Photo by Almos Bechtold on Unsplash
Illusions of the world always draw more attention than Truth in the world. That is human nature. Truth is eternal, still, never changing. Illusion is movement, drama, change. We are continually drawn to focus on our mind, the source of illusion. Even when we realize we are the peaceful stillness known as Truth, it can be difficult not to become hypnotized by the illusionary content of mind. It’s why we look at the movie not the screen. We listen to the notes, not the rests. We marvel at the stars and planets, not the space.
When a rich man asked Jesus how he could be saved, Jesus told him to give his possessions away. Get rid of the objects. In other words, he would still have the Truth of wealth, he just had to be willing to not be caught up in the illusions of wealth. Money burns. Coins melt. Possessions can be lost or stolen. True wealth can never be taken away but few of us consider True wealth very valuable.
When we are preoccupied by the activity of our mind, we lose who we really are and, in that, we are operating under a kind of hypnosis. We’re in a dreamlike, pretend world where we believe the cartoon actors, props and sets are real. We imagine ourselves to be one of them and forget we are not that but we are so much more. Meditation can often help us focus our attention onto Truth and away from the illusion. Still, it can be a daily practice to not get caught up in the wonderful, delicious, exciting mind stuff.
Today I am pondering “Random Renaissance Person.” You can ponder with me.
Let me first explain that Random Renaissance Person is just that: any random person who lived during the Renaissance period (almost any other period will also work, too, if you happen to have some aversion to pondering people from the Renaissance). Simply imagine a single person who could have lived during that time period. Make the person as average as possible – no kings or queens or dignitaries. Just your average Renaissance villager person.
It’s best not to give Random Renaissance Person a name – we don’t want to get too close to them – but you can imagine things like their work and family situation. Go ahead and I magine all of the events in Random Renaissance Person’s life: being born, interacting with family, working in the garden, being educated, attending religious ceremonies, hanging out with friends, having a first kiss, playing sports, etc. Most people didn’t have a very long lifespan during that time so maybe Random Renaissance Person was stricken with disease or experienced complications in childbirth or was injured in battle. Feel free to design their story.
Of course, there were no photographers at this time, so we can never know what Random Renaissance Person looked like. It’s doubtful they had their portrait painted or if one would have even survived to now. There is a very good chance that nothing at all exists to document that Random Renaissance Person ever even lived. But we know they did and we know that millions just like them have lived all over the Earth since the beginning of time.
We can imagine Random Renaissance Person, lived a full life just like you and I. Every moment of their life consisted of experiencing life events the same way you and I do. Some of those events were minor incidents. Many were major milestones. But to Random Renaissance Person, all were the content of their life and whether they were experiencing seasonal sniffles or adopting a dog or watching a parent die, these were the things that Random Renaissance Person called their life. The struggles and triumphs that shaped who they knew themselves to be. Again, just like you and I.
Now fast forward to the contemporary time you and I are currently living. Look around your household or work environment or just your life in general. In what way is your life affected by the life of Random Renaissance Person? Can you find one single thing anywhere in your surroundings that would have been impacted by the existence of Random Renaissance Person?
Consider that all of those monumental life events that meant everything to Random Renaissance Person are now completely gone. Literally, as if they never happened. The events that kept Random Renaissance Person awake at night with anxiety or that they anticipated with excitement for weeks are now nowhere to be found. In fact, our good friend Random Renaissance Person also has no existence, nor is there proof they ever did. We can imagine Random Renaissance Person may have had children, who had children, who had children, whose descendants may have somehow affected us. Quite possible. But when we look only at the personal life of Random Renaissance Person, it makes little difference to our world whether they lived or not.
It’s fascinating. An entire life rendered completely useless by time and distance. It’s easy to convince ourselves this is bound to happen to people who lived so long ago but have you ever found yourself wandering in an antique shop and found a stack of photos of random, unknown people? People and families from the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s, sometimes doing seemingly important things – graduating, marrying, opening Christmas presents, enjoying dinners – now completely unknown, unidentified and unimportant.
Of course, this will never happen to you or I, our lives are way too important and we’ve participated in far too many memorable life events for those things to just disappear. Our thoughts, opinions and beliefs are not only vital to us but also of great significance to humanity. Not to mention, we have many friends and family members who will remember us and all of the important things in our lives for eternity. We’ll never be forgotten like those other people. Right?
