Monday, August 25, 2008

Family Tree

Today I was listening to a dharma talk on the Prajna Paramita, which encompassed a number of interesting things. One of them was the first explanation of 'emptiness' that I have heard that made sense- emptiness is another word for the lack of intrinsic stability in the world of form, or more simply, everything changes so don't get too stuck on it.

The other lesson was this- we are all aggregate manifestations of every circumstance and situation that came before us, or we are completely a product of everything that has ever happened in the universe.

I have no issue with either teaching. They both make complete sense to me, and in a way, are the wording for things I have thought without words for years. What has come from those thoughts is interesting.

When I look at myself, I have tremendous gratitude for all the factors that brought me into this world. While I have made a large effort to study Buddhism, lately, I do not find myself to drawn to the teachings of suffering. There have been difficult times and situations in my life, but I do not feel that I have lived a life of suffering. However, in feeling the gratitude for my life, I started to think about some of the circumstances of the world that allowed me to be born- some of them take some effort to be grateful for.

War- My family is predominantly English, and what isn't English is from some other part of Brittan. My family, on both sides has been profoundly affected by The Battle of Culloden, The Tudor wars, the Boer War, WW1, WW2, and many, many dozens of others. So my gratitude has to go out to not only those who died, but those who killed. My gratitude must extend to not only those who died in the camps, but those who ran them, right up to Hitler himself. I must be thankful for the French sinking English ships, the Russians for killing the Czar, the Vietnamese for ousting the French, the colonists for tossing the tea. I have to thank the Cesears for all they did, and all those that opposed them.

Religion- Romans and Pagans, I must give my thanks to. Pontius Pilot must have equal ranking with Jesus. The Crusader's make the list as does Mohammed. Buddha walks hand in hand with Jim Jones in the ranks. The Pope (s) and Martin Luther..... even King Henry the Eighth (which of his wives could be left out of the story and still have 'me' be here?)

Conquest- All of them can line up, I owe them my life. From Alexander and Genghis Khan, to Teddy Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin. All of them beat and stole and murdered their way to me. Would I be here if Cortez had not sought his fortune?

There are so many 'aggregate circumstances', that make up who I am, and I can't just put in the ones I like. General Custer is as much my ancestor as Crazy Horse, as are all that died that day, and all who lived to tell the tale.

How do I look at history again? Everything I have ever learned, every person I have ever read about it, is my ancestor. Everyone, everything they did is responsible for my life. And yours.


Anonymous said...

ok ok this is something that hit me like a ton of bricks and i had to review my thoughts on it and have to say just this: i won't i mean won't thank an evil sadist for anything, sorry. i wont thank people who do what they do even if it means the 'i' that i know wouldn't be here-who friggin cares about the little me, it would be a better parallel world without all that horror which people commonly like to think of as inescapable history and maybe i wouldnt be or would be someone else but i would lay down my life if it meant a better world-couldnt sign in sorry for the anon, kat

Adrienne Johnson said...

Hey, Kat.
Isn't it wild? There is so much there to swallow. When I was thinking about it, I had a similar reaction to yours. Then I thought of something that Thich Naht Hanh told a Viet Nam Vet who had deliberately killed several children in retaliation for an ambush he had survived outside their village. The vet had been unable to be with children for decades and his life was in ruins from his remorse. TNH asked him 'Why do you carry those children? They are dead. You can't save them. There are children who need you now. Live your life, do something for those children.'

I realized I needed to be greatful to everyone who has come before me and make sure that I live my life to its limits so that I don't throw away this opportunity I have been given by all of them.

In the movie "My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding", the mother says to her daughter "I gave you life so you could live it"- to me that is what the Universe has told me.

Kalsee said...

You write:
One of them was the first explanation of 'emptiness' that I have heard that made sense- emptiness is another word for the lack of intrinsic stability in the world of form, or more simply, everything changes so don't get too stuck on it.

If you read on oprah chat, I posted to you on this "relative" nature of what the world of form would call...emptyness?...not much difference than your comment above about, "everything changes so don't get too stuck on it." Bill

Adrienne Johnson said...

I'm sorry if I didn't get your wisdom. I can be a bit dense at times. I will pay more attention. I am not surprised that thought comes from you, though. It feels like you. I may have come to a place where I have started to revisit some of the things I am learning instead of only coming up on new stuff. That is good, because that usually means it will start clicking. I may actually grow from this experience! Imagine that!

Anonymous said...

yes, i can accept the hitler beings et al, but i will not go so far as to honor them even if it meant i never lived......
kat again, using anonymous cuz it's way easier ha ha

Adrienne Johnson said...

Don't get me wrong. Some of what has occurred in this world is heinous, and certainly not to be admired. But it happened, and I can not change it. The Hitlers and Khans and Cortezes of history are not people I admire. They are simply parts of me whether I like it, or no.
I was talking to someone about this subject. He is Black. My family on my father's side have a history at sea and are Scottish. There is a very good chance that my ancestors were slave traders, maybe even the one's that brought my friend's family here. We talked about how horrible that past was, but how happy we each are that at least we came out of it to make some of that right. That there is no excuse for not doing what we can to be people who our ancestors could be proud of for learning from their mistakes and suffering.
SO I don't 'honor' Hitler, but I do recognize that I owe him and others, a nod of recognition that they helped create the life I have been given. I can't be unborn to change the past, so I have to live with acceptance.

On an unrelated topic, was one of T.S. Elliot's cats 'Anonymous Cat'?


Kalsee said...

I posted on Hitler on Oprah's thread goes in line I think with your thoughts...bill

Kalsee said...

Hi adrienne,

I don’t quite look at the past in a way of being thankful for the so-called evil doers of the past…

for me it’s one of accepting and not judging what simply IS…accept, learn from the past, make positive corrections, forgive, and move on in hopefully a more positive direction.

I’m only one of an infinite number of creative manifestations possible in this universe…were it not me here in form, it would be someone else.

To get too caught up in the ME or MY, is to be caught up into Ego and not realize our true self or spirituality within…

the Real me is a part of the eternal life of potential possibilities that resides in the infinite, as well as the base life support for the form…

whether I am here or not in form, does not mean that I’m not in all form spiritually! Bill

Adrienne Johnson said...

Interesting thought, Bill. I will go so far as to be greatfull because, I do like this form. This form has had experiences that other forms couldn't, and I am so happy to have had those experiences. My formless self learns in this form, and will learn in the next, I am sure, but I am very happy to be the host this time!
I am greatfull for the whole damn ball of wax, and everything that it encompasses, even my eventual form based demise that will make room for what comes next.
Not that you can get rid of the 'real me'. The 'real' is everywhere, in everything, all the time. So, 'I' will be a pain in the ass eternally! Hehehe!!

eric said...

everything's connected!

"you can't pick a flower without stirring the stars"

none of my friends or family understands when i say this but i bet you do...

Adrienne Johnson said...

Thict Naht Hanh would say that if you look deeply at the flower you can easily see the stars- the dust from space that rains on the earth and nourishes the soil that grows the flower that soaks up the sun... it is one of those thought processes that can either bog you down in an endless cycle of connection or liberate you by allowing each of us to be everything at once. I struggle with both a lot :)