Thursday, January 27, 2011

being and nothingness

When I studied kung-fu, my teacher used to always say there was nothing more dangerous than a student of three months. He had just enough training to think he had enough training. Push him past that point and he learns that he knows nothing. The more training he has, the less he knows. In the end, the true warrior avoids conflict anyway. Somedays I feel like spiritually I am perpetually three months out in life.

I don't know why I am telling you this. I just want to write and I can't write. I spend a great deal of my spare time reading about what other people think about God and humanity and life, and I have never quite made up my own mind. This fucking koan is stuck in my head again: if you have a stick, I will give you one. If you don't have a stick, I will take one away. I took it once to a philosophy professor. I meditated on it all the time, but it never came to me. "This is not a logical argument," he said. "It is a riddle." And that made me more determined to figure it out. What do you think it means? I finally took out stick and put in truth.

If you have truth, I will give you truth. If you don't have a truth, I will take your truth away.

Maybe it should be God. Or confusion. Or wisdom. Or baby.

The funny thing is that I used to balk when reading these Buddhist stories of monks who meditate on the same koan for years, and I have invested a decade on that one and have nothing.


The only authenticity I have is to admit that I am human. I adapt to my surroundings. But even my adaptations are flawed. And when I unravel my humanness, I realize it is all based on something flawed-fear, reputation, pain, sadness, grief. My experiences seem to lead up to this one point in my life. It is a point of acceptance that I am the sum of all the great flaws of humanity. It doesn't make me special. We all are the sum of flaws. I said that like it's a bad thing, but it's not. It is not bad or good. It just is.

I know nothing. I am nothing. Peel away the layers of me and it boils down to that. This month, I have been absolutely humbled. All of my wisdom, a lie. Well, maybe not all, but I am in a place of absolute bones and bareness. But in this place of absolute vulnerability and fear and nothingness, I am kind of happy. For when I stripped away the things I thought were holding me up, I realized that I had already been standing.


  1. I'm not great with words, but want to reinforce how much I appreciate your sharing with us. Thinking of you as you continue on this journey. Much love.

  2. It just is. i live by that mantra these days. Much gratitude for this Angie...

  3. YEs. Thank you for this. It is so true that the real feat is that we are still standing, we are still standing. I may go one step further and say we are still breathing. Keep writing, it helps so many.

  4. Powerful, confusing, clear and yet not. Thank you for this thought inspiring post. The last bit reminds of the "what things fall apart" book that i'm presently re-reading.

    (((((hugs))))) to you friend.

  5. Absolutely, unbelievably beautiful. I'm about to go sledding and stare at the blankness of snow, and I can't think of a better post to meditate on.

  6. Adaptability is my favourite trait in all the interesting, funny and flawed people I know. xo

  7. Thank you so much... love your blog and thank you for inspiring me to start my own blog from Australia :)) I'm new to all of this.... you and many others have inspired me to start telling my story, and share my journey will you all :) Sorry to hear about your loss.
    Love always,
    New Year Mum xoxo

  8. This is a wonderful, wonderful post. Brainfood.

  9. Sometimes when you are hubled, stripped bare to the bone, you can allow yourself to live in the moment.

    Grieving and children are great for this. There is no time for other thoughts.

    These last years, I feel like I know nothing.

  10. I love this bit:
    "But in this place of absolute vulnerability and fear and nothingness, I am kind of happy."

    And I think Ya Chun is right - the humbling effect of grief. And knowing nothing is so much harder than it sounds!

  11. 'if you have a stick, I will give you one. If you don't have a stick, I will take one away.'

    It's stuck in my head now too. I'm not sure what it means but I think you could substitute in any of your suggestions.

    The last sentence of this post is so beautiful. That we can still stand, despite our lack of props and wisdom, flaws and all. Surely there must be something in that?

  12. My name is Londyn and my son Calder was born still on Valentines day. It has been only 11 days but I have done a lifetime of changing. I have been reading a ot of blogs but yours seems to make me feel like reaching out. I think your posts are awesome. I am glad to find a place where I feel I belong. Thank you for your story. Your kids are darling.


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