06.10.19 | Good/Bad . . . We'll See

Behold the ancient Chinese parable of the farmer and his horse to illustrate the quality of equanimity and non-attachment in the face of life's immense complexity (link here: Zen Story). The truth is that fortune and misfortune mean little in the context of the present moment. No event can truly be judged as good or bad, lucky or unlucky, except in the fullness of one's lifetime, if even then. Apply this notion, perhaps, to so many success/failure false life dichotomies e.g. marriage/divorce, lottery win/financial setback, job won/lost, romantic encounter yes/no, even perhaps an illness or an accident.

Or how about the curse of physical beauty. Audrey Munson, who became the it-girl of the 1910s was described as "the most perfectly formed woman in the world" and the first to appear nude on film. She died penniless in an asylum but left her legacy in the "countless pieces of sculpture inspired by her immortal face and body" and "a walk through New York City today is 'a walk haunted by Audrey's visage'" (link here: Descending Night). Were those sculptures only able speak today. They might have something to say about the vicissitudes of life to the countless other beauties who followed her, maybe to Marilyn Monroe or to Britney Spears who learned that the life of a one-time Mouseketeer darling is not always ascendant.

The power of the fortuitous is more easily seen, measured, and appreciated in terms of a life in retrospect as one can trace how each speculative path opened into a thousand new possibilities, one path actually chosen opening a thousand new ones. That's called biography. A life so viewed in hindsight brings with it the temptation to downplay the role of chance in favor of, say, talent and hard work.

That was the theme of our MM 4/9/18 discussion and the focus essay, "To Be Successful, Make Your Own Luck." Can luck be "made"? Perhaps it would be better to say talent and hard work can only create the space in which luck is allowed to operate on its own terms. Luck, almost by definition, cannot be domesticated. Some strange, unknowable force (or forces) deposited a young would-be entrepreneur into the hills above Boulder to collect herbs for tea.

In this session we might discuss the Chinese parable, not so much as a lesson about the past but more as a perspective on the present -- the equanimity that comes with meeting Triumph and Disaster as equal life imposters, the essence of the wonderful poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling (link: If.... by Rudyard Kipling).

Steve SmithComment