“Impermanent are all created things; Strive on with awareness.”

My immediate reaction to reading this was physical because I shivered. True, it’s cold in here, but I wonder about this reaction? First I thought I was paranoid but then I thought, no paranoia isn’t this feeling. I sat still for a second and realized this was recognition coming in a different form.

As a philosophy student I’ve heard similar phrases of the world being in a constant state of flux (Heraclitus), Parmenides. The world is a process (Alfred North Whitehead), the world is change between good (construction) and evil (destruction) (Nietzsche); the world is chaos…descriptions of impermanence ad infinitum….

But this time, when I read these words I felt it. I felt how impermanent we are and how important it is to be aware of this. These are the words of Buddha, spoken in 486 BC at 80 years of age – noted by one internet source to be his last words before he died. I believe this internet source.

I want to develop a spirit of understanding of what I think I need versus what I really need. And I’ve fetishized Buddhism in my mind as being the vehicle to this extra-psychical awareness, to spiritual awareness. I told my mother about my contemplations while she was braiding my hair last month and she yanked at it, like she would when I was young and making it hard for her to braid. She said, from her devout Orthodox perspective, that Buddhists have been bought by Satan because they believe in the creatures God created rather than the creator himself.

So for months my brushes with Buddhism were halted. My friends received emails from me sporadically asking if I should do-away with my exalted shoe and bag collection. I entertained, quite literally (via actively seeking recognition and approval), the thought of my transition to a more spiritual existence but shuddered at the thought of being compared to Tina Turner. Or Madonna (mid-1990s). Or Richard Gere (although he’s a beautiful man). Or anyone who has not been raised a buddhist. Anyone who ran to an age-old religion as a form of escape from daily life.

But is this not religion anyway? I’m not going to quote Marx here, but it is true to a degree that religious people are escapist. Many religious people I know would like to live in that physical reaction forever, shivering, praying to God for solace and comfort.

Surprisingly, when I am in church and I smell the incense and the sounds of the bells and melodic liturgy, I am overcome by emotion and, although I don’t remember shivering per se, I know that I’ve cried.

Perhaps my brushes with buddhism are a reminder to live spiritually and not necessarily the cue to convert. But what I fear is that, if all life is impermanent, won’t I get over this feeling? Will not (will’nt should be a word) this feeling of awareness become the sharp pragmatism I’m known for by tomorrow?

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