Kill the Buda(pest): Impressions and Thoughts on Life

Chain Bridge. Image source.

The city smelled of days’ worn clothes. Streets are littered with piss stains, cigarette butts and small piles of dog shit. Budapest features a rich history, the majesty of time immemorial is written into ornate buildings riddled with bullet holes, and in somber pockmarked faces of passerbys. Ambulances in a foreign language squeal in the distance, like a whining dog. Trams charge up and murmur in electric tongues. Dark-haired people with thin lips and absent eyes mix into the landscape.

I get the sense of an underlying hardship, that people are struggling (later confirmed by talking with locals). Maybe it’s winter malady, absent of snow and joy. The only people laughing loudly are the tourists, who are everywhere; Flaunting their unburdened spirit, unbridled by work or school or obligations (here on holiday for cheap thrills). To walk down the sidewalk is to island hop between unrecognizable dialects. You know a tourist by: Loud chittering dispersed amid large flocks with cocked heads; raised eyes and abrupt stops to review digital maps; movement that is too fast or slow for the pace of the street.

I’m not sure what I was looking for in my trip, and I wouldn’t say that I’ve “learned about myself” or “grown” per se. I would like to continue streaking away from a traditional career in America; I want to let go of the rope on the bunny slope. I don’t desire being different as a matter of course, but simply following others is not the way towards individuation.

I do seek: Authenticity. As Dōgen, a Japanese Buddhist priest, writer, poet, philosopher, and founder of the Sōtō school of Zen in Japan, said, “We study the self to forget the self. When you forget the self, you can become one with the ten thousand things.” And as the Buddah proclaimed, “kill the Buddah.” Or, your ultimate goal is to make your own way. Guides, inspiration, models offer signposts, but the landscape is vast and inherently unique for each person; I intend to get off the trail, even if I need to come back and follow the blazes from time to time.

Towards the end of his life, Carl Jung stated that our greatest adventure today is in the exploration of our unconscious. Everything else is a distraction; to know ourselves is more important, meaningful, and challenging than say, colonizing Mars — while I appreciate the pursuit it seems more like an act of running away from the real meaning here on Earth (and from within ourselves).

In the Western world, we live in a culture of (inter-)connection in the form of: sociability and social networks; emails and Twitter streams; a prizing of extraversion; boredom and distraction. And yet loneliness is both ubiquitous and a condemnation. Jung would classify this as the Shadow of our collective Ego, because consciousness exists for individuals and societies, and we are very good at denying ourselves and each other at scale. To deny your Self is to empower the Shadow, which is the root for maladies of the human personality.

Tidying things up: In a world with excess information most of us are sponges, super-saturated with no spare volume for our own understanding… what would happen if we were all suddenly wrung dry?

AARON GERRY tries not to take himself too seriously, despite what the content may suggest. He enjoys pen and paper, perambulating, and donuts. Many donuts. Oh and writing. Speaking of which, his work can be found in journals and publications such as Chronogram, Lit Up, P.S. I Love You, The Creative Cafe, The Junction, and others. If you like this piece please do 👏clap👏 along!