May 27th, 2003

monkey pirate

Memorial

For a long weekend, this was an awfully long weekend.

This morning the sun came out. It has always been present, since you know, the earth continue to rotate and revolve and all; but it's always been a hazy and baleful presence in the sky, screened by ever-present clouds in this, the cloudiest and rainiest May in recorded history. That is not an exaggeration, it is literally the cloudiest May in recorded history. I do so wish I had witnessed some other kind of history-making. Like perhaps "sexiest copulation in history" or "most significant smooching in recorded history" or "Largest sum of money ever found on the sidewalk in recorded history." Something more cheerful than this. Anyway - the sun finally came out, and it's the first time in weeks it's been up in the sky without cloud cover, and it was dazzling. Not good dazzling, I mean, standing-in-the-parking lot-squinting-and-not-able-to-bear-it-dazzling. Which is way worse than say, gosh-that-dress-looks-fantastic-dazzling, and something closer akin to the-yellow-face-it-burnssss-ussss-my-precioussss-dazzling. So consider this my official ranting at the weather - the constant drear and gray has become so oppressive that when the sun finally came out, it was upsetting.

There are lots of things one might have done over the long weekend. Tradition in the NorthEast dictates going to the Jersey Shore. I even got invited to a party there - but the invitation came from a crazy-and-evil ex (sad that I have several) who wanted me to attend a party at the very shore house where she had promised to take me, lo these many moons ago, but instead ran off with her ex, ditching me and breaking my heart. And the party was co-hosted by her current boyfriend, a callow young lad she lives with, and also, later ditched me for. Because I didn't learn the first time. Which brings me a later point (the not learning the first time) thing - but suffice to say, when I considered it in that light, it was pretty clear I wasn't going to spend a weekend at the shore with the two of them. Particularly not a rainy weekend at the shore.

Instead, I spent it with the sweetest dog in the world, who I was dog-sitting for. Her name is Mercedes, and she's half black lab and half border collie. She's a beautiful, glossy-coated petite little thing with a snouty nose that she is anxious to put in adorable places, like resting it on your thigh while you're playing oh... say... Medieval:Total War. (which I finally beat, after liberating the British Isles from.. well... the British. But they'll be much happier with a Scottish king, I'm sure. Haggis and whiskey for all, hoorah!) I tried to get Mercedes to go running with me. Having a running dog has been a long-held dream of mine. But she's not the running time - she's more of the walk-slowly-and-sniff-everything type.

I also managed to observe the cat and dog Mexican standoff. Watching the two of them keep a wary eye on each other was very amusing; the dog because she was desperate to make a new friend, and the cat because she wanted to keep that awful thing away from her unless she could kill it. I was afraid the cat would become incredibly more stressed - I mean after all, I'd just moved her into a new place, and then introduced a DOG...a FREAKIN' DOG into the mix. As The Hobbit said, "Just give her a bath, and she'll be in cat Hell." Hmm. A bath. It has been a while. Here kitty kitty...

I spent an absurd amount of time alone this weekend. This gave me cause to do many things - think a lot about being alone, and how I don't really want to do that, feel sorry for myself, then break through feeling sorry for myself, and then decide to learn the lesson that solitude has to offer. Which got me to thinking about the afore-mentioned lesson-learning thought.

I have this tendency to view life, and by extension, the Universe, as my personal tutor. When things happen, both good or bad, I tend to personify those forces at work in the Universe and act as if they have some sort of lesson to teach. But this is clumsy and unskillful thought; it is not the case that Universe is either benevolent or malign; it simply is. There is no universal tutor, out to teach me a lesson, and the state of my mind has nothing to do with what happens to me in any mystical sense. There is no fate. There is no predestination.

What is skillful and important to understand is that things will happen, both good and bad; and I can choose to learn from them, or not. Learning a lesson, particularly in regards to my relationships to other human beings, will make it more likely that I will not repeat mistakes, it will be more likely that I will understand and shape my own psychological motivations, and that I will maintain a placid and thoughtful state of mind, which is far preferable to always reaction to stimuli. Although life does not present particular lessons to me to learn, there certainly are lessons to be learned; it's just that there is no guiding principle behind them. I breathe whatever structure and meaning into the Universe that there is for me to experience; I can close off my mind and fail to learn, or I can open myself up to important lessons. If I do so, I will prosper more than if I do not, but no one cares other than me.

That may seem bleak, but I do not think it is. We as human beings are the supreme agents of our own fate. Many circumstances are beyond our control, but our reactions to those circumstances are not. We will make the best, or the worst - or more likely somewhere in between - of those circumstances based on our mindfulness and skill, not based on some nebulous concept of God, karma, or Universal benevolence.

There is no meaning to anything, except that which we derive. I choose to derive meaning, and slowly, oh so slowly, I suppose I have leanred a thing or two. Not much. But enough, at least for the moment.