The sutra of snowfall
The only thing I believe in is myself, and even that I know is a lie.
This is a truly tragic circumstance and I come upon this realization as I nurse my petrified pride rooting in the tangles of my stomach, staring at a flurry of April snowflakes that seem to be making mockery of the birdsong I hear pleading from the nearby scattering of trees.
Oh sure we speak, all of us, of the higher things, our eyes ever cast toward heaven, our minds drunk upon the sweet ambrosia of our own philosophies — but how real are those heights, when your feet sink into the mud? What do you do, when you plead to the sky, and an empty grey void peers lifelessly back?
Yet I am here. I've always been here. There hasn't been a moment where I did not exist, for I have not known of existence where there was not myself, even if in truth I can no longer recall the rhythms of my birth, or infancy — only fleeting, scattered and transient recollections inform me of a past that I think probably was. I can believe in myself, even if that's not a very strong belief — indeed, somewhat brittle and clumsy, particularly on slippery sidewalks.
Yet a man needs something to believe in. It is our nature to find meaning within the world, which itself is perpetually at risk of being naught but a mindless storm of chaos. That's the fear, isn't it? That ultimately the orders of the world, the laws with which we have observed, the importance of which our mastery of it is will all amount to nothing more but senseless noise. Our lives and deaths weren't simply pointless, they were also insignificant.
A dreadful thought!
I thought of such things one night, as a gremlin of nerves clawed its way up the back of my throat, and as I did it began to snow. It was a dark, and I in my car, staring through the windshield as thick clumps of snowflakes — tandem skydivers! — drifted balletic from a sky I could not see. They spun lightly, airily, tossed about by an ever-tempestuous wind, demure and flirtatious, only to be quickly taken, spun and pirouetted and brought down ardently to the earth.
Are they not as fairies upon the ether? They could barely be said to exist at all — a mere touch reduces them to formless matter, the purest clarity of water, the origin of all things.
Yet if left to fall they shall dance, dance all the while, and upon the fertile ground they shall build upon those who came before, their histories piled into drifts that form mountains. Some last for mere hours; others for many months. Certainly, one day even the most well-hidden snows will melt. Yet just as certainly, fresh snow falls. It dances now, this merry winter sprite, and I feel it is making mockery of me, winking as it laughs and spins 'round.
The snow seems not to mind not having a mind. The snow doesn't seem to believe in anything at all. It is carried, a victim of the wind's moods and yet to dances without objection. Though bound, it is jubilant. It is splendid as it falls, a pattern intricate and unique as no other before, and yet unending in their variety.
These tiresome legions, a wear-me-down weather that has battered and bruised an already lonesome frame have at once transformed. From the sky they come, to the earth they go, and they shall nourish the land until at last they are released, raptured by the sun.
I recall a fleeting, but persistent memory of revelation. A time when I heard the thunderous symphony that echoes in the silence of a stilled mind. For a moment I felt that primordial sensation — being adrift in a warm sea, the waters saturated with love, unconditional, unrepentant, unwavering love. So absolute it was! I felt then as I do now — that I was being laughed at, kindly. That there was nothing I should be so afraid of — my fears and anxieties, which rule my waking life, were really so trivial that they might as well be laughed at. And not simply that, but the very act of living — conflict, conquest, consumption — all of it was quite insignificant—and this realization was a relief.
And who was I, then? No one. Everyone. Devoid of concept, I was for an instant free of every concern, of every fear, of all worry. I could breathe for the first time.
That's what nirvana means, you know. Literally translated, it means "blow out" — as one might blow out a candle. Breathe out. Upon the pneuma all concepts flee. Yet there remains something there. Beyond ideas. Beyond skin and bone and gray matter. Beyond time and beyond space. It is me. I am it.
The snowflakes dance out my window. How could I have forgotten that I was dancing with them?