Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fireflies in the Morning

When I was a kid I was fascinated by the fireflies I'd see hovering around in the hot evening summer air. One night I trapped a few of them between my cupped hands and stuck them into a jar, screwing the top on and leaving it on the side of our suburban home. I thought that by doing this I'd be able to have a mini-light show again in the morning and throughout the day.

By the time I got to the jar the next morning, the fireflies were already half dead and barely able to fly around, and I had inadvertently zapped any trace of the energy that enabled them to pulsate with their brilliant yellow glow. Suddenly they looked like ordinary insects and I was very disappointed. Frustrated, I let them out of the jar and squashed them against the pavement with my foot. For just a few seconds I could see a trace of that amazing glowing light streaked across the sidewalk, only now I couldn't enjoy it at all as I could the night before--it felt artificial and anticlimactic.

I do the same thing now as a grown man, only in other ways that most people think are logical—through grasping and trying to hold on to those experiences that give me some pleasure.

When we try to hold onto an experience or person that pleases us, we're instantly setting up a situation where the only possible outcome is suffering. We naturally try to hold onto things and people, hoping that they'll stay the same and perform for us whenever and however we want them to.

By doing this we're confining both ourselves and the object of our desire within a virtual jar, just as I did with those fireflies. And all that does is to suck the life and spontaneity out of things because we're resisting the natural ebb and flow of life and instead demanding that it be a certain way at all times, with no room for change or growth or new possibilities.

When we can appreciate the beautiful brilliance that each new moment offers us without latching onto it or fearing its eventual absence, we allow ourselves an escape from suffering and an authentic sense of freedom.

1 comment:

They call him James Ure said...

Beautiful post. I think many Buddhists mistakingly think that we must avoid ALL pleasure.

As you pointed out so well it's not the pleasure that's the problem but the grasping--the addiction. Thinking that it will bring lasting happiness and peace.

Oh and the fireflies reminds me of Africa when we'd walk through the jungle at night with those brilliant guys. It was simply divine.