As a boy of 13, I was sent to spend the summer vacation in
One day, the other children, seeing that I was besting them in baseball, invited me for a “swim.” El Yunque is nestled into
I stayed in that small town for most of my vacation and when I left, the whole town came to see me off and everybody cried. By the time my aunt came to get me, I myself was a jibaro: shoeless, mosquito-bitten and toasted a light cinnamon by the Puerto Rican sun. I have never forgotten that experience.
One of the best things about being human is the ability to wonder at ourselves and the world, and be stunned into silence by the magnificent mystery of it all. My sense is that there are too many people with the attitude of “been there, done that” where in actuality they haven’t been anywhere or done much of anything. I am a skeptic, but I am not a cynic. I hope I never lose sight of the very human gift of wonder. For at that time, I will have died... Maybe I wasn’t born in El Yunque, but El Yunque was born in me. I’ve added a song, a very famous Puerto Rican song, called Lamento Borincano (click here for translation/ history) It is performed beautifully by Caetano Veloso. It is a song about El Jibaro.
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-=[ Dependent Origination ]=-
“The fear of letting go prevents you from letting go of the fear of letting go.”
This is the doctrine at the heart Buddhism. You see, my dear reader, it goes this way: you are an insecure collection of coincidences held together by a desperate and irrational clinging. There is no center -- no center at all. Everything depends on everything else, your body depends on the ecology, your thoughts depend on whatever conditioned debris floats in from the media, your emotions are mostly from the reptilian end of your DNA. Your intellect, dear reader, is a chemical computer that can’t add up a zillionth as fast as a pocket calculator. Even your best side is a superficial piece of social conditioning that will fall apart as soon as your significant other leaves with the money in the bank account, or the economy fails and you get the boot, or you get conscripted into some village idiot’s war, or they give you the news about your brain tumor. To name this combination of self-pity, vanity, and despair self is not only the height of conceit, it is also proof that we’re a deluded species.
We are in a trance from birth to death. Burst the balloon and what are you left with?
It’s not only us -- this radical principle applies to the whole sentient world. Dependent origination is not exactly everyone’s cup of tea, I admit. But it does have a compelling point: stop for a moment, still yourself, listen -- and you will find yourself on a planet you no longer recognize. Those needs and fears you thought were the very foundation of your existence turn out to be no more than bugs in your software…