The Fog of Delusion

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

John Muir

The air seemed thick with water as we slipped Ruby (our red canoe) into the lagoon’s still waters. The separation between water and sky was so subtle that it was hard to discern where the brackish water stopped and the salty air began. Not separate and also not one. The occasional gull or cormorant flying by and the sound of the nearby waves crashing against the sandy spit was all that broke the stillness of this gray place. Gliding along, the sound of our paddles breaking the water’s surface joined with the rhythmic waves crashing to the shore to set a hypnotic tone to our paddle. Our meditation was suddenly broken as a head appeared above the water’s surface, looking at us. And then another, followed by the curved backs of others barely breaking the surface tension of the water before disappearing back into the watery world. As we paddled closer, we counted a family of four river otters using the lagoon for more than recreation, for sustenance. In many ways we were doing the same; being sustained in body, mind and spirit by this wild and wonderful place.

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Back at our campsite, we had returned to a different world; one of trees and people. Nearly surrounded by other campers, I was quickly annoyed by my fellow human beings, which is usually the sign of an incoming lesson in life. Sitting by our campfire, I wondered at sanity of our neighbors. Why are they just sitting in their RV I wondered and why in god’s name do they have to run their generator? They are probably just sitting in their watching tv, so why did they come “camping” anyway? And why are the neighbors in the van running their car – just so they can smell the delicious exhaust fumes? What is wrong with people? And our other neighbors who have the obnoxiously bright lantern – do they really think that they can illuminate a campfire any better than it does by itself? Don’t they know there are a billion stars up above that they could be looking at (and I could be too) if it wasn’t for their insensitive light pollution?

And then it comes, the lesson. The generator quiets down, the van gets turned off, the lantern dims, and our baby starts to cry. She doesn’t cry for long but her cry is certainly heard by all of our “annoying” neighbors. And now we are the annoying neighbors. This is when I realize that we are non-separate I am from everyone else, and indeed everything else. We too are just like everyone else in that we do something (bring our damn kids camping who make a ton of noise) that can be perceived as annoying to others. It is all too easy to let our perceptions turn into something more. In this case, the observation that their generator is running combines with not understanding why someone would be running a generator and becomes annoyance, something I created in my own mind. Realizing my non-separateness the annoyance dissipates and I am immediately at ease.

Lesson number two comes the next morning. Still feeling the ease of the night before, I start talking with the lantern neighbors (which I may not have done if I had harbored any resentment towards them) and as I engage with them in everyday conversation, my annoyance with them goes completely away. It no longer exists as it did not have any real existence anyway. It was a fabrication of my mind. What was real was that they had their lantern on. What wasn’t real was the annoyance I felt. The simple act of engaging with our neighbors made it impossible to harbor any ill will toward them. When we realize non-separateness, any ill will aimed to another is ill will aimed at ourselves. This is the importance of cultivating understanding and loving-kindness, of ourselves and others.

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Sliding gently back into the lagoon for a final paddle before breaking camp and heading home, the sun comes roaring out as geese fly overhead and an osprey searches for its next meal. For a moment, the fog of delusion has lifted and I move easily and effortlessly through the wind rippled water.

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7 Comments on “The Fog of Delusion”

  1. Julie Clark says:

    That is so good Daoud! True dat! I often wonder how much is me in situations like this….how comforted someone might feel to have a lantern rather than be annoyed…and then you think you are the annoying one with the child, however, they may have also been comforted by her cries…..we have such big brains that the layers of our perceptions really need that lantern on them….we may never figure it out but at least we can see life a little brighter…very good. Keep writing.
    Julie

  2. Bob says:

    Nice. This is the kind of writing I love doing every day with my students. I’m so happy you have a venue to do this, and I’m glad you clued me into the blog. I suppose I will do the same when I retire from this place (EHS).

  3. Jimmy says:

    Beautiful and so true — and stunning photos. Thanks for sharing this morsel of wisdom. The world desperately needs more oneness, and more empathy.

  4. Bob says:

    I like the addition of the photos!

  5. Dan says:

    Nice job LaFever. Capturing beauty and truth in a few elegant paragraphs. I’m looking forward to the humorous entries that will be inevitable with little ones…. Look forward to sharing a tasty beer with yall again…

  6. Kelly says:

    You have hit on some powerful truths, Dave! The Bible says that “none are righteous, no not one” (referring to us humans), which means we’re all annoying at some point to someone, not because being annoyed isn’t real, but because we’re all sinners and that’s annoying. And yet, we are to “remove the plank from our own eyes before removing the speck from our neighbor’s eyes.” We are to realize that we are no better than anyone else. And we are to “love our neighbors as ourselves”, which in this case means that we don’t want to be called annoying, but would rather have people show compassion and understanding for our crying baby, just like we should look to show compassion and have understanding for them.
    You have hit on a powerful truth that is the beginning of how to love our neighbors, while recognizing that we are no better than anyone else because we are all sinners.
    Great article, and BEAUTIFUL pictures! Thanks Dave!

    • dhlafever says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful response Kelly! It is amazing how difficult it can be to be understanding and compassionate. In this situation, I experienced compassion after I understood the so-called other better. So understanding can beget compassion, and compassion can be the entryway to understanding. Both take awareness, intention, and practice. It being a practice, it is important to not feel guilty when we act or have thoughts/feelings that are not aligned with how we want to be. Simply learn from that and keep practicing.


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