Impermanence is the first mark of experience common to all human beings. The second one is what Buddhists call no-fixed-self. Like uncertainty and unpredictability, no-fixed-self was a concept unique to the Buddha’s teaching. He took the radical step of applying impermanence even to what we think of as our self. Twenty-five hundred years later, neuroscientists are coming to the same conclusion; they’re finding multiple circuitry in the brain, but no fixed seat of the self. As Pema Chödrön noted… “nothing is static or fixed”. That would include this notion of self.
Some months ago I wrote,
It’s a great comfort to know that God’s presence is waiting in… times of emptiness and loss, but it is confusing to know that finding him in the good times is sometimes actually harder. I cannot find another way than the odd self-denial of silent prayer, ceasing even to ask for the awareness of God in prayer, but going on in plain faithfulness, without reward, simply out of love. Then, it seems, in the paradoxical way of these things, God will in the end, even in the sunlit days, find the emptied heart in its still place, waiting in the bare inkling of Light, even in the memory of Light, and fill it with isness far more real than words, or longing.
I think that for me, part of the problem is that when things are difficult it is relatively easy to accept impermanence; when they are good, then we want to retain them, guard them, just as we would keep those we love free from age and disease. Of course, if we were to manage to keep them safe from change, they would no longer live, since life itself is process, flux.
That is why clinging to the good times is so deadening. We can’t do it; but the mere attempt is enough to freeze our hearts, cut us off from the sweet life that burns in the fragility of now. All that lives is vulnerable, changeable, fleeting. That is its beauty, and its tenderness. Only the mercy of God is constant love; love is the Light that plays on the dappled stream of change. and we call it life.