Some children were playing beside a river. They made castles of sand. Each child defended their castle and said “This one is mine.” They kept them separate and wouldn’t let any mistakes about whose was whose. And when they were finished, sometimes they visited but sometimes they fought. The owner of one castle got angry and pulled the other child’s hair. “You spoiled my castle!” They all kind of ganged up on one child and then he found other friends. We know how human beings are.
But then evening came. It was getting dark and they all thought it was time to go home. Their mothers were calling them. And no one cared what became of their castle. One child stomped on his. The waves washed over another. And they turned away and they all went back home.
Paraphrase of an Early Buddhist text
They feel so solid, these opinions of mine. They belong to me. My identity is forged in the fire of what I know and what I want. My muscles are tight, ready to reject any incursion into my territory.
I wrote this in the present tense, but that’s not true. They speak of a younger Bruce. I wonder where he went. I could defend my castle with the best of them. After all, I created it. And isn’t that supremely important – what I create? Somebody wrote a book called Create Your Own Reality. I bought that idea for a long time.
Today my identity feels far more fluid, like the tide rolling over the sand castle. It feels like something immense is carrying me. I still make an impact on the world … or is it more accurate to say that an impact is made in my presence?
“I want this. I want that.” Where have those thoughts gone? “This aspect of my life will stay the same until I die.” That one’s disappeared too. I wonder who’s in control. And I smile when I realize that it’s not me.
I suppose this sounds passive to many of you, an abdication of my power to effect change. But from inside this body, it doesn’t feel that way. There’s a wave that washes over. If there’s an I hanging around, it’s not solid at all.
Creating things – building monuments that speak of my impact on the world – doesn’t feel true anymore. What makes me smile is knowing that it’s time for surfing.