Impermanence

Our mailbox as it appeared before yesterday morning, as photographed by the Google Maps camera.

Our mailbox as it appeared before yesterday morning, as photographed by the Google Maps camera.

Early yesterday morning, about 5 AM or so, Fran and I were both awakened by what sounded like a small explosion in our neighborhood. It seemed close enough that Fran got up and peered outside the window. She thought a car hit something. I said it sounded more like an explosion than an accident. We speculated that maybe a transformer blew somewhere in the neighborhood. Then we went back to sleep.

Three hours later, when she was leaving for work, we finally realized what it was. Someone had struck our mailbox. Our property is situated at the crest of a hill, and right at a point where the street curves to the left. Someone accelerating up the hill, and not paying attention to what they were doing, could easily collide with our mailbox, and that seems to be exactly what happened.

Our mailbox had been encased in its own little brick structure. See the picture above/to the right, courtesy of Google maps. That’s how our mailbox looked before yesterday morning. Now see the picture below for the after look (this time courtesy of my iPhone camera).

Our mailbox the morning of February 21, 2013 — or, should I say, what's left of it.

Our mailbox the morning of February 21, 2013 — or, should I say, what’s left of it.

There’s a goddess chant that goes like this: “She changes everything she touches, and everything she touches, changes.” Buddhists more simply acknowledge that everything is impermanent. Theists typically view God as unchanging and eternal, but God’s creation (i.e., the material universe) is, well, marked by impermanence. So every created thing will eventually suffer a fate like my mailbox. Hopefully just not so dramatic or violent!

I’ve been praying for the person who hit it (and who lacked the character to at least leave us a note offering to replace our damaged property). This was made of real bricks, not just some lightweight facade; so the vehicle that demolished it would not have emerged unscathed. Two small plastic pieces came off of the vehicle, marked “Ford,” so about all we know is the make of the vehicle. I’ve thought I should drive around the neighborhood and look to see who has a vehicle with a pretty badly banged up front end. But of course, that proves nothing, and frankly it will be cheaper just to replace the mailbox ourselves rather than get involved in the hassle of trying to fight with someone else over it.

So after I got home from work we went to Home Depot and picked out a new mailbox and a post for it. No more little brick structure for our mail. But at least if it gets hit again, it will be less of a pain to replace — or to clean up.

Historic Christian spirituality encouraged meditation on one’s own mortality. Today we consider that morbid and so we don’t do it. But perhaps reflecting on impermanence is not such a bad idea. At the very least, it makes dealing with events like this a bit easier to bear.

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  • Nancy

    Interesting that my neighbor had her son take a sledgehammer to their solid brick mailbox this week-it’s gone now. She’s redecorating. Going for a new fresh look.

  • http://discombobula.blogspot.com susieq777

    Oh, Carl, your poor letterbox.

    But, “She changes everything she touches, and everything she touches, changes.” Which is very beautiful really, isn’t it.

    You know, I love reflecting on my own mortality. It doesn’t feel anything like morbid, although I wouldn’t go running around the streets shouting it to the rooftops because I think people would think I’ve got a deathwish. That word “deathwish” doesn’t make any sense to me, really. Any yearning that may on any particularly bad day accompany thinking upon your mortality is a “lifewish” more than anything. It’s yearning for fullness of life, yearning for a return to God. Nothing morbid here :)

  • Lynn

    So sorry to hear of your poor mailbox, Carl! And more so that no one is claiming responsibility. Same thing happened to my car. I can relate!

    I could not agree more with SuzieQ. “Lifewish!” LOVE that! Our society is so focused on the body… And I’ve been feeling for a long time now that we need to change the words we use to describe life, living and death. It is said in the Eucharistic Prayer in the Mass for Christian Burial that “Life is changed, not ended.” Oh, that we could truly embody that belief. The body dies… We are eternal.

  • Mike Dempsey

    Let him who is without sin cast the first brick. ( ok that was bad)

    • Carl McColman

      Bad, yes, but it still was worth a chuckle. :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/danielle.castronis Danielle Castronis

    Yes,It is good to remember that the world of manifestation is relative. In deep meditation we find a grounding that is infinite, and in that non duality there is no problem, nothing is wrong, nothing is born, and nothing dies.

    The accident may have being related to alcool consumption( which might explain the lack of integrity). We are no less addicted to our mind and its endless anger, irritations, entitlements, fears …..it seaselessly robs us of our true nature and separates us from the other.

    It takes everything to refuse to be a prisoner of our thoughts! we have to be very grounded in nonduality.The smaller irritations can be the hardest to let go, particularly when we have a been aggressed. When we drop the mind though, we are free.

    Your blog is a reminder for my own need to be vigilent relentlessly and the path to freedom is at hand, but hard to do.

  • http://www.ellenfleminghealing.com Ellen Fleming

    Carl, I’m not so sure that this is as random and impersonal as it might seem at first glance. As Freud said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” highlighting the importance of not oversubscribing meaning to objects and events. Nonetheless, I believe that important signs and messages can be conveyed by events that occur out of the blue, particularly events that are startling and create a clear distinction between the “before” and “after.”

    So I decided to look at the “after” picture symbolically, to see if I could sense any kind of underlying message. Every time I looked at the mailbox, lying on its side with its “mouth” gaping open, I kept thinking of a fish gasping for air on a dock. I went back to your post and read it again, noting the line “Historic Christian spirituality encouraged meditation on one’s own mortality.” I would add that there is also a lot of Christian symbolism about spiritual death and rebirth, i.e. the parable about the grain of wheat dying in the earth in order to grow and produce a harvest.