The world of form is not as significant as we try to convince ourselves it is. It never has been. It doesn’t have any permanence to it. We try to hang on to this identity in our changing, disposable bodies and pretend we are as important as we believe we are. One day these bodies and all we consider important will fade away faster than a stream of smoke, just like the life of Random Renaissance Person did. What’s left when it’s all gone? Does everything just dissolve and go back to the Earth or can it be that there is actually some sort of permanence behind appearances? Something that remains when all appearances change and pass away? Does it make sense to actually “be” at one point in this life and then “not be” at another point? Is “being” so disposable and finite?
If we have no trouble believing a “Creator” created our entire universe at a certain point in time, should we then not have any difficulty at all considering, instead, this “Creator” is creating our universe RIGHT NOW and has been creating the entirety of it NOW, always?
There is only one thing that needs to happen. Consciously be who you already are.
When I was in high school, I idolized the kind of NY, Italian, street gang-guy I saw in celebs like Billy Joel and Stallone. I really wanted to be in a street gang, which, if you know me, you know how completely asinine even the thought of that is. But I didn’t want to be in a real street gang, I wanted to be in more of a movie street gang. I didn’t want to actually hurt people, I wanted to strut around the streets like Travolta in a leather jacket, maybe smoking cigarettes. I wanted to know some guys named Mikey and Vinnie. Maybe learn to use the f-word occasionally and not feel guilty about it. That’s all I knew. I really wanted to be a Baptist preacher and I carried around a copy of “The Cross and the Switchblade” with me all of the time. It was a book about a preacher who went to New York to save the street gangs. I figured I could do that. Maybe have the best of both worlds. Although I would have to nix the f-word probably.
One year, I asked for a leather jacket for Christmas. My parents couldn’t afford a real leather jacket so they got me a vinyl one. It looked a lot like the real thing and I wore it all the time in high school and college. I’m wearing it in this photo. It looks a lot like Billy Joel’s but, I’m guessing, his was real leather. I always imagined I’d one day get to go to a “rumble” in my jacket, but I never did. Once, the neighborhood bullies tried to challenge my brothers to a fight and I thought it was the perfect opportunity, so I grabbed my jacket and a long chain I’d been saving for the occasion, but my dad went out and ran the bullies off so nothing really happened. Eventually, I changed over to Billy Joel’s “suit jacket and loose tie” style, which seemed to work much better for me.
When I was in middle school, my dad started getting into a new hobby of selling things at flea markets. He was a school teacher but would do the flea market stuff on the weekends and he ended up making more money doing that than he did teaching. So I grew up around flea market culture. I’m still fascinated by the southern flea market characters I encountered every weekend. Flea Markets, antique stores, secondhand shops, thrift stores are all still a huge part of my life. It gets in your blood and won’t come out. Like a stiletto. Sorry. I go to antique stores just to relax. I could spend an entire weekend doing nothing but visiting thrift stores and antique shops. Last week I stopped by a thrift store to look for some junk pieces I could recycle as art. While I was there I saw a really cool leather jacket. It still had all of the tags on it. And, holy crap, it was exactly my size! I can never buy clothes off the rack because I have freakishly long arms but this jacket fit perfectly. And it was only $25!
I used to never buy or wear anything leather. I’m vegetarian because I’m an animal lover and I never thought it was right to not eat animals but still wear them. Then, I decided to wear a kilt for a year in 2012 and I had to buy leather stuff. Boots, straps, vests, all that stuff that makes you look more cool in a kilt. I also started eating fish last year, so screw the animals! Dang, I should have used the f-word there. No wonder I never got in a street gang.
I bought the jacket. I took it home and cleaned it the way the leather stores I Googled said I should clean leather jackets. Last night I put it on for the first time in it’s full, freshly laundered, glory. I dug out the switchblade knife I have been keeping in my nightstand (in case The Bishops want to start some shit) and I came out to the kitchen to see what my wife thought. She laughed. Laughed? It wasn’t really the response I was looking for. I mean, this is a real fucking leather jacket! (Yeah!) But while she was laughing, she also took off her bra. It was like she did it without even thinking. I don’t even know if she knows why she was taking it off. It just happened. Dang, the first time I put on a real leather jacket and the first girl I see immediately whips off her bra. I knew it!