Clouds and the Road to the End of the Mind

Have you been on the road to the end of the world?  Today I rode that road, but the world did not end.

Instead the clouds converged and moved in ways I’ve never before seen, which is something that happens once a week in Bhutan.  These white shapeless shapes of undefined definition move quickly but slowly – they ride up a cliffside enveloping you in a blink but do it so slowly that it is your only clue that this is not smoke.  With a sulfuric tinge this might be Hell, and with Maradona’s hand this might be the opposite, so closely related is the imagery of those extreme places by which rules purportedly written in permanent ubiquity govern.

But we know that’s not the case, and instead these clouds make one look for more.  They are transparent and opaque, silent and cacophonous, turbid and still.  They are permanence and impermanence in one look, and most of all they are perceptible and imperceptible.

Many have claimed that suffering, and the dissociation from the false but common perception of one’s personal control of one’s fate, leads to a type of learning that generates genius. I am not one to argue. Adaptability and impermanence trump fear and conceit, and the one who realizes this finds comfort in their own impermanence. Indeed it is only when one can fully evict fear and conceit that the idea of impermanence is comforting.

These ideas have passed through my mind before as they did again today as I watched the clouds.  This is not an endpoint.  And this is not the proverbial ‘coming to terms with mortality’, this is a rejection that mortality exists as mortality infers some kind of inherent permanence to life or that we think we deserve permanence and that mortality takes it from us.

So if I accept impermanence, and reject mortality why can I not also reject birth and life?  If the clouds can exist and not exist at the same time perhaps I am the same.  Sitting in a car moving on the edge of a cliff through clouds can lead the mind in mysterious ways, and at this point I might think of myself as lacking existence, a foamy physical nonentity that contains only energy and direction.  I raise my supposed arm to view my supposed hand with the full expectation that I will instead be a transparent nothing.

But my hand is there.  I am in this moment disappointed to learn that I am so much less than an idea.

I hate my hand, my leg, my foot, all of which I can see and which seem to exist, but I am overjoyed at the clouds that made me think for one moment that I was something permanent.

Photos from the Road to the End of the World


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