Jan 11 2023 - Terror and Wonder

“Only as a warrior can one survive the path of knowledge,” he said. “Because the art of a warrior is to
balance the terror of being [alive] with the wonder of being [alive].”

 -Don Juan, Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda, p. 156

Committing to just 1) staying here and 2) staying upright sometimes (like today) feels like the most impossible and heroic task on offer. Fundamentally I want to just run away from being human and being alive in this moment more than anything. You may think I’m being dramatic, but even a cursory review of the constant outflow of attention (distraction) in the world tells me I’m in good company. Massive industries are built around fleeing from ourselves; entertainment, sport, media, gaming, relentless self-improvement, all soaking up vast sums of money (energy) and attention (time) daily.

All of these things can feel wonderful, but no amount of enjoyment is going to change this basic sense of aliveness right here and now. One quality of sensation ends and another one begins. There is no type of experience available, no matter how blissful, that I’m not alive for and experiencing. There’s absolutely nowhere to run and, at a totally primal level, nothing ever changes. No matter how fiercely I love something, that person, place, thing or activity won’t last. The time I’ve “wasted” proving this to myself over and over has been invaluable, yet still some part of me remains unconvinced. This is the terror of being alive.

All things change, but when they do, I am still here. I alone. It is utterly hopeless to think that fundamentally my experience of life will change. This changes everything for me. The same awareness that returns everything to dust is the same ground from which all beauty miraculously appears, and through it all I remain somehow right here witnessing and influencing life. A mysteriously empty center in the midst of great, endless activity. Everything changes, and nothing changes. This is the wonder of being alive.