Rise, awaken, seek the wise and realize. The path is difficult to cross like the sharpened edge of the razor, so say the wise. Katha Upanishads, verse 1.3.14
LIFE ON THE RAZOR’S EDGE
I wrote this piece a year ago for my birthday, which was also the day I started this blog. I am posting it today by way of celebrating both my sixty-second birthday and the first anniversary of Into the Bardo. Thank you for your encouragement and support of us throughout this first year.
Over the past few days, I’ve asked myself what conclusions I’ve drawn after sixty-one years of living on the razor’s edge. I’ve considered my dark-nights of the soul, the heady days of joy and success, the frequent failures, and those too rare silk-smooth times with no high-or-low, just peace. What follows is what I gained from those moments of peace, the infrequent but hard-won spaces when I am sane and at-home on this earth:
- We are not meant to compare ourselves with others. Our beauty is absolute, not relative.
- Freedom is a state of mind. It requires a recognition of cultural programming and a disconnect from it.
- Committing art is spiritual practice.
- We are meant to immerse ourselves in beauty: family, friends, flowers, art, music, and poetry.
- As long as we live on this earth we have to earn a living, but we were not meant to be worker-drones. We must somehow balance earning a living with creating a life.
- Health is a relative thing: We will always be more-or-less healthy. We may have to modify our lives because our health is less or we are growing older, but we don’t have to die in advance of our death. No matter what happens, we can stay engaged.
- Self-absorption is the path to misery. As long as we are self-involved, we will be depressed and disillusioned. As soon as we embrace our world and the people in it, we find joy and peace.
- As long as we insist on identifying with the painful experiences of our lives, with the insults received at the hands of others, we find ourselves desolate. When we are willing to let go and reinvent ourselves, we center and find peace. If our stories are unfortunate, we need to rewrite them in a more generous light.
- People who are at peace with themselves are never cruel. If someone hurts or has hurt us, it’s because of their own pain.
- The great challenge is to be a worthy spark of the basic substance of Life no matter what name or system we may choose to use as a pointer.
- Love – true love – is not romantic love, found by seeing our reflection in the eyes of a lover. Love is found by seeing the reflection of the sacred in ourselves and all life. It is the ability to recognize the sacred everywhere and in everyone, even in our frail and fallible selves, in the most unfortunate conditions, and in the most unfortunate people.
I suspect that life on the razor’s edge is ultimately about the search for meaning, the will
to find meaning (as opposed to power or pleasure) in our lives as Victor Frankl
, the Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, and Nazi concentration camp survivor, would say. I would venture that meaning for me would be unselfishness. I would not say love, because I find that love is often just a lofty way of saying need. I would not say compassion, because my observation is that what is called compassion is too often sympathy. Sympathy feels sorry and does nothing. Sympathy tends to lack a spirit of generosity. By contrast, selflessness expresses as some moral action
toward a higher good. My hope for you is that you find – if you have not already done so – what gives meaning (value) to your
life on the razor’s edge.
© 2010 essay and photograph, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved