Saturday, July 17, 2010

Of Turning Points and Thoughts of Compassion

Another hot Saturday and our caravan keeps penetrating territory not previously seen by these eyes. Much looks the same. I'm at my computer, in front of a fan and drinking coffee. Here in Boston we call it a "regular" coffee; cream and two sugar. It suits me fine. A little red CD player produced by slave labour and sold through Wal-Mart is perched next to me, playing Tchaikovsky's 6th symphony, 4th movement. It feels right. Like I'm at the end of something and soon to embark on something else. It makes me think of death, which has been on my mind more than usual.

Thích Quảng Đức was a Mahayana Buddhist monk. On June 11, 1963 he doused himself with kerosene and set himself on fire to protest the treatment of monks by the Diem government. They have a name for this...self-immolation. As he died, he sat motionless and was photographed by Malcolm Browne.

After he burned out like an oil lamp and lay smoldering at the crossing of Phan Dinh Phung Boulevard and Le Van Duyet Street, outside the Cambodian Embassy, his friends, comrades, brothers and sisters cremated his mostly already cremated body. Neither the ceremonial protest burning, nor the cremation, succeeded in totally immolating his heart. This was taken as a sign, and Thích Quảng Đức is now considered to be a Bodhisattva. If you don't know what that is, by all means look it up. It basically means that he is a perfect being of light who, instead of living in a state of Enlightenment with Lord Buddha, decided to return to Earth to help show us the way to compassionate living. Self sacrifice and pure love for all living things.

To me, this is a beautiful fable that has moved me to tears even as I write it now. But I'm a weak person, of no consequence. So I can cry and be easily moved without fear of people thinking less of my sanity. Everyone knows that Darren ain't right.


Another story comes to mind this morning, and I'll try to remember it accurately. It's about a 6th century Athenian named Perilaus. He will always be known as the inventor of a torture device he dubbed The Brazen Bull. The device is simply designed but hideous. It is a brass bull with a door on the side. The victim would be placed inside, and the door locked. Subsequently, a fire would be started under the bull, causing the metal to become red hot, which would result in an agonizingly slow death for the victim. The screams could be heard through the open mouth of The Brazen Bull, with the aid of pipes, and Perilaus described the agonized screams as, "tender and melodious" during his little sales pitch to his king, Phalaris, Tyrant of Agrigentum. Phalaris politely listened to all the device would do. He was told that pipes crossing at certain angles and with carefully placed foramen, combined with the screams and pleadings of the victim, would be beautiful and pleasing to his royal ears.

King Phalaris was so disgusted, however, by Perilaus' invention that he tricked the inventor into climbing into the device to scream in "mockery," and then locked the door behind him. The historian Lucian writes that the king then said, "Receive the due reward of your wondrous art: let the music-master be the first to play.” He then started a bonfire under the bull, with its inventor inside, screaming.

It went on to be a very popular torture device in ancient Macedonia and Greece.

This is the world, and it was like this before I got here. My 8 year old friend just got diagnosed with cancer. That is the world, too.

There is so much beauty in the world, I ache at it. I weep. Passion. Anger. Love. Love. Love.

But so much pain, too much. Most of the world is familiar with it. Most of the worlds children know starvation and genital mutilation and rape and cruelty. Most animals and people who need kindness will not find it. Never find it. Ever. And that is one reason that I can't take my eyes off the Void. Why I don't believe in god, and if I did I would hate him or her or it.

Show the world weakness and watch it get invaded, eaten and destroyed. Like a rotting corpse covered in maggots. Happiness is a trick we play on the mind, a state that is impossible to maintain for long.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

so hurry up and die.