So I had this epic plan to have an unprecedented stream of posts that would all tie together in a flurry of fascinating insight around the end of February and into March. You can see the evidence of that (at least of the unprecedented number of posts if not the insight) in the three posts before this one.
And then a wave of entropy and dukkha hit, and that all fell apart. Nothing dramatic, and nothing really worth getting into. But isn’t that the point? Even when you aren’t dealing with unforseen calamities, it’s still hard to keep things together on a high level. It doesn’t take much to throw you off. I find that if I get pulled out of a week of flow, it takes a lot of time and effort to get back to that level of mental synthesis. Too much of what Max and I refer to as быт, or the nature of everyday life (here‘s a good translation of a very useful word I learned from this book), and even those of us who like to cruise at 30,000 feet will have to land. And it’s not always easy to take off again.
I’d hoped to be back at the top of my game by now, but I’m not, because the latest manifestation of dukkha in my life is a frontal sinus infection. Which is giving me severe brain fog. Which wreaks havoc on my ability to string thoughts together insightfully, or sometimes even coherently. Siiiigh. A few weeks ago I was pumped about adding Russian speakers ranging from Sergei Kiriyenko to Yevegenia Medvedeva to my Twitter feed to brush up on my Russian, and now I’m having trouble remembering words in English.
I also wanted to, you know, keep this blog at a higher posting level, which is not only necessary to maintain readership but close to essential to bringing topics close enough together to make seemingly disparate topics cohere meaningfully.
But I know what to do! This is the Internet! CAT PHOTOS TO THE RESCUE!
And this, dear readers, is actually quite on topic. See, my cats, Alyosha and Calliope, have been helping me understand the various forms that dukkha can take. Take Alyosha, for instance. The poor little guy appears to have some kind of kitty anxiety disorder. He is afraid of even Max and me when we are vertical. He only likes horizontal people, and will appear on the couch the minute one of us lies down, in search of a good tummy rub.
In his constant anxiety, Alyosha epitomizes the Buddhist notion of aversion, which is just a negative form of craving. And craving, we remember, is the source of dukkha.
Here’s Alyosha again after I made the danger level too high for the craving for tummy rubs to be met by sitting up on the couch:
Calliope, on the other hand, gives us more of a classic illustration of craving. If dukkha means unsatisfactoriness, she is truly the Poster Cat for dukkha. She is a highly gifted cat who needs constant stimulation, as you can see when she sits on Max’s papers when he is studying Ancient Greek, or meowing insistently when I am at the computer until I take her for a walk in the hallway.
She has a way of flopping on the floor and staring at you when the unsatisfactoriness of life is getting to be too much.
Ignoring her doesn’t make her go away.
She will eventually go and start scratching the window or the cupboard or the wall until you give in. I’ve started trying to resist, but in the case documented in the photographs, the kitty dukkha just continued to mount. As you can see the next morning:
Clearly, the cats have learned to take advantage of my efforts to practice loving kindness toward all beings.
And now I have to use my few functioning brain cells to go deal with some other parts of the giant pile of unsatisfactoriness that is my life these days. I do have some posts in the works that I think you’ll enjoy, so please forgive the delay! I hope these dukkhats (get it? Ha ha! That’s not a real Buddhist term, but it should be) will tide you over.
Meanwhile, azithromycin is my friend. I’ll be back soon after it kicks in.