All of my life, as far back as I can remember, I've been looking for the end of the movie, the part where the end-credits roll. I thought that if I got this girl, got into that school, got this job, built those muscles, did that major life-task... everything would be OK. It'd all be smooth sailing from there. Roll the credits. Buddhism has a word for it: samsara. The endless chase for the end of the film. And the reason it's an endless chase is that none of those things actually are the end of the film. Even when the hero wins and gets the girl etc, it's not the end of the film. The movie's over when it fades to black...
And what is the fade to black? It's realizing the non-existence of the self, ending desire, because until that happens there'll always be more plot, and plot means some kind of suffering because movies where everybody is happy and nothing goes wrong or changes don't exist. I mean, I don't think anybody ever even tried to make a movie like that.
What stops me from mind-training is forgetting this, which is all too easy. It always seems like there's something else, one more thing that has to get done, one last something to take care of before I can really do the work. I don't think it's any mistake that the fetter you gotta drop before ignorance is restlessness. When I'm doing anapanasati and I notice which one of the hindrances is tripping me up, 90% of the time it's restlessness. I'm thinking about how I could have lived my past differently and trying to plot out how I should live my future best instead of watching the breath cross that point. And the reason that hindrance is there during training is that it's in my head all the time. While the jhana factor of bliss will ultimately end restlessness during samatha, it won't do so the rest of the time.
The world is designed to heighten that restlessness, tries to harness it for the greater good. Remember September 11th, day after Bush comes on TV and says “go shopping?” That's it right there. Major tragedy? Go get something to fill the empty void. Oh, I know why he said it; he was trying to prevent the economy from collapsing. But 60 years earlier the Japanese slaughtered just as many Americans at Pearl Harbor and we weren't entirely out of the Great Depression yet. Still, Roosevelt went on the radio and asked Americans to cut back, to make sacrifices, to rally together and give, for the war effort.
In less than 100 years, we Americans went from willingly sacrificing for each other to the post-9/11 mentality that said: let our all-volunteer army handle it. Never mind that they volunteered because they were poor kids who couldn't get into college (or nowadays, are literally foreigners fighting for their American citizenship). Ignore the fact that we didn't give them armor. Overlook the fact that the medical care they receive is so sub-par and we won't cut 'em loose until they've served 4 tours in an Iraqi hellhole. Just keep churning out stuff that'll be obsolete in 2 years for each other to buy.
I see that, I recognize it for what it's worth, but still... a 52” TV would make it easier to read subtitles on those Swedish horror movies. One of them e-readers means I can download and read thousands of books for free. The neighbor just got back from his third tour (Afghanistan, this time), it'd be nice to give him a basket of stuff to welcome him home, but this is the last jar of pear-butter from the summer and I didn't get to try any. My wife, she takes care of me better than anyone else, she's my bestfriend and best lover and she's supporting me through law school, but damn if that ain't a fine ass I'd hit so hard she'd have a concussion...
And that's the dilemma. No matter what, I'm always looking around the corner for the next thing. I know, deep down, it's not going to satisfy. Everything I've got right now didn't satisfy me, doesn't satisfy me: it's dukkha, dissatisfaction, suffering. If it wasn't, I wouldn't be looking 'round the corner. But chances are I'm going to fall for it and go chasing after the next thing I think I need to be complete, make the end-credits roll. Such is samsara, which isn't really a place but a way of life, chasing after desires again and again.