Sunday, December 20, 2009

On Impermanence

The river of yesterday is not the same as the river of today. The river of this moment is not going to be the same as the river of the next moment. So does life. It changes continuously, becomes something or the other from moment to moment. Urban Dharma

The other day, Kai, Eddie and I were wandering around downtown San Francisco. An unseasonably warm evening brought hordes of shoppers and weekend frolickers out to play on the Embarcadero ice rink. After enjoying dinner at Taylor's Automatic Refresher, we began our trek back home.

As the BART train approached, Kai handed me the new toy train he had been clutching since we scored it at Chloe's Closet that morning so I could carry him onto the train. Almost as if I were outside of my body, I watched Kai's toy spin and roll from my hand, to the floor, to the edge of the landing, teeter for a moment and then spill onto the tracks. Of course for my own memory's cinematic pleasure, the train rolled in at that exact moment.

To see the shock, realization, and terrible sadness wash over my child's face as that day's favorite toy disappeared beneath the "big loud choo choo" as he calls it was torture. My slippery finger caused this ache, these gigantic tears, the wailing. Yes, as we entered the toy crushing train to ride home, Kai cried a new cry I had never heard. One that reached inside and mourned something that no longer is. And there was nothing to distract him from this pain.

After my guilt stopped hogging the spotlight of this event, I saw that this lesson in impermanence wasn't all bad. Since I cannot shield Kai from the perils of existence for much longer, I feel relieved that his first major understanding of the flow of life wasn't a real trauma.

And of course his memory of that day's river has already flowed miraculously to a new waterway, with a fresh toy to adore. Until that one, like all other things, is lost.

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