“What to do when you haven’t quite found your place in this world?? I thought. What to do now. It was like asking myself the classic Zen koan “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”. Answering the question is not the point. There really is no answer. Feeling the question is more like it. Living the question. Making it part of who you are. Drinking it down like a nice hot tea. Seeking an answer is a senseless act of arrogance; one I’ve taken pride in doing most of my life. I’m Find An Answer Man. Got a question? Then there must be an answer damnit! Let me find it! Like pissing in the wind. Actually, pissing in the wind is quite possible upwind, so maybe that was a bad analogy.
I’ve arrived at a point in my life where it feels as though I’ve traversed a dense wooded area. I’ve seen many varieties of trees. Their leaves, both summer and fall colors. So many different details about my woods: The way the sun shines through at times and looks like a divine revelation of some sort. The way the rain can come at any time and soak you to the bone. The cold of the winter that makes you long for the summer. The frustrating sweat that bugs you like persistent gnats and makes you long again for fall and winter. My woods has been dense, long, winding, interesting at times, then stone cold boring. But it has been my woods. My life.
I will be thirty four this month. Thirty four years of walking in the woods. Walking along happily some days. Hatcheting my way through briars thick as shit on others. There were times when I thought the woods was the best damned place on earth. I loved it. Then there were times when I thought the woods would swallow me up whole. Literally eat my sorry ass alive. Some times I’d even secretly wished it would. Swallow me up whole. Never to be seen again. But here I am. Exiting into a clearing.
Off to my left is a large field of grass with butterflies and bees and many other little flying things. The sun is bright. It’s almost like an interrogation lamp, beckoning me to answer questions that have not yet been asked. It’s a spotlight on my soul. “Where you goin’ now, little man?”, it asks. “Where you goin’ now?”
The woods was mine…and so is the clearing. Directly in front of that is another group of trees; another forest. Someone elses woods? Or more for me? What now little man? I listen for clues.
Ever just stop in a field and listen? I know it sounds like a completely useless thing to do, but there is cheap therapy there somewhere. There’s a distinct rhythm. The rhythm of life. Humming. It seems that no matter what I do, the humming will continue. Life goes on. And if you stand there long enough and stare into the distance without a particular focus, you become who you truly are. You become everyone. It is hard to pretend that you are a math teacher, a soldier, an architect, or an auto worker. Standing in an open field you realize that you are but a part of nature. You are nature. And it all seems perfectly natural! You begin to realize that you just are. Thats it. Nothing more. You are simply there.
But what to do now, little man?
So it is this question that brings me to my solution, for the time anyway: Write. Write about it. Write about what I see and what I think. Write about what I feel and have felt; what I’ve done and wanted to do. Tell it like it is. Maybe that’s a way out of the forest and into the meadow. Maybe through the writing process would come the epiphany. Maybe this is the epiphany! Who knows. Maybe the writing would clear it all up. Probably not. But at least I’d have something to show for it. A collection of black characters on paper, hoping there was enough meaning not to piss the tree off for its sacrifice.
It is easy to get lost in life. Consumed by the daily tasks and drowned in the monotony of it all. Feeling only half alive at times, barley conscious. A numbness creating by years of walking in the woods. I know that’s what happened to me – at the ripe young age of thirty four.
But what to do now, little man?
I have a wife that is in need of my support and partnership to make our dreams a reality. I have children who did not ask to be here who now need me to get them through their own forests. I can’t just go stand in some damned meadow for hours thinking about how one with fucking nature I am. I got bills to pay and mouths to feed. I got wood to chop and bricks to carry. I got shit to do! There is another zen saying that is meant to help you meditate through mundane tasks. “Chop wood. Carry water.” I’ve often thought: What if I don’t like to chop wood or carry water! But I’ve never been a very good student of Zen, either.
So maybe this is it – this writing. Maybe this is my meadow. One I can stand in and dream for hours. A place where I can just stop and listen and be a part of it. Become truly a part of it. A place where I can be alive.
I don’t hear the question being asked of me anymore, “What will you do now little man?” It has already been answered.
I’ll do nothing.
Tomorrow: Meeting Ali and The Real Cause Of Man’s Distress