When I was young, a certain silly song and accompanying dance were all the rage in Kidville. If you are of a particular age, you will no doubt remember this:
As a child, I understood the hokey pokey as good clean fun, a form of play. But now that I’m grown and have put away childish things, I have the understanding of an adult. And I’ve begun to wonder if maybe the hokey pokey is what it’s all about.
I’m pretty sure I know what life is not all about. It’s not about what Eckhart Tolle calls “the little me” and the ceaseless stream of stories our egos tell about what is and isn’t happening to us. How self-absorbed we are! How frequently we star in our own inner movies — mostly dramas — with everyone else cast in supporting or bit parts. How important our particular experiences seem to us — especially our problems.
I consider this every time I walk through the foothills cemetery of my little town, and ponder the gravestones. How much sorrow is buried there! So much resentment, anger, fear and unanswered longing — every shade of every emotion known to human beings — now dust in the wind. All of those people once fretted and fumed as I sometimes do. And soon the story of my life, with its specific trials and tribulations, will meld with theirs, and fade from collective memory.
From that vantage point, it’s easy to appreciate what the great Buddhist sage Rick says to Ilsa near the end of Casablanca.
Yes, we have real pain in our lives; occasionally, we are visited by losses so deep they defy words. But most of our suffering is of a lower order, amplified by our egos, writ large by self-absorption. And none of it is personal. However important they may seem to us in the moment, our problems are endless variations on the theme of universal human experience, stretching from the infinite past to the unknowable future. As individual or particular concerns, they don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.
How liberating! From this larger perspective, we can afford to embrace the absurdity of it all, to identify with the comedy of our lives a little more, and the tragedy a little less. We can remember to play, to take a step away from our egoic selves and live a little lighter, a little freer.
We might even put our right foot in, put our right foot out, put our right foot in, and shake it all about …