Saturday, November 3, 2018
While My Catarrh Gently Seeps
I believe it was the Buddha, as well as my Grandma, who said, “All life is suffering.” Whatever it is, whatever happens, you’re up, you’re down, you’re flat on your back in the hospital. There’s a major inflammation in your lower tract. It can’t be traced. Even surgery gives no relief; you’re worse off than when you first began.
The “wheel of life” is a concept from one of the major faiths. On this wheel of life, once you’ve spun it, you see what you get. All the usual aches, pains, diseases, and, last but not least, inflammations. Cuts, sores, piles, wounds, chafing, burns, sunburn, and catarrh. Proving the old adage beyond dispute, If it ain’t one thing, it’s another. With no end in sight, no good end anyway. Death, the grave, decomposition, and so forth till you’re lost and completely forgotten.
I see ambulances racing down the street all the time. Your life is precious. The sirens are wailing, they go through stop lights, because you can’t wait, the time is now, your need is urgent, every second counts in this drama of life and death. Minutes later you’re at the hospital, where they spend the next two hours getting your personal information, insurance, height and weight. Then it’s three hours later until a doctor's available. You could be dead by now, you know, but at least you saved 8 seconds at that last red light.
I probably should look up Buddha before I say definite things about him. But I’m winging it. From the little I know, nearly everything about Buddha is up for grabs anyway, depending on what country you’re from and what line of Buddhism you follow. So whatever I say is true somewhere in the world. The story may be familiar to you: Buddha’s dad kept him in the palace, not wanting him to see the outside world. Because Buddha Sr. knew the outside world was full of suffering. Then Buddha Jr. went into the outside world and discovered it was full of suffering.
Which I also discovered. You pick up on it right away, the first day of kindergarten. A kid on the playground breaks his arm, you kiss a girl on the jungle gym and she ends up with someone else, the teacher counts you tardy if you’re not in class when the bell goes off. Then there’s the rest of existence out of the sight of your protective parents. Now, too, once you’ve seen the suffering in the world — duplicity, backstabbing, lying, and sin — you even notice it in your parents, how unfair they are, even unjust. The foods they want you to eat, vegetables, are terrible and provide no nutritional value that you can’t get with straight sugar.
I also think cable TV is terrible suffering, except Monday Night Football and the Sunday games. You want it, you get it, it doesn’t make you happy; pillow commercials day and night. That’s the meaning of suffering.
Sex is suffering. The words “Regrets, I’ve had a few...” surely were written about sex. But what can you do? It’s the highest aspiration and at the same time the lowest. Great in concept, devastating in practice, unless you’re about to have a baby, then that’s a good payoff, but of course he or she will suffer, disappoint, die, etc. Abstaining is also suffering. But if you want to suffer and yet have more interesting payoff than dying rugrats, keep it zipped, wear coarse underwear, lock your hands behind your back, sleep and never wake up. Say you do wake up, keep the underwear on; it’s not painful enough to hurt you, it just keeps you on your toes when you walk or shift.
A couple of the diseases I should look up: Catarrh and Piles.
Catarrh? I got a catarrh once for Christmas and mom and dad even threw in catarrh lessons. A guy taught me several chords and I strummed myself silly, like other strumpets. Catarrh is also an old fashioned word for a dreaded condition, having to do with something like bad breath, a queasy tummy, or possibly worse. You’d think catarrh music is beautiful to listen to — say, Segovia — but still there’s also this damned curse of catarrh. When the catarrh’s out of tune, or the strings have lost their twang. On my catarrh, I used to take a file to the strings just to clean them of the filth on my fingers, like if I’d just dug potatoes. But a little dirt is good on catarrh strings, like the grunge music of the 90s.
I used to know a girl who played catarrh. She pulled off the G string and got the party started. Making beautiful music together. Which reminded me, oh yeah, I forgot the coarse underwear, which (as a reminder) keeps you on your toes when you walk or shift.
What about Piles? I should look this one up, too, but I think my sweet imagination is better than the medical encyclopedia. We know what it is when the dog leaves piles behind. They start at the behind, and that’s where they’re left. Some excrescences. Some are blatantly dropped, that’s the majority, the heart of the matter. Other piles cling, causing discomfort to the animal, no doubt, then their scooting across the floor messes up the carpet. Here in the Big City, the place I’m staying has hardwood floors, which the dog finds both comfortable and uncomfortable, depending on the effort she goes through to relieve herself.
The word piles is a good term, definitely evocative. Like if you had piles of money, like the Disney character who kept his money in a vault and was diving in it day and night. Piles and piles of piles can be a deadly thing, though.
Cuts, sores, wounds. That's all self explanatory. You get enough cuts, sores, and wounds, you’ll look back and discover you wound up in the hospital. I never cut myself. I’ve heard of people doing that, crazy, terrible fetish. The most pain I cause myself is biting my lip. But it’s not so bad, because I catch myself before there’s any pain. You have to think it through consciously. “I cannot eat myself. What value would that be? Eating is meant to nourish the system, not take the system away." You might remember the story in the Bible where the poor man Lazarus had dogs licking his sores. He was so despondent he took some comfort there. Dogs will lick you if you give them a leg up. Or worse. But that’s not what you should aspire to.
Buddha, he knew what to do about suffering. See through it. Transcend it with insight, realization. The exact science of which you can find in various Buddhist treatises. And from any guru you happen to meet, who finds you worthy to learn the secrets. (Everyone’s worthy, it just takes a while standing in line to make it happen.) Which is itself suffering, to a good purpose, to teach you patience till you learn the rest.
In the meantime, you can observe life itself and get enough teachings and eventually leave the line. Dogs walking by teach you a lot, as sketched out above. Or pick up your own catarrh. Pound out a tune and you’ll find the truth. A man, a woman, they’re very good, but suffering hopelessly if you dive deeply enough. When you find that place, the time for gurus and pills is ended.