    Then I went back to the “after” picture, and noticed that the cracked pavement around the mailbox resembles a net. It is also interesting that you are involved in the field of communications professionally, and the purpose of a mailbox is to receive communications.

    I also noted that the incident happened around five a.m. I decided to Google “the spiritual meaning of the number five” to see what I could come up with. I found this information:

    “Five: The spiritual meaning of number Five deals with travel, adventure, and motion. With the highs that come with these attributes, Fives also carry instability and unpredictability, and radical changes. The spiritual meaning of Five draws our attention to the wonder of life, and beckons us to appreciate the perception of chaos all around us. Five has wild vibrations: primitive and erratic. When Five continues to pop up in your life be prepared for some action, like a trip. Remember, trips aren’t all necessarily taken physically. Some of the best journey’s are taken in the mind and spirit.” (From http://www.whats-your-sign.com.)

    Lastly, I note that the incident woke you up, and then you went back to sleep. That could be symbolic too, as we all struggle with “waking up” to an awareness about something in our lives, and then find that old patterns reassert themselves and we “fall asleep” again. Sometimes, if we ignore the smaller wake-up calls, our spiritual helpers or our soul ends up smacking us with a two-by-four event to get our attention – or smacking our mailbox, as the case may be!

    Perhaps this incident occurred to raise your awareness about some aspect of your life, in order to prevent a more painful incident from happening down the line. In that case, whoever hit your mailbox may have been a divine instrument of God’s grace. Is it possible that you aren’t supposed to discover their identify because it isn’t about them? Maybe they are just the vehicle (literally) that conveyed the message to you.

    • Carl McColman

      Ellen, thanks for a very rich exploration of my “exploding mailbox” experience. You’ve said a few things that have already struck me: especially the waking up/falling asleep dynamic. My new book, Answering the Contemplative Call, is all about waking up! So it’s fascinating that this should hit (pardon the pun) right after that book is published. Much for me to ponder.

      • http://www.ellenfleminghealing.com Ellen Fleming

        Thanks Carl. I must admit, I was perplexed by the fish and net imagery I kept seeing in the picture, until I read the word “Call” in the title of your new book. I think the imagery I am seeing is meant to reference Jesus’s call to Simon Peter and Andrew: “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”

        Perhaps it represents a new, expanded stage in your own calling, as so many people, including many Christians who have not been taught to go within, are suffering from a terrible spiritual thirst these days, and are feeling very disconnected from God and Jesus despite faithfully practicing the external aspects of their religion.

        Thank you for answering the call and writing this book. I believe it is greatly needed and will help a lot of people. I wish you every success with it.

  • Kaye Vivian

    Hi Carl, some years ago my husband and I went the “animal” route on our mailbox. My brother-in-law, newly arrived from Russia, knew I was interested in an animal mailbox, so she carefully made a rather beautiful goose, with one wing that would raise to notify the postman to stop. He also put a rectangular box under it to hold the occasional shipping delivery box. It was wonderful. About six months later, late at night when I was writing, I heard a loud BOOM. We also lived on a curve, and I thought a car had hit one of our trees. It wasn’t until the next morning that I saw parts of my goose all over the driveway. Some kids were joy-riding and put rather large fireworks in several mailboxes on our street and blew them up. Very sad. We went the same route as you…an easily replaceable Home Depot special! :)

  • http://countrywomanpaints.com L`Adelaide

    living in the hills, we have had this happen many times and years ago realized there was no point in putting much work into the structure upon which sits our box. now we use boulders to warn those approaching, they are, indeed, approaching. we have also had “kids” with baseball bats and the like deliberately demolish the whole roads’ boxes just for fun. no underestimating a human’s ability to show stupidity…or worse. ;)

  • http://gravatar.com/leighcopeland Leigh Copeland

    Do you have hope for physical, bodily resurrection?

    • Carl McColman

      Yes. But I affirm that hope in light of “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Which means that a “physical body” in heaven is like nothing we can even imagine — probably more like Christ’s transfigured, post-resurrection body (splendidly luminous, able to move through walls, etc.) than like the jars of clay we currently are. Like comparing a caterpillar to a butterfly.

      • http://gravatar.com/leighcopeland leighcopeland

        Heaven is not our final destination. Those who are in heaven have definitely NOT be resurrected. Only one human being has been resurrected. The resurrection means the physical re-embodiment of formerly dead people; it is NOT a post-mortem, bodiless eternity in ‘heaven’ or the presence of God. The resurrection is here, on a restored Earth. The old song needs to be rewritten: “Heaven is not my home, I’m just a passin’ thru. My treasures are laid up -for here, not in the ‘blue’”. I agree with some of your descriptions of how our new bodies will be transformed, but as you look around you understand that every thing you do here and now for the kingdom will last. We’re not promised as escape from this creation; we are to be image of God agents of a restoration, thus fulfilling God’s original and never abandoned plan and purpose for humanity. It is like all the things we don’t even have to imagine because they are already here with us. What we can’t imagine is the transformations we and the rest of THIS creation when the process already inaugurated in the present New Creation reaches its fulfillment. We will still be ‘jars of clay’; the difference is that we will be filled not with our Old Man spirit, but His. The Christian understanding is a two-stage process of an interim state of unclothed, bodiless existence in the presence of Jesus. That is NOT or final destination. We’re coming back. And we will live here as Christ-like stewards, priests and kings to the rest of the New Creation.

  • http://gravatar.com/g2-67c609f71348522e9ae92270dee62ca1 g2-67c609f71348522e9ae92270dee62ca1Jon zuck

    Remember mailbox, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.


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