Rendered Fat Content


Seated Male Deity Supporting a Vajra on His Finger (last quarter of 10th–first half of 11th century)
Indonesia (Java, Ngandjuk)

" … a meditation on sanity, vanity, and satisfaction …"

Prolific author and psychotherapist Sheldon Kopp told the story of how he learned to meditate. He checked into a Zen center where a master directed him to sit quietly in a corner and count to ten. Though this seemed an inauspicious beginning, he did as instructed. He quickly found that though counting to ten had never before posed a serious challenge, he found himself losing his place when sitting there by himself trying to count to ten, so he returned to the master and reported his difficulty. The master instructed that if he were to lose his place again, he was to just go back to one and begin anew. Kopp reported that it was the longest time before he realized that meditating was not about getting to ten but going back to one.

I imagine that I'm feeling a similar sensation as I set about attempting to live post-Grand Refurbish.
We had been going somewhere for the longest time, and once arriving, realize that we are no longer in pursuit but in possession now. Possession is not a progressive activity, or not necessarily so, but more passive. It might even seem as though a possession possesses me more than I possess it, as if the whole Grand Refurbish were a ruse, a means by which this old house could sink her fangs more deeply into us. We are well and truly hooked now and beginning again, seemingly going back to one, moving in all over again for the very first time. This time, we're carrying boxes up from their temporary storage space in the basement and finally, finally emptying their contents, nine months after arriving back here. The Villa suddenly seems massive after living in narrow slices of the place invaded by construction equipment and tarps. We've vacuumed the sawdust off the window and door crowns and set about settling in, going back to one again.

It might be that living amounts to an extended meditation and meditation, not a break from anything but just an attempt to put a little sharper focus on everything. I've been meditating twice each day since nineteen seventy-five. I can probably count on the fingers of my two hands the number of times I've missed a meditation, for the practice is no longer a matter of discipline but of necessity, like sleeping or eating. It's no hardship to not starve yourself or to give in to sleep, though sometimes, like with any practice, meditating seems rather pointless. Its pointlessness might be its most prominent aspect, for it's not and never was about accomplishing anything or getting anywhere. There is no gain promised and none expected, it's just a practice and its own reward. Like anything, it's sometimes boring. There's no way to determine if this practice has rendered me more mindful, for I've had no baseline to compare my mindfulness to and no means to compare even if I had. Meditating's definitely not a refurbishing act, but a maintenance one. It does not intend to change anything, but just provide practice in StartingAtOne.

And so I've begun, it seems, another attempt to get to ten. I'd claim that Our Grand Refurbish nudged us clear to ten, we achieved our objective, maybe we even got to twelve, though that was not our intention and counter to our original purpose. Either way, our reward for successfully achieving whatever we achieved seems to be the same as it would have been had the effort crashed and burned just after takeoff. We're back to StartingAtOne again, forging a brand new trail heading toward the same damned destination we're always heading toward. Should we get to ten this time, I'm thinking that I already know what we will have accomplished, a free one way pass back to precisely where we started from. We will not be making an advancement, for instance, directing us to start at eleven this time, for that's not how these things work, not life and certainly not meditating, and probably not refurbishing, either.

Some have suggested that we should be celebrating our grand accomplishment, and I suppose that we are. We are not scheduling a superspreader event to mark the occasion, though. We're rearranging furniture, deck chairs?, the same old stuff in surprising configurations, and trying to build up the courage to poke holes in our flawlessly refurbished walls so that we might hang our artwork there. I've being populating our new shelves with familiar books and I'm pleased to report that the shelving works. We'll be rearranging their contents twice daily into perpetuity, a meditation on sanity, vanity, and satisfaction, StartingAtOne, the same celebration we always experience.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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