The Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara practiced "benevolence without purpose" (Joseph Campbell). He wasn't in it for what he could get out of it. Just being what was needed, just doing what was called for, just seeing what was happening and knowing how to respond to it, "participating in the nature of things" for the good of all in harmony with all, balanced, not stretching for this, striving for that, at one with the need of the moment, ready to act spontaneously when the time for action arises, without attachment, preference, or opinion, "from the impulse of one's nature" (Campbell quotes from Myths to Live By). Avalokiteśvara in the art of India is always masculine, but as the Chinese goddess of mercy, she is Kuan-yin, and Kwannon in Japan Becoming the Bodhisattva, becoming the Buddha, becoming the Kuan-yin, becoming the Kwannon, becoming the Christ, we participate in the moment, in each moment, with nothing to gain or to lose, but with something to offer, for the sake of the moment, like we might play a game of keeping a beach ball in the air, everyone participating as they are able, doing their part to save the ball from touching the ground, with no concern for the fruits of the action, just the joy of connecting with all others in the flight of the ball. Enter life each day as one would enter such a game, freely, at ease, attentive, playfully, alert and ready for anything, all day.
To act as one must without attachment to the outcome of one's action is to do what we have come to do with nothing in it for us. This is not impersonal, robotic, but highly personal-- our entire person is invested in the act for which we have been born! We are one with our action! "What I do is me-- for that I came!" declares the poet (Gerard Manley Hopkins). The poem is the poet! The poet is the poem! The dance is the dancer! The dancer is the dance! We are one with our life when we live with our heart thoroughly invested in what we do! Ah, but, there's the problem. Who is so invested these days? What we do is out of boredom, not out of a passionate investment in the poem, in the dance, of pure being-in-the-world! We don't know what that means. Are we even interested in finding out? We have this life, the most precious gift we could hope to receive, and we leave it hanging in the closet while we wile away the hours in trivial pursuits until the whistle blows and the lights go out. What are we doing with the time? What are we doing with our life? What is ours to do with the time? What is ours to do with our life? What are we missing? What hints and guidance and directives do we walk by unknowing every day? What is our time screaming for us to do? What is our life dying for us to live? Why don't we care about that? Why aren't we passionately intense in our search for the truth of who we are and what is ours to do?
Focusing on what needs to be done and doing it when it needs to be done, where it needs to be done, how it needs to be done for as long as it needs to be done, and then focusing on what needs to be done, etc. through all of the times and places of our life is the key to living a long and meaningful life. If you don't know, or can't decide, what needs to be done, sit down and wait for the mud to settle and the water to clear. Soon enough you will have to use the toilet. That will need to be done. Do it, and then wait to see what needs to be done after that. What needs to be done is a question of value, of what matters, of what is important, of what is worth our time, of how we are going to spend our life. At the bottom, this is a question of faith. We believe this, or that, is important. We take it on faith that this, or that, is important. We can't prove that it is, but it is important to us, here and now. We believe it to be so, and we are going to act as though it is. And that is all the faith we need, here and now, moment to moment, day by day, all our life long. We keep faith with ourselves. We live in good faith with one another. Doing what we believe to be important. What would we live for? What would we die for? What would we go to hell for? We take all of this on faith. We are faith based. Everything we do is based on our faith in it, on our faith that it is worth doing, because we say so. On our faith in our own judgment. In our own sense of what matters. In our own sense of direction. Our own sense of value. At the bottom, we believe in ourselves. And, even if we say, "Nothing matters!" We take that on faith. We believe in ourselves to believe that nothing is worth believing in. We take our word for it. And live as though we know what we are talking about. We have no choice but to believe in ourselves, to believe what we say. That being the case, why not say things that are helpful? Why not not say things that are harmful? Why not believe things that are going to make a difference for the good? Why not make cookies? Or pizza? Or spaghetti? Or bread pudding? And invite someone over for lunch?
I just dropped in to say it is very appropriate and proper to be overwhelmed when what you are dealing with is overwhelming! It would also be appropriate and proper, to call time-out for fifteen minutes every hour for an overwhelmed break. Sit down under a blanket and cry, or just stare at the wall, or the floor, for 15 minutes, and then get back to work in the midst of the overwhelming. And, in response to “So what? Why try? Who cares? Why good will it do? What difference does it make? What’s the use?” repeat this: It’s all useless, hopeless, pointless, insane, stupid, absurd and coming to a very bad end (Everyone dies in the end)—and, how we live in the meantime makes all the difference. We make all the difference in each other’s life, in the life of the world, by the way we live moment-to-moment, day-by-day, in each situation as it arises. If you are going to take anything on faith, take this on faith, and live as though it is so, because it is! And, coming to life, coming alive, lighting up in the darkness is what we do best. That’s where we come in to do our thing, anyway, nevertheless, even so! We do that by turning the tables on “So what? Why try? etc.” by saying so what? to So what? Why not try? to Why try? I’m going to do this whether it does any good or not! to why try? The people who say, “Nothing matters anymore!” say it in a way that suggests that it matters that nothing matters. If nothing mattered, it wouldn’t matter that nothing mattered, and everyone would go right on with their life as though it mattered. So, we go right on with our life as though it matters. So what (to “So what?”) if it doesn’t matter? If we all live as though it matters, it may as well matter because we are going to live as though it does, anyway, nevertheless, even so! Besides that, to a child with an ice cream cone it would be ridiculous to suggest that nothing matters. The child is still going to enjoy the ice cream. So find what you enjoy whether it matters or not, and do that. Matters to whom? Matters how, in what way? If it matters that nothing matters, then something matters, and if one thing matters, maybe two things matter, so find the other thing, and that will be two things, and maybe there is a third, and before you know it, a lot of things matter, and it doesn’t matter that some things don’t matter, so so what to “So what?” The blind Greek poet had Ulysses say in “The Odyssey,” “I will survive and endure! And when the heaving sea has shaken my raft to pieces, then I will SWIM!” So at the end of fifteen minutes, say to no one in particular, “Okay! Time’s up! Let’s go swimming!” And do it again, if need be, in 45 minutes. In the meantime, let’s go swimming!