The Tests continue. Today was a big day for The Tests, the day that I had to sit down and write a $5,100 to the City of Atlanta. Send them my money, so they could, I don't know, use it to dream up some more half-baked ideas on how to make my neighborhood less desirable, like running a concrete running path through the last remaining greenspace in our community. I have a meeting tomorrow afternoon with the City's Director of Traffic Planning to discuss a Health Impact Assessment recently written about the effects of traffic from the local hospital on our well being (it's not good), but I don't expect things to dramatically change. You can't fight City Hall, they say, but you do apparently have to pay them the prize money.
So tonight, it's get-out-your-checkbook time. In preparation, I sat in zazen for a little while to calm myself down, then opened up Quicken on my computer, got out my checkbook, and grabbed the tax bill they mailed to my house.
And realized the tax isn't due for another 30 days. Because the City couldn't manage to reconcile the Tax Digest on time (whatever that means), the bills went out late and we have an extra month to pay our taxes.
So, I'm relieved. My money can sit in my account for another month, and I'll have that much more put away by the time I need to write the check. But I wonder, where did all that tension go? What happened to all that misery, the dread, and the grief? I noticed that it says on the corner of my bill that I have until November 30 to pay my taxes, and then all these negative emotions were just lifted away by this little bit of information.
How quickly things change. Were those emotions that affected me so deeply real in any sense? If not, what was it that had bothered me? Something was worrying me. If they were real, what happened to them? Where did they go?
What happened to the little boy and his truant mother? I awoke from that dream with tears running down my face, and now can find no trace of the mother or son, even though they continue to have some sort of emotional impact on me.
And where did yesterday go? It all seemed so compelling and real to me at the time - I was totally involved, totally into it - but now it's all just memory, fading away by the hour. Now I can find no trace of anything I can call "yesterday."
Jessica Watson. Is my concept of her any more real than my memories, my dreams, or my imagined tax deadline? There might really be a brave young woman out there all alone battling big breakers on the ocean, but all I have are concepts, mental formations, and imagination.
So, too, the readers of this blog. I hate to break it to you, but you're just imagination and fantasy, at least to me, just as I am to you. I don't even keep a counter on the site any more to track the number and locations of visitors, so you're all that much more abstract to me.
All these dharmas - these ideas, memories, dreams and emotions - once did not exist, then came into being, and then faded back into non-existence. How real, then, are any of them? And what's the use in trying to hold onto them, when we can clearly see that they are impermanent and empty of any abiding existence?
Or maybe I'm just giddy from relief that The Tests have been delayed.