While wheeling the trash container from the curb to the back yard, I noticed a dragonfly carcass in an orb spider’s web on the side of the house. The irony of a predator caught in the web of another predator caused me pause. Knowing that moments ago the garbage collectors had carried off the remains of my own consumption, I reflected upon the nature of impermanence as a basic fact in the Universe.
The early morning felt hot and clammy–a contrast from the mild, dry conditions the day before. The summer heat will eventually fade into cooler conditions in another month or so. Although part of me wishes for cooler conditions as soon as possible, another part of me understands that this will mean the year will have passed quickly. So, although the August days are hot and uncomfortable, I’m still thankful to be alive to experience them.
“Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.”–W. Somerset Maugham
In our fast-paced civilization, time seems to compress more than in the past. The time-shrinking phenomenon that used to be mostly common among older folks is now more and more common among younger people. While the youth may consider this to be advantageous, they are missing out on the benefits of boredom. Boredom is partially beneficial because it provides the opportunity to contemplate life close up and personal. Isn’t it strange, in our youth-centric culture that many children and youth are impatient and wish to grow older as soon as possible? They fail to realize that the luxury of youthful boredom will pass too fast. The work and worry of young adulthood will overtake them soon enough.
Later in the morning, I resumed working on restoring the bathroom walls and prepping them for eventual repainting. There was a stubborn spackle patch near a light fixture that was obvious when the light was on. The temptation to leave it alone passed quickly because I knew I’d always see the mistake everyday hence. After all, this could be the last time I ever repaint the bathroom walls.
In fact, whenever I do anything at all, it could be the last time I do it. This is impermanence writ large. Recognizing that painting the bathroom walls may only happen once in my life or writing words for this blog this morning might be the last time, adds an aura of intensity and significance that is usually absent in day to day living. Pondering impermanence enables mindfulness–we will be less prone to sleepwalking through life.
“Once we see that everything is impermanent and ungraspable and that we create a huge amount of suffering if we are attached to things staying the same, we realize that relaxing and letting go is a wiser way to live. Letting go does not mean not caring about things. It means caring about them in a flexible and wise way.”–Jack Kornfield
I’m not always mindful about life. The concept of impermanence isn’t always on the tip of my tongue. It usually comes to mind after a subtle reminder, like the dragonfly in the spider’s web.
The Blue Jay of Happiness contemplates this quote attributed to Shakyamuni Buddha: “Better it is to live one day seeing the rise and fall of things than to live a hundred years without ever seeing the rise and fall of things.”