The Buddha taught that there are three principal characteristics of human existence: impermanence, egolessness, and suffering or dissatisfaction. According to the Buddha, the lives of all beings are marked by these three qualities. Recognizing these qualities to be real and true in our own experience helps us to relax with things as they are.
Alex Steffen’s Optimistic Environmentalism
I love the idea that there is a proper technique to living on this planet. For too long we’ve had this romantic notion that nature’s perfect, and humanity has fallen from grace, and there’s really no way to be a human being and not abuse nature. But if we view how we live on the planet as a matter of technique, we can see ourselves not as evil but as ignorant. These things are happening because of our poor choices, not because of our nature. We can make better choices. The future isn’t already written.
I readily confess: I do not relish aging. As I close in on the age of sixty, I can’t understand how life’s waters, pure and rushing, have so mysteriously carried me here; how the moon keeps on with its rhythms and the sun rises and falls and the days pass faster and faster as I use up my allotment of breaths and move toward death.
“Submit to Mother India,” a veteran traveler advised me before I left New York, and I intended to take her advice to heart. I steeled myself for nothing to go according to plan. I was prepared to get gruesomely ill at some point. I was prepared to let India have its way with me. “You can’t prepare yourself for India,” my well-traveled friend had also said.
We were standing, about ten of us, at the top of the Fanaråkbreen Glacier, bound together by a thick rope and a common desire not to disappear under thin ice. It was the height of summer in Norway, and down below, the annual glacial melt was well underway.
We went deeper into the ocean, cold water wrapping us, white foam clinging to our skin. I carried your soft, floppy body, your sweaty cheek resting against my shoulder, your right eye — the good one — wide and staring up at my face. I felt my way along the sandy bottom, trying to step lightly where there were stones, until finally, struggling with your weight, I began to kick so that we were both floating, heads bobbing above the waterline, beyond the waves to where the water grayed and frigid sea pulled at us.