The bane of my existence in NYC is umbrellas. Cheap umbrellas. The kind you buy for $5 on the side of the street because you don't want to spend any of your disposable income (what little I have) on a nice one. No fail, about 4 blocks into buying the umbrella one of three things happen: (1) a gust of wind flips the umbrella inside out; (2) one of the spokes of the umbrella rips through the cheap plastic and creates a dagger-like knife which sticks out, and leads you to become obsessed with monitoring it for fear it will puncture a young child on its mother's breast as you walk by; or (3) your umbrella hits another umbrella and you blame the collision on the other person and decide that you hate people.
At this point, it would appear obvious that nothing good comes from buying a cheap umbrella and it is certainly NOT the means to stay dry. And yet, I seem to make a vain attempt to use them every time it rains. The only thing that brings me comfort in all of this is that the other 8 million people in New York seemingly have the same pattern...united we stand under shitty umbrellas.
When I told one of my friends that my next entry was about shitty umbrellas, she paused and said..."do not even try to tell me you think there is symbolism behind this." I shook my head seriously, "I utterly believe there is MAJOR symbolism behind this pattern."
I think my unwillingness to buy a functioning umbrella is indicative of greater unwillingness (i.e., stubborness) to seek refuge in places that will actually provide me with a place of shelter and protection. This is nonsensical, you say. Why would you have such a pattern?
I offer two reasons: (1) I'm an optimist; (2) I'm an idiot. I think, ideally, that a shitty umbrella will keep me dry. Despite experience upon experience, I convince myself that maybe it's not that windy out today, so my umbrella won't flip; maybe these built in daggers won't puncture through the fabric; maybe the streets won't be as crowded because people are staying inside. And so I grab the umbrella with the false hope that...this time I'll stay dry.
The second reason is that, well, I'm an idiot (or insane). They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. (See above paragraph).
So regardless of whether I am the former or the latter, I still tend to seek refuge under that which I know will not sufficiently provide protection. More examples:
I seek refuge in wine and sweets when I am emotionally drained. I seek refuge in coffee (with hazelnut creamer please) when I am intellectually stagnant at work. I seek refuge in the internet when I want to attain mindlessness after a stressful day. I seek refuge in my sister and my mom when I want to vent my frustrations (sorry guys.)
While these refuges are not are "shitty' per se, they aren't self-sustainable. They may provide me a temporary reprieve from the storm, but ultimately when their comforts wear off (as they always do), I am left on my own to figure out the next place to which to run. The irony about this all is that I already know exactly the place which will provide me comfort--a place of silence; a place of prayer; a place of meditation.
The Bhavagad Gita stresses, "control the thought, word, and deed; ever absorbed in yoga of meditation, and take refuge in detachment."
The Bible states, "[t]rust in Him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a a refuge." (Psalms 62:8)
Buddha encouraged, "be a lamp unto yourself, be a refuge to yourself...betake no external refuge, but hold fast the Truth as your lamp, and in doing so, you will reach the topmost height."
Ok, so I know the answer (that's usually the easy part), but then why do I avoid the places of true comfort and peace? I mean...I'd rather read about taking refuge in meditation and silence and prayer for an hour, then actually sitting in prayer and meditation and silence for an hour. Just like I'd rather THINK about buying a functioning durable umbrella then actually buying one.
Whatever my resistance may be, I can, for now, take refuge in the acknowledgment that when I am ready for it, I know where a true refuge exists. And hopefully the fact that I just received an umbrella for Christmas is foreshadowing...