Things change their location.

People change- emotions, personality, bodies.

People like me create things, a special kind of things (often in the hope that these special things will continue on after our personal deaths, giving some kind of eternal existence).

The concept of impermanence has something to do with the fact that these things (works of art, people, places) are both changing right before our eyes, and will someday change into something very different.

The latter is a way of talking about death, or a connection to death. Death is a change into something very different.

Traditionally, it’s said that you can go to one of two extremes, in terms of understanding and practice: eternalism, or nihilism.

These Buddhist ideas are somewhat different from their counterparts in Western philosophy (at least the latter, the former doesn’t really have a counterpart). This is to say that nihilism here has little or nothing to do with a European or American school of thought.

Eternalism is a kind of overconfidence. It is a matter of thinking things to be permanent (unchanging, reliable). Things do change, and are unreliable.

Nihilism is a kind of lack of confidence. It is a matter of thinking that it’s all meaningless, especially, in Buddhist terms, of thinking that it’s all “empty,” or “all concepts.”

I think both have to do with not being in direct enough contact with reality as it is. The means for dealing with this disconnection or ignorance is practice and study. I think all of this can be expanded beyond a purely Buddhist context, and translated into many faiths pretty readily.

So, there is eternalism, thinking things last, and nihilism, thinking things aren’t there at all. The middle way, there, I think, is that there is something happening, but not something involving our normal system of things, places, monuments.

I’d like to note also that, when contemplating change and death, they say it’s possible to fall into nihilism, or a loss of faith. So that’s something to watch out for. I go that way sometimes. I can’t promise anything, but I would like to suggest that the path is not aimed at a feeling of misery, and meanginglessness. Somehow, we start by hearing about suffering, and death, but these are taught, traditionally, not to make people upset, but to end suffering, to liberate.


About jakekarlins

Aspiring writer and artist, dharma practitioner, yogi.

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