Worldy Winds (written 2016)
So there is this thing about being a writer. Most of the work is done in solitude...just me, my computer and the dog by my chair. Sometimes there is a flurry of e-mails or even a phone call with an editor or, if the piece is non-fiction, then with a source or subject. And then the piece is submitted.
Things that are written on spec (that is, not requested, assigned or pre-approved) and are not successful, go in a file and maybe get sent elsewhere or re-configured down the road. Maybe not.
Over the years, a lot of my work has seen print, or, these days, been published in electronic form. Most of my stuff meets with little fuss. Textbooks. Small audience literary or genre magazines. Some glossies with specialized audiences. Maybe newsletters. A few anthologies. I have a lot of practice with “obscurity”.
“Obscurity” or“Insignificance” is one half of the pair that also contains “fame”, one set in the Buddha's list most often called The Eight Worldly Winds. I'm sure you'll have had experience with these yourself. You'll also be acquainted with the other three pairs in this set: loss and gain, praise and blame, joy and sorrow. These pretty much tally up the vagaries of human existence.
But my thoughts today are about the current experience I'm in the midst of. When, now and then, something I've written catches attention among a wider audience of those who know me, beyond my family and closest friends, I get a taste of that partner to going unnoticed...fame. At least local fame.
What we're used to dealing with on the practice path doesn't cause too much stir after a long while. Been there done that, we say. I can deal with being unnoticed. The opinions of others are unimportant really. That's not what I'm in this for. All those things. The mind doesn't have too much fuel for misbehaving or taking off on story-lines. The surprise is when life gives us a taste of the unexpected. It can go either way. From the negative to the positive or the positive to the negative. It's the unusual experience that wakes us up. The hero caught cheating, for instance, might be shocked by rejection. Or Eeyore winning a lottery. What would he do with his woeful attitude?
So I was talking about “fame”. Being published in an anthology of writing by Canadian Buddhist Women is exciting to me. It's close to my heart because Dhamma, the Buddhist practice path, is so important to me. It works. But I had to smile when the editor who has asked for each contributor to do what she can to promote the book, also sagely warned me to “watch ego”. She's a Buddhist practitioner too, of course. Ego is just a more familiar term for created self. We understand it instinctively unlike the tricky teaching of anatta or no-self, that is central to Buddhist philosophy. I am not my accomplishments. I am not someone at all. There is just this stream of experiencing, and if I get tied up in identifying with some description of “me”, then I'll create suffering. Back to the hero who felt above it all and is not prepared for the fall. And sad little Eeyore who self-describes as a loser. For someone who expects to lose, winning can be scary. He might deliberately lose his ticket before he cashes it in.
So, watching the ego here means for me that I remember that this current experience is just a moment in the flow that is my life. It is pleasant, mostly, maybe a bit uncomfortable at times; it is gratifying and satisfying. But it comes along with the grocery shopping, walking the dog, sad friends to comfort, and stunning sunrises. It's part of the mundane, the beautiful and the difficult. A wind blowing through.