I was sitting with my father watching my son play goalie over the weekend when my father compared the goalie position to that of a pilot using the old joke... "hours and hours of sheer boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror." It is true in many ways... since a great deal of the time the puck is on the opposite end of the rink and there is absolutely nothing to do. But just when the boredom sets in, the puck changes hands and suddenly, as was the case in this game, here come three opposing players with not a defensemen in sight. My stomach drops every time this happens as I watch from the stands. I can only imagine what it must be like to be in the line of fire.
These moments happen not just in hockey games... or in the cockpit... but every day and all around us. And these "moments of terror" aren't always terrifying. The analogy also works for the special moments in life. Those moments when we are, as Joseph Campbell would call it... "fully engaged". Moments when things fly at you from all angles and your body and mind react instinctively. Moments of joy. Moments of terror. Moments when the story lines that we are writing for ourselves come to climax. It is the continuous perfection of that moment that Buddha sought... the name Buddha itself meaning "awakened". In the Hindu and Christian cultures the concept of god becoming part of the world underlies the idea that our incarnation here is merely a forgetting of the spirit life so that we can experience these moments in this existence. There is something reassuring in this idea... that a supreme being would seek to be a part of this world simply to experience that which we take for granted daily.
This concept has been much on my mind of late. The concept of "moments" of life. My life is indeed vast stretches of boredom... of sameness... punctuated by moments of sheer terror... or joy... moments of sheer emotion. Those moments form together like touchstones of my past, forming a life lived. I remember not the filler moments... those moments... like now... that simply lead to the climax. But I remember the births... the deaths... the coming togethers... the breaking aparts... the moments where mind and body are in perfect accord. Those moments when time slows to a crawl and all of my senses are alive.
The Buddha's search for a place where all moments where "those moments" is noble and telling... for truly every moment CAN be one of those moments if we let ourselves experience it that way. But then again, I wonder if we are capable of appreciating the moments if they are ALL special. And perhaps the ebbs and flows of life have a purpose... to lull us into a place where sheer terror... or sheer joy... are possible. And perhaps my challenge is to except the "in between moments" as necessary parts of the whole. We are impatient these days for things to happen NOW, instead of enjoying the times of quiet for what they are... prelude.
After the game, I asked my son what he does to stay focused when the puck was on the other end of the rink. "I hum." And I nodded... and I smiled.
On Becoming My Grandmother
3 months ago