moments

Just some thoughts, as I plod along here day by day.  I know me; I have to write every day or this won’t work.

One of the most revelatory moments of my life – as in, literally, a moment – was when the clocks struck midnight to begin January 1, 2000.

That moment I was chanting – or catching my breath between bursts of chanting.  For Nichiren Buddhists the big holiday is New Years.  We didn’t necessarily do anything more than any other day, and most Buddhists party or sleep in – do what people normally do New Year’s Eve.  But a lot chant as midnight approaches, sometimes stop to watch the ball drop on TV, sometimes chant into it, usually begin an extra set of prayer recitation (daily morning and evening prayers are two chapters from the Lotus Sutra nominally recited in muggo, medieval Japanese).

I was at the annual gathering at Andrea’s house – she happens to live down the street from the house I grew up in.  Several of us , maybe 10, were arrayed in chairs or kneeling on the floor on little benches chanting to her altar which enshrined the mandala.  We chanted through the midnight moment, the first moment of The New Millenium.

And nothing happened.

The calendar flipped all 4 numbers for the first time in 40 generation.  That moment my ancestors were huddled in their hovels or bedrolls under the stars or more secure somewhere in their lord’s stoneworks in the middle of a dark cold night in the middle of the Little Ice Age.  They didn’t think of time as we do, so the mechanical clinkage of clockface hands or the glower of numbers in a little screen would have meant nothing to them.  To them it was all heartbeats and hunger as the sun or the moon and stars arched slowly above the trees.

But we feel moments as ticks on a grand clock.  We know that at 10:00 tonight, give or take 10 seconds, Seinfeld will be on a specific channel again.   Like a robot barreling down on us, unstoppable, inexorable.

Buddhism attempt to tell us that this moment is center.  There are no other moments.  All time falls and grows and drapes from this omphalos of the world.  But I never quite got that, seriously.

Anyway, this magic moment, the tick from 1999 to 2000, which I had looked to in awe as a kid, whenever it happened as I was chanting before and after it, was no different from any other moment.

It contained nothing special.  Nothing special changed in me.  It felt no different from any of the other millions, billions maybe, of moments that my life slips through.

Maybe I was looking for, expecting, the wrong thing.  Well, obviously I was.

But that vaunted millennial moment was no more important than any other.  Like nothing is more special than any other.

On of my sayings – my own, although I think Isaac Asimov said pretty much the same thing – is, “Life is really about what happens the day after ‘happily ever after’.”  Time keeps rolling.

As Nichiren said, “Blossoms become fruit, and brides become mothers-in-law.”

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