I didn’t celebrate the 4th of July this year. I didn’t host a party or go to a party or wander into town to sit on the hill and watch the fireworks launch over the river. I swept stray leaves from the back patio and watered a few of the houseplants I’d brought outside for the season and listened to an audio book about Buddhist meditation on my headphones.
I picked sugar snap peas, ate them fresh off the vine (the best way) and watched the last pink wisps of clouds fade to dull gray in the sky above my house.
I thought about freedom and I thought about ignorance. Big topics in Buddhism. Big topics for the human condition. I thought about the lyrics to patriotic songs we were taught in grade school. Lyrics we memorized and sang on bleachers without ever questioning their meaning or their relevancy. What a grand old flag. A high flying flag. And forever in peace may you wave. I still remember the melodies to songs like these. They live somewhere deep in me, like papers in the way back of a filing cabinet. Something I never thought I’d need to revisit. Something I thought I understood but never really knew enough about in the first place, it turns out.
Ignorance is a strange thing. It swaddles you and endangers you at the same time. It lulls you into believing, as the saying goes: “It’s all good” when actually, it’s not! Nothing is all good. Nothing is all anything. There are nuances and complications. The more afraid or unwilling we are to open our eyes to the entire situation we find ourselves in, the less secure we feel deep down.
And yet, the ignorant, younger times in my life were some of the happiest. I mean that in the shallowest, most fleeting sense of the word.
They were the first, dizzying sips of a strong drink, before the room starts spinning and the queasy sting of regret kicks in. They were the hysterical, bright, beaming yellow YES that has no notion of NO in it yet. Green lights all the way, even though there’s no meaningful sense of direction to be found.
Kurt Cobain sang: I think I’m dumb/maybe just happy. In my case it was more like: I think I’m happy/maybe just dumb.
It’s so hard to be both: wide awake and also content.