Monday, March 29, 2010

Holy Week Meditation

At the library today I plucked two DVD's from the shelves, and holding one in each hand I had to smile. One was titled "Factotum" and was based on the gritty stories and life of writer Charles Bukowski. A gritty, realistically rendered depravity typifies Bukowski's work, peopled as much of it is with barflies, hookers, alcoholics, the unemployed, and the unwanted; The other title was "Into Great Silence", a documentary film illustrating the life of monks practicing in the Grande Chartreuse monastery in the French Alps.

At first, I reflected on the obvious duality of Flesh and Spirit. I was reminded of the life of Nikos Kazantzakis author of Zorba the Greek, Report to Greco, and The Last Temptation of Christ to name a few of his titles. Kazantzakis lived a life of division, pulled toward contemplation, reflection, and writing yet longing for what he considered to be an active engagement with wine, with women, and with the world. So pronounced was this conflict within him that, living outside of Vienna and sequestered from a woman he loved, he impulsively left his retreat to find this woman, but was struck by a terrible, suppurating swelling of his face while searching for her.

The starkness of this apparent choice, so tortuous to Kazantzakis, made a great impression on me as a younger man. I dreamed, literally, of being a monk and taking some flavor of holy orders, but knew I could not tolerate the discipline. I was blessed with beautiful girlfriends, and refused to see them--or any other woman--as impediments to what was called a holy life.

I figured this conflict was without resolution, demanding allegiance to one or the other way of living. Then, probably twenty years ago, I heard something that at once expanded my understanding and collapsed duality; I heard the expression, coming from Buddhism, "Samsara is nirvana." This expansion of perspective united what appeared to be opposites. It leveled the playing field. No longer did the either/or conundrum perplex me.

And standing in the library today, these different DVD's in hand, I again realized that barflies and monks, hookers and the holy share a common endeavor called life, and that is sufficient to regard them as one.

2 comments:

anno said...

Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor? A perfect story for Holy Week; glad you noticed the moment.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

It's all one in the world - duality is everything.