Looking up into the canopy of the forest, I find it hard to distinguish between individual leaves. There are too many overlapping shades of green between shadows and sunlight for me to clearly differentiate one leaf from another. I look at the shafts of light filtering through the leaves and think of the English translation of that Japanese word that has been on my mind so much lately: komorebi, written in the original language as 木漏れ日.

A black t-shirt imprinted with 木漏れ日, the symbols printed with green ink, might help me be more at ease. Those Japanese symbols—carved into a piece of cherry wood that I could hang on the wall near the place on my desk where I keep my book, The Essence of Zen—might temper my mood. Perhaps those reminders of gentleness and serenity and calm acceptance would settle me.

I need settling. My reactions to utterly inconsequential irritants in my world lately have been enormously over-sized. I don’t know precisely what triggered emotional explosions within the past few days, but something is awry. Volcanic eruptions take place for reasons, but explanations do not excuse them.

If I could distinguish between the leaves, would that clarity lead to greater serenity? If the sunlight filtering through the forest canopy were softer, would I be softer, too?

My public persona is a sham. I am not the person I want others to see. Beneath the soft filtered sunlight settling on me is a fraud, an imposter who hopes his occasional good behavior will eventually change his psyche. It hasn’t worked yet and there are no outward (or inward) signs it will. A dog can wish and wish and wish and wish it could become a human but that will never happen. But we don’t know that, do we? We cannot prove a negative theory. So I could become the gentle, caring, accepting, tolerant, hopeful, decent person I have always admired. With practice. It’s possible. Just as it’s possible a dog might, one day, suddenly become human.

I spent all of 2014, every single day, writing what I labeled a “thought for the day.” Every day I wrote at least one “thought for the day;” some days, I wrote two or, perhaps, three. The idea was that I would focus my attention on little things that, at those moments, mattered. It was not all positive, but most were, I think. I continued the practice for each and every day the following year, but in 2015 I labeled each item with the day of the year, from one to three-hundred-sixty-five; I called them “ruminations.”  Two years, without missing a day. And that writing was in addition to my regular blog posts and my fiction and non-fiction outside the blog. It was a two-year attempt to, for lack of a better way to describe it, become a better person. That objective was meritless; goals must be measurable and specific. “Becoming a better person” is subjective in the extreme. No objectivity there. After December 31, 2015, I withdrew from that daily practice, despite promising myself I would continue.  My last rumination for the year was this:

Three Hundred Sixty-Five
In our rush to the next event, the next activity, the next interaction, we sometimes fail to appreciate those precious moments, the moments time snatches away from us as it marches inexorably along. We fail to recognize that, perhaps, a repeat of those precious moments isn’t guaranteed.

I wonder whether I appreciated enough of those moments during the year ending today. I wonder whether I paid sufficient heed to my admonition to myself with the very first ‘rumination’ I posted this year:

Make peace with the past. Make love with the present. Make plans with the future.

By and large, I believe I did. I worked to uncoil myself, a tightly wound spring; though not entirely successful, I made progress. That qualifies both as making peace with the past and making love with the present. I’ve tried, these past twelve months, to make love with the present by accepting what comes my way. I stumbled along, but never fell. And I have plans for 2016.

To all those I love—and I truly hope they know who they are—I wish them a very happy, healthy, and fulfilling year ahead.

Even then, four and a half years ago, I recognized myself as a tightly wound spring. Yet, still, I too often release the constriction of those coils in a split second, unleashing all the tension that should have been soothed and smoothed. I still see the komorebi and I sense in myself the desire to let it sooth and heal me, but that softness is always temporary. Somehow, recognizing one’s core faults and correcting them are light years apart, perhaps even in different galaxies that never intersect. The only solution, I suppose, is to try harder. To stop being an apologist for my failings and, instead, to actually transform my mind so its automatic default response to the slightest stress is not what it has been. Better. I must quantify and measure “better.”

The first thing, I think, is to have that t-shirt made.                  木漏れ日

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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