05 May 2010

No Self

Buddhism has been on my mind a lot lately. I'd been curious about it for a long time, and finally studied it in my East Asia Religions class. Two Buddhist concepts that have been on my mind a lot are transience and no-self.  Transience is the concept of impermanence, that nothing ever stays the way it is now.  No-self is the concept that there is no single thing that makes you yourself.  Imagine, for instance, a chair. A chair is made of many smaller parts, so what makes it a chair? There is no single part that makes it a chair. Rather, we recognize this combination of parts (none of which are a chair on their own) as a chair.
"He knows no one shines forever. They change with the weather." - On The Arrow, AFI
One Buddhist meditation is to imagine oneself at five years old, now, and at sixty years old. Is there anything in common between these three people?  The three have completely different thoughts, perspectives, priorities, ideas, voice, appearance, and they are not even made up of the same physical matter. There's no single thread tying the three together.   Thus, there's nothing that makes us us. There is no self.
"You want something that's constant, and I only wanted to be me. But watch, even the stars above, things that seem still are still changing." - Still, Ben Folds
I have always been a terribly nostalgic person. I've always missed moments of the past, missed the people I used to be close to and the places I got to know. What I miss more than anything else is the way I felt in those moments. Looking back, you can never feel that way again. Especially love.  I like to say that once you've loved someone, you will love them forever. That's a complete and utter lie. While some people from my past still bring up feelings within me, I've forgotten many of them. Even the very important ones, such as my first kiss, my first love, my first boyfriend no longer make me swoon. It's amazing that someone who changed my life so much and made me feel so many emotions has now disappeared completely into the fog of my memories. I know that someday this will happen with the present. Perhaps that's even scarier than the thought of this moment never happening again or the prospect of missing someone. It's terrifying to think that there might be a time when I will no longer miss today, when this moment will be so far off, that I won't even know how to miss it. I will literally be a different person than I am today.
"And the waves crashing around me, the sand slips out to see.  And the winds that blow remind me of what has been and what can never be." - The Lighthouse's Tale, Nickel Creek
As I pack up, I think about how this has been the most life-changing year since freshman year of highschool.  This year, I also had the most significant romantic encounter since I was fourteen.  I am grateful for the ways I've changed, and I know the things I've learned will stay with me for the rest of my life.  Still, it sometimes shocks me to look back a year and think about how different I was then.  This really hit me on 420; a year ago, that would have been all that I ever wanted: marijuana was a huge part of my life, and pot culture was filled with hope and community. I've grown distant from this, and it was strange to walk through Norlin Quad, knowing how happy I should be, how happy I would have been, but, really, I didn't care. I am a completely different person than I once was, and the things that fill me with joy now are not the same as the things that filled me with joy then.  Looking around was like looking at the person I used to be from the outside. I am someone else now.
 Rate of Change
 I'm running out of Fridays.
Of course, they'll never be gone
Completely. But Fridays now
Are the Fridays of my life.

Recycle bins fill with beer cans
Flattened by the perpendicular force
Of name-brand sneakers
On the feet of drunk friends.

Gutters collect the butts and filters
Of Newports, Blacks, Camels, and PTs.
Puffs of smoke dissintegrate
And disappear into memories.

My memory is overflowing
With today. The present
Will soon be left behind
And I'll be searching again.

Soon I will scream and laugh
Making more memories to share
And to lose. Soon this and that
Will be the past and time will be fresh.

But I am scared. Not of vodka
Or of ashes, but that I'll sit
Someday alone and I will miss
The rum and chronic of today.

-- from my journal, 04.24.09
I've completely rethought my political perspective.  I've gone 180 on issues such as undocumented immigrants, affirmative action, racism, and colorblind ideology. I've begun identifying strongly as a feminist, and this has become a major part of myself and my identity.  I've also began exploring other forms of marginalization, oppression, and privilege that exist in our society.  I read Peggy McIntosh's "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" - like, really read it - and began to acknowledge my own privilege. I've also become familiar with standpoint theory, which is such a simple, common-sense concept, but it has completely altered how I perceive academic literature, and changed how I participate in discussions about marginalized groups that I am not a part of, especially if members of that group are present in the discussion.  Most significantly, I've completely restructured my perspective on what gender and sex is.  I've become sensitive to the gendering of children, biological essentialism, gendered spaces, cissexism, cissupremacy, and how fucking transphobic this fucking world is, and I've overcome more internalized cissexism that I ever thought was possible or necessary (it is very very necessary).  I can't seem to go ten minutes without thinking how patriarchy and sexism pervade our society by creating hetero- and cis-normativity and homophobia and transphobia.  My priorities have also changed significantly, with marijuana dropping off the radar completely, replaced with a dedication to combat oppression, specifically sexism and cissexism.  I've also become even more passionate about and involved in things that concerned me a year ago, such as gay rights.  I've come out three times as three different identities, and begun actively exploring myself, labels, and the way society impacts how I see myself.

So that's where I am at the moment. I'll be somebody else tomorrow, and in an hour. As scary as change is, I have no choice but to embrace it. And embrace it, I will.

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