Yesterday evening, I had the amazing opportunity of being a meditation leader in a sangha that meets at a yoga studio in Bedford Hills. The windows were open, a soft breeze and bird song wafted in. “It’s an almost perfect evening to be sitting here together,” I said. “Why almost perfect? Why not perfect?” asked a man. After we sat together and did a little walking meditation, I told the room I said “almost” not just because I like to avoid absolutes but because in my experience there is a yearning in most humans for what is yet to come–and also for what is past.
I’ve been very struck lately about the way desire is rooted in impressions from the past. I know I’ve been quoting a lot from Gatsby. Maybe it’s the pretty weather. This is the last time. I swear. But Gatsby’s yearning–not for Daisy herself–but for an impression of her, and of himself with her, that he carried from the past is a devastating portrayal of what the Buddha has described as the suffering inherent in the way our mind’s work. Every perception and thought we have is colored bythe perceptions, feelings, and thoughts of the past. We crave things. We yearn for a different way of being that is often actually a memory created in the past. We are all like Gatsby who “wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy.”
Like so many other humans, Gatsby imbued the object of his desire with the illusion of wholeness and safety, the grace and ease, that he and most humans crave. When he was young and poor and insecure, he glimped on the porch of her beautiful house and was “overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves, of the freshness of many clothes, and of Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor.”
Gatsby dedicated his life to becoming someone who could walk up on the porch and be equal to that dream of wholeness, “he did not know it was already behind him.” No Buddha, Fitzgerald nonetheless had the clarity to enough to know how we tend to be, we chase a future that eludes us, “but that’s no matter–to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther….And one fine morning–
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
There is a way of being that has nothing to do with chasing a dream of being, forever reaching back into the past. One man last night said it had to do with realizing that every moment is perfect just as it is. I feel it has to do with realizing that we are perfect in our imperfection, in our yearning.
In the end the think perfection/imperfect must be left behind. No separation. Just being. All right.