Hola mi gente,
I was trying to see if I could work one of the stalls at the San Genaro Festival in Little Italy, but didn’t have much luck. Not a long term solution, but it could provide some off-the-books cash that I can use to pay off my phone bill. I’m going back today to see what’s up. Back in the day (I grew up in the Smith Projects, just a few blocks or so from Little Italy), before Giuliani Time, the mob ran the festival and it was the easiest thing to do to get a gig there. No more…
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The Illusion of Control
We are disappointed if we fail, but we are doomed if we don’t try.
— Beverly Sills
Check it out: we cannot directly control people, events, or results. If you can understand and integrate this simple principle, you will have serenity, patience, and some measure of wisdom. This is the basic tenet of nonattachment, a common thread found in actualized or realized human beings.
While we cannot control whether we win a game, hit a homerun, find love, succeed in business, or (duh) create world peace, by making the effort we improve the odds of achieving what we desire. No matter what we think or feel, doubt or fear, who are parents are, our efforts still shape our lives.
Nonattachment, however, is sometimes difficult to understand if you haven’t experienced it. Attachment is the classic Western way: striving to gain fulfillment through the acquisition of material goods and status. Nonattachment is realizing that the material is impermanent. Cars get old or totaled, jewelry can’t replace human connection, happiness comes and goes — everything changes and clinging in an impermanent world has to lead to suffering.
Nonattachment doesn’t mean you don’t care, or that you renounce the world. Rather, it means that you can see through the charade and act accordingly. Using my current situation as an example, I put the effort to send out my resumes, submit writing samples, pound the pavement, but I have no control over the decision-making/ hiring process. Exerting, or attempting to exert control over people (those who hire) I have no control over, equals unnecessary suffering on my part.
Let me illustrate this through a teaching story a former teacher gave to me…
One day a man’s car broke down in front of the monastery. He knocked on the gate and was attended by the monks who hosted him for the night, fed him, fixed his car, and wished him a safe journey the next day. Before he left, however, the man asked the monks about the source of a wondrous sound he had heard throughout the night.
They answered, “We cannot reveal this because you are not a monk.”
The traveler went on his way, but such was the beauty of the sound that he could never forget it. Several years later, he caught a flat tire in front of the same monastery. Again, the monks welcomed him, fed him, and fixed his tire. That night he heard the same amazing sound he had heard years earlier.
Again he asked, but he received the same reply: “We cannot tell you. You are not a monk.”
But now the traveler was certain why fate had brought him to the monastery — he had to learn the source of the sound.
“Alright,” he said. “I shall become a monk. What must I do?”
He was informed that he must travel the world and count every crucifix in every church in the world. So he began his journey. Through great hardship, and facing many dangers, traveling to the most isolated places, he trekked for 40 years.
Finally, he returned. “I have traveled the ends of the planet and did what you asked,” he announced. “I found 370,771 crucifixes in all the churches in the world.”
The monks bowed in respect. “Congratulations, you are now a monk. We will now show you the path to the sound.” They led him to a huge wooden door and gave him a key. “Seek and ye shall find,” they said.
Beyond that door he found a dark cave and a series of other doors, with their keys hidden within the darkness. Finally, after days of seeking, he found the final key, opened the door, and was amazed to find the source of the strange and sublime sound, worth all his journeys.
But I cannot tell you more because you are not a monk. And that, boys and girls, is nonattachment.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…