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THE WORLD’S GREATEST GAMBLE

December 30, 2009 2 comments

Even if I knew tomorrow the world would go to pieces
I would still plant my apple tree.

-Martin Luther

When I was about 10 years old, I made a drawing and showed my dad.   He loved Modigliani and Picasso and I respected his opinion.   He wasn’t enthusiastic right away when he held it, so I bravely said to hasten a reaction, that if he didn’t like it he could throw it away.   With a wordless look, he crumbled the drawing and tossed it into the trash.   I didn’t show how hurt I was as I wanted to be someone who could deal with anything, including my own feelings.   I believe he wanted me to work harder to create something that wouldn’t wind up in the garbage.  Rather than keep on truckin,  I was reluctant to share my art with my father again.   I didn’t trust what he’d do and decided to spare him the embarrassment of being the dad with bad judgment.

So I got that in his world,  only things of quality endured and got spared from the trash bin.   He continued to love classical music and Kafka and the French existentialists, so surely what was complex, beautiful and replayed over decades and centuries must contain some top secret high-caliber standard that would grant me equal airplay.   I had to become the freemason to end all freemasons and discover that secret.   Hearing over again, “They don’t make things like they used to,” reiterated the fact that I lived in a disposable society that meant we didn’t care about the things we continue to replace.   This merged with my growing sense of how much was impermanent.   This loose relationship of easy come, easy go (my mother’s oft-quoted phrase) felt like untethered strings of cheap Kleenex.   I never knew how to express this to anyone, but I wanted more than anything to create something in my life that would last.

When I learned about Greek gods and heros I saw again that the mighty were the immortal ones.   If I wanted to live forever,  I had to be that good or else I’d get trashed too.   If anything I did fell short, then it was time and energy wasted, and I’d have to start over or give up, make room for someone else who could do it better.

My world went to pieces a lot, in my mind.   Instead of persisting with a seeming lost cause,  I’d grieve for awhile,  then start a new project.   Any big mistake was cause for dismissal.   I majored in a new creative venture every few months. Even now, people ask me if I’m still writing any poetry, or doing any drumming, or painted, or played the piano, or made jewelry…  Ha! Noooo way!  but I say this now with an unabashed, limitless compassion I have for my own  (and other’s) inconsistency.

When I came across the above Martin Luther quote, I was baffled.   I didn’t get it.   My boyfriend said this was about karma yoga.   It was about the joy of planting a tree,  the love of doing that was important,  no matter what happened. The love of planting?   I hate gardening!   What instant gratification can there be in creating something that will never bear fruit?   Wouldn’t the pain of the loss,  especially the end of the world,  overshadow any fleeting joy there had been? He pointed out how this was attachment,  the crux of our suffering.   Loss is inevitable.   And at this time,  the end of December, the end of the year, the winter of our discontent, this is all about endings.

Alfred Tennyson wrote this In Memoriam about his dear friend who died suddenly:

I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

A study was done among blackjack gamblers in Vegas that seemed to indicate that– at least amongst high rollers– they would “rather have not loved at all.”   That is, the regret of having done the wrong thing at the table (actually losing money) outweighs the regret of not having done the right thing (not winning any money at all).   What…gamblers…. fixated, driven and experiencing attachment???   No way!   I’m empathetic tho— gambling is in my genes— my dad was a high stakes Mah Jong fan, my grandmother also played regularly, and my uncle once lost a million dollars at baccarat.   Except I’ve bet with my heart instead of money.   I don’t just mean the Romeo & Juliet kind of betting….  I mean the feeling that comes when you’re making a collage or painting,  and you just feel like glueing a stream of typewriter keys and lips and yellow paisleys all together without any reason.   You just do it, it arises from nowhere, and someone you admire might tell you, well that’s not something I would have done… and despite the doubts you follow your heart and you gorilla-glue the suckers down!   That’s heart.

So that’s the greatest challenge, the greatest risk of all.  To plant love no matter what, let it continue to be fierce and precious, without trying to coddle or protect it.   Knowing I have that potential to love without any clue of what will happen next (or maybe a little bit of a clue- since I’m supposed to be good at divinations!),  is probably the most beautiful thing I can offer anyone.

So with that said, I’m off to India!   With a lot of heart in my pocket– coz I can’t fit anything more into my luggage!

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