Miley Cyrus is wreckage-fucking that pendulum: farewell to childhood. The rain outside is wrecking the remaining snow. Change wrecks what we think we know. All in all, wreckage is a good word for wreckage: that hard R, not even dressed like you think it will be; that K of kaplooey; that Old Norman way of making the terrible into nouns. Wreckage. Wrack and ruin.
I’ve never lived in a house that got wrecked by a tornado, avalanche, or tsunami, so it’s easier for me to sit here in this nice, warm library, during an ice-storm, and ponder disaster. When I was in high school, a tornado tore down trees all around the house, while we watched, bewitched, in front of windows that could easily have imploded and shredded our curious faces. In these thrilling moments, we refused to sit huddled in the guest bathroom. We watched by storm-light, as the wind wrecked pines, but not our house.
Tornadoes can be the size of the world, and tsunamis the size of the ocean. There is a mountain in Washington State, tilting more towards wreckage each day. At some point it will let go, let rip, cease being mountain, and become wave. It will become its ancestors, who released an inland sea. It will channel itself into a new form.
Wreckage is a state change. Mountain becomes wave; body becomes food; darkness becomes illumination. Wreckage is loss, if the former state is more beloved than the latter. Sometimes, same-same. Ajahn Chah taught his monks to look at all their crockery as though it were already broken. Drop a plate: the shards show what was always already true. The unbroken is a temporary miracle, not an entitlement, not a guarantee.
Wreckage floats from one place to another. Smashed parts of Japan wash up on the West Coast of North America, carrying hitch-hikers in its sheltered crannies. What is wreckage to one, is haven to another, by nature’s endless, promiscuous logic. My home, your loss. My loss, your home. We eat one another with the precision of a figure-skating duet.
Wreckage is a record of what was. Hard to censor the garbage pile. Hard to censor the mind that shovels through it. Who is sifting through the wreckage, and what do they assume about the way things are? It is hard to account for such assumptions in ourselves, but it can be done. I am sifting through the wreckage of a million lifetimes, looking for what has been awake and alive, all along.
A student asks me what “suchness” means. Suchness gives and receives radiance, shining forth radioactively from everything. We stop saying stupid names like You, Me, and That Dog Who Just Barfed Again. Suchness is the Buddha as the Thus Come One. It is the wreckage of blame and shame. It straddles itself, and swings for the world like Miley Cyrus, if Miley Cyrus were the size of the ocean, the mountains, and everything.
Do we want to be wrecked by truth, by love, by the relentless progress of waking up? Mostly not. Mostly, we want what makes us look good. We want a bottomless box of chocolates, and affection that appears when it’s convenient for us. We want endless good health, and easy acceptance into the tribe.
But also: we want to be wrecked out of living a single, unchallenged perspective. We know a monophasic life is a boring life, and we need something to break open. We need to trip wildly, to allow ourselves to be danced, to surrender ourselves to bliss greater than conventional Me can contain. We want conventional Me to get roughed up a bit, to get hit by a flowing mountain of experience that leads from the ancient sea to the ocean.
Wreckage is the lump in the kudzu field where vines have eaten the house no one wanted anymore. It is glass and metal shards on the tarmac where cars have made disaster of one another. It is the lone flap that floats ashore after the plane crash at sea. It is the deer-tibia the dog drags up from that frozenmost section of woods.
Wreckage announces itself with awe and dread. This is looming, and you can't Sandra Bullock your way around it. Or it shows up as a possibility to be skillfully avoided. Here is where this is headed, if you don’t do something about it, fast. Turn now. Say no. Throw up your arms and howl like a coyote. Still it may come.
In the wreckage of the Titanic, a sapphire necklace. In the wreckage of right now, an awakened heart polishes itself. In the wreckage of the real estate market, another round of crash is already taking shape.
I am falling asleep as I write this – the wreckage of intention and attention. It’s not so unpleasant, after all: just, hard to come back from the cottony feeling in my head, to the sparse clarity of the page. The whole page collects the wreckage of a stream of consciousness, like stream-side rocks gathering plastic bottles, fishing line, and stray socks. In Bali, the beaches gather panties, school ties, women’s blouses – all washed empty of their connections with anything.
My sleepiness is connected with avoiding wreckage?
Must we like being broken?
We can appreciate mending beautifully, but it’s hard to be truly inside the wreckage phase of brokenness, and enjoy it. I keep thinking, someday I will be able to change without first feeling stuck and bounded, but then, where would all this beautiful wreckage come from?
Julie Püttgen is an artist and meditation teacher.
108 Names of now