We all know Lou Reed wrote a great song about having a perfect day. In his brilliant lyric he lists a number of things that make this day better than others; drinking sangria, feeding animals at the zoo, going to a movie. Most importantly he spent his day with a friend – he shared it. It was a perfect day; and even though maybe the sangria had something to do with it, it stood out enough in Lou’s mind for him to write a song about it. Most interestingly he also mentions forgetting himself. Thinking he was somebody else.
Just a perfect day
You made me forget myself
I thought I was someone else
Somehow the combination of events, including most importantly friendship, led to the feeling of losing a self, if only to gain another – or the sense of another who was better. Why did this also add to this day being a perfect day?
In Buddhism we are told that reality has three characteristics – impermanence, un-satisfactoriness and not-self. The last of these is often the most difficult to understand. It’s often interpreted as a nihilistic rejection of our very existence yet it is anything but that. The concept of anatta or not-self in Buddhism is an acknowledgement that our identity and our sense of who we are is conditioned by the other two factors of reality as listed above. The claim is that we are not removed from the world in such a way that our ‘soul’ or self is determined by different laws of physics. Everything is changing and part of a process, nothing has a lasting definite identity. If we try to fix the world for a moment it will refuse to do so. This includes who we think we are.
A self that is fixed in time and space has no room to change or develop. It is static and devoid of potential and yet we all have a tendency to believe we can only be a certain way or behave a certain way or think in a certain way. This view can leave us at worst in a state of despair and at best stuck in a rut.
I believe