Proust, Nietzsche & ZEN

I ran across an article that was a very powerful read offering a lot of insight called “Why Should I Appreciate Life?” which I changed for myself in a small but very significant way to “Why Should I Appreciate My Own Life?”

The author begins by pointing out Mezumi Roshi response to the author’s feeling of his missed opportunities and poor choices by saying simply “Please encourage yourself” and Nietzsche challenged us in the very same way.  Regardless of the painful difficulties, the losses, the failed endeavors we should still wake up every morning, loving our life just the way it is.  The task is to take the whole of life, own it, embrace it, include it and finally appreciate it – what Nietzsche called “knowledge acquired through suffering.”

The Zen Master Maezumi Roshi wrote that the capacity to tolerate the truth about oneself and the world and to set aside all the self soothing delusions, to see things as they really are, to love it all- the good along with the bad-is the road to real freedom.

I find it too hard to love all the stupid mistakes I made, the laziness, the fear of rejection, or being ignored, all the things that caused me to hide my light under a bushel, to turn and run home for the night.  I grew tried of all the advice about “networking’, meeting the right people.  I remember at one point, listening to someone give this same advice and feeling a deep exhaustion clouding over me, pulling me down into silent lethargy, zapping my energy.

Nietzsche of course had a very difficult, disappointing life with many hardships.  And yet he understood what must be done.  Like all composer, he loved music and he found a perfect description of his insight through music.  In the Gay Science he wrote “One must learn to love.”  He talks about our love of music believing it was innate but was cultivated through the many, many hours listening.  That music soon becomes a part of us like my experience in the MRI Tube where I “played” Joni Mitchell’s Heijira in my head because I knew it was about 45 minutes.  Even when my mind strayed or got panicky, the songs played in another layer of my mind and kept time.  As the last song ended, so did my ordeal in the tube.  This is the way love is acquired, loving through patience and discipline.   As we learn to love to this way, new space opens inside us for love to move into, take up residence.  Even then the love and appreciation of just who we are becomes possible.  “Let that be my love from now on,” he writes.  “Someday I want to be a Yes-sayer.”

Proust lived in Paris, alone in small house with a few servants.   He was asthmatic and generally treated like weak and sickly person from childhood into adulthood.  He was also gay which resulted in many difficulties including a duel where thankfully no one was injured.

One day the maid brings him lime tea and some madeleines (cookies) and like a spark that turns the tinder into flame, he wrote “Memories Of Things Passed” for several years sparked by this single event.  Though there were stops and starts near the beginning as well as confusion for him, eventually he learned that same love of life by honestly following the path that had been opened and by loving all parts without judgment bringing back one of the greatest novels ever written,

As they say “Love the truth and the truth will set you free.”   I might add “Learn to love the truth and the truth will set you free.”

Richard Isen

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