essays on suffering and awakening

Cracks in the monolith

Regardless of our political persuasions, I think many of us have seen the American government as, if not an unstoppable force, certainly as close to an immovable object as exists in this world. The only constants are death and taxes, the joke goes, and what is the IRS a part of?

Of course, right now, the government has been shut down for a month and counting, and nearly a million federal workers haven’t been paid for their labor. Cracks are appearing in the monolith. While the Senate could vote to reopen the government tomorrow, today, who knows if that will happen?

To see this is to remember that even the mightiest mountain eventually crumbles into dust. But for me, at least, it is also another reminder that as poetic as impermanence can be, the turning of the wheel can also lead to great suffering.

A lot of people aren’t getting paychecks they count on. Folks are going to bed hungry, scared they can’t pay the rent. The cold doesn’t care how eloquently we can describe the changing nature of the seasons.

That’s why wisdom is best coupled with compassion. Really, those two qualities are part of the same whole—the understanding that everything changes and everyone matters, that just because there is a way out of suffering doesn’t mean the suffering isn’t real. That feeding the hungry is as important as knowing that hunger, too, shall pass.

We can see that attachment and delusion is the root cause of suffering and recognize that attached or not, people need to eat.

In that spirit, I would urge those who can to make a donation to a local food bank to help those affected by the government shutdown (or anyone else who needs a meal). Since many federal employees live in the Washington, DC area, the Capital Area Food Bank is a good choice. I would also suggest contacting your senators and asking them to vote to reopen the government.

Whether things are coming together or falling apart, we all benefit from sharing kindness along the way.

Ian Cooper