous wonder they truly are.

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