Finding Success in Failure and Escaping the World

During one of the snow days, I was walking by the bookstore to the President’s Lawn when I turned to see a small opening of blue sky.

Blue sky

Penetrating the haze

Glazes a snow day

This week’s class discussion focused on the evanescence of success and failure, and why and how people might want to leave the world. As mentioned in earlier posts, the human world is filled with fleeting moments and change, and that concept extends to success and failure. While we love not always living with our failings, we only have momentary success as well. On a grander scale, the class talked about how our homes and living spaces are rarely permanent either, as only a small minority of the students still resides in the home where they were born. I have personally moved over twenty times, so I can easily relate to the impermanence of the home. The Hōjōki focuses on this point in particular when it says that “great houses fade away, to be replaced by lesser ones,” and “thus too those who live in them” (Chōmei, 32). Additionally, we discussed the divide between societal duty and personal emotions in the Tale of the Heike (平家物語). It is hard not to feel bad for Kumagai as his duty to the Minamoto family overrides his personal interest in not killing a boy who resembles his own son. Thus, Naozane took the head in tears (Tale of the Heike, 317). Last, we talked at length about shukke (出家), or leaving the world. People often desire to leave this chaotic, fleeting world, by simply escaping society altogether. As Inouye puts it, “shukke was actually a way to remain in control by removing oneself from the limelight to work behind the scenes” (Inouye text, 40). Overall, I was definitely not expecting the “House is on Fire” song and rap, which sought to open our eyes to a few key Buddhist tenets, and unfortunately had it stuck in my head for the rest of the day, but the message of the impermanence of life and our tenuous grasp on reality undoubtedly resonated with me.

~Ezra Dunkle-Polier

The house, the house, the house is on fire.

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