Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Sen. Tim Johnson and Impermanence

Sen. Tim Johnson's (D-S.D.) recent health crisis reminds us of an important Buddhist tenet--our existence in all its forms is impermanent.

As the Dalai Lama has said:

Good fortune is not permanent; consequently, it is dangerous to become too attached to things going well. An outlook of permanence is ruinous. When the present becomes your preoccupation, the future does not matter, which undermines your motivation to engage in compassionate practices for the future enlightenment of others. An outlook on impermanence helps. By seeing that the true nature of things is disintegration, you will not be shocked by change when it occurs, not even death.

The Dalai Lama, from his book, How to Expand Love.

I don't say this and mean that I think Sen. Johnson is going to die. I hope that he gets better and back on the job as quickly as his healing allows. But even medical experts say that Tim will never be quite the same after his recovery as he was before the AVM episode in his brain and the subsequent surgery.

The U.S. Senate may not be the same. South Dakota politics may not be the same. Plans other people made based on certain assumptions about Tim's political ambitions may not be the same. Votes in the Senate may not be the same. Tim's family's plans have changed. Tim's plans have changed. Many things will not be the same.

And none of us can do anything about it other than to accept the fact that Tim's life, my life, your life, everyone's life is full of impermanence.

Just as you can't put your foot in the same river twice, nothing in our lives--our health, our plans, our dreams, our success, our, our power--are permanent.

Sometimes that impermanence hits us like a linebacker. And sometimes it only touches us with a feather. But we are always touched by impermanence.

May Sen. Johnson, his family, his staff, his friends--and all of us and all creatures--be free from suffering.


Anonymous said...

"The only thing that is constant is change."

Someone important said that. I'm not sure who.

Anonymous said...

Good post on the koan of impermanance. The Soto Zen master Dogen reports that he picked up the taste for enlightenment at his mother's funeral. Watching the incense smoke drift up and disperse, he got a hint of the truth about existence.