Family and self
I spent last weekend in Daytona Beach, part of a family non-reunion reunion. Daytona has been an annual destination for the last six years, mostly because that’s where my grandmother lived.
She died about a year ago, though, and despite the fact Spring Break Town is mutually inconvenient for most of us — we hail from, among others, Miami, Boca Raton, Orlando, Inverness and Tallahassee — we continue to go. Perhaps it’s habit, some of those strange things we do despite the fact they make no sense. Perhaps we continue to show up at the Daytona Beach Resort, despite the increasingly high prices, Carter Administration-era decor and occasionally surly staff, because the ole DBR reminds us of when grandma was alive.
Joy and suffering
Speaking of habits: I’m looking to start each of my mornings with a 30 to 45 minute written piece, usually to be published in this space. Perhaps I’ll be working on ways to have it automatically (or semi-automatically) crossed posted to Facebook or Twitter or maybe even Medium, but that’s a story for another time. The reason is to keep the writing juices flowing, even when sitting down in front of a keyboard is about the last thing I want to do. This is a small version of the Stephan King method, who (or so I’ve read) has a schedule of writing so specific as to put the Swiss to shame. Even the master himself must dread the blinking cursor some mornings. Unlike most of the rest of us, however, his butt is firmly in chair. One cannot wait for inspiration, or one will wait forever. (Huh. I thought that would have been a quote by someone besides me, but a quick Google search indicates I may be the first recorded instance of that exact formulation.)
Anyhow, I recently finished “Buddhism for Beginners” by Jack Kornfield, and though I don’t think I’m quite ready to sit under a tree and meditate my way to enlightenment, I did get a few takeaways. First, that in the Buddhist tradition, much or maybe all human suffering comes from grasping at things, desiring certain outcomes or just generally trying to change a world that is fundamentally unchangeable. Giving up preference or desire relieves suffering and leads to joy. And second, and relatedly, one cannot change anyone else — they are who they are because of everything they did and all that happened to them up to that point — but you can change both how you see yourself, other people and the larger world.
I bring this up because being around such a large group of aunts, uncles and cousins — my grandmother had seven kids, so we’re quite the brood — brought up a bunch of emotions for me. It made my heart swell to be around so many relatives; it always does. I suspect this has something to do with the fact that for most of my life I lived 3,000 miles away from these folks and rarely saw them. Now I see them frequently, and it is a wonderful part of being in Florida.
But like any family, we have our share of petty dramas. And like any family, most of these are based in our collective inability to get out of our individual own ways. In short, part of the misery each one of us has in our individual lives is firmly rooted in our continuing to do things we know will not bring happiness. I know we know this because talk about it. A lot. But perhaps our attempt to change one another leads to suffering as well. Not sure, but time to get on with the day. Ommmm.