Buddhism in the Bardo: War is Hell

If you win an argument, then you haven’t really won much. If you win a battle, you’ve won even less. Nobody wins unless we all win. And this is especially true in times of war, when everything you love is on the table (“don’t swallow the cap”) and everything you love is out to sea (The National), and you’re lucky to even find a moment for a sniff between the tears, in which to catch your breath and convince yourself that life is worth living, despite any evidence to that effect.

But instinct tells you to keep on keeping on, since to end it all is to end the process of deliberation, also, which is an unforgiveable sin, to end a narrative without closure, to end a story without a suitable reason for ending, which is tantamount to treason, and in violation of the ‘fourth-quarter clause’ which states that every game is winnable if given enough time and given enough grace, and given enough love scattered all over the place, such that any uncertain outcome at least carries with it the possibility of personal redemption, if not outright victory in battle.

Or you could become a renunciant, in the purest sense, a rishi, or maybe a Jain, if you really need a name, in which none of these concerns should really concern us. After all, what could Putin do if Ukrainians simply refused to cooperate, letting him take whatever he wants, but ultimately refusing to cooperate in the slightest? If you’ve already renounced all family and possessions, then what leverage does he have over you? In this scenario, the ‘I’ at the center of your identity is nothing really, simply a pragmatic and conventional set of characteristics that makes it simpler to order dinner, without really proving much in the process.

Or you could become a Buddhist, splitting the difference, until there is no difference left to split, like Zeno’s paradoxes, going halfway until you never really get anywhere, or at least not to any final destination. Because where is there to really go, now, anyway? So, you plant seeds in anticipation of a harvest, knowing full well and good that sometimes it doesn’t always work out that way, but so what? Sometimes thy cup runneth over, so hopefully it all balances out, if you know how to deal with that.

Because the whole rap about ‘living in the present’ is so overblown as to remove much of its shine and luster, which is substantial. And it’s often credited to Buddhism, but I don’t remember the Buddha ever saying anything like that, though the lifestyle might imply it. But Jesus did, that rap about the birds not building barns, yet God still provides for them, EXCEPT that birds DO build barns, though we usually call them ‘nests.’ But that doesn’t mean that they have to be full.

Our mantra in the West is to ‘live life to the fullest,’ and that is where we often go wrong. Because it neither has to be full nor empty. It merely has to be rewarding in its simplicity. But that is an act of consciousness. The recent discovery that most hippos die as virgins confirms the brute force with which the Alpha male often rules his little kingdom, and hams the harem, while the rest of us get sloppy seconds and a pocketful of tissues. But homo sapiens is defined by consciousness, so that won’t work. Now, somebody go tell Putin, before he kills us all. All he needs is Enlightenment…