“Like vanishing dew,
a passing apparition
or the sudden flash
of lightning — already gone —
thus should one regard one’s self.”
All you Buddhist-art enthusiasts make a note of this: the new season of House of Cards (which by the way I think, is slightly underwhelming in comparison to the previous two) includes a beautiful segment on Tibetan monks painstakingly creating and then purposefully destroying an intricate sand mandala in the White House. Upon contemplation and a google search to boot, I realized that the mandala serves as a metaphor for transience, change and the impermanence of everything which is the dominant theme of many of the season’s episodes.
Featuring Tibetan monks in an episode of House of Cards after the actual Dalai Lama was present in Washington arguably demonstrates Hollywood’s continued desire to merge fact and fiction in their aim to keep movies and TV shows relevant and with the times but, that’s not why the episode captivated my attention.
The reason I was so moved by the episode was because the idea of transience and change has always both fascinated and irked me. Long, long ago I received a notice from the department of the painfully obvious – ‘nothing is permanent’ it said, and this message stayed with me and continues to nibble at my insides.
From my reading about the Mandala art I also unearthed information on a Buddhist concept called ‘Anitya’ – the idea that the world is in a state of flux and that only what we do with our allotted time really matters. In an uncanny way, it reminded me of Shelley’s Ozymandias – the truth is, there is no tomorrow, at least no guarantee of it being available to us. All we have is now.
Sometimes this apparent truth about transience can feel confronting. Unfair, even. Because these “things which must pass” inevitably include the people we love and the things we celebrate. The things we might want to hold on to. But this week I’ve chosen to change my vantage point and meditated on a new thought instead. Living proof – with infinite reminders – that all things move on somehow. (Not just the “good” ones). That everything evolves in some way or other. That they can only stay stuck for so long.
Even waves and torrential rain
And who knew that a TV show about an obnoxious, power-hungry American president could induce this many hours of rumination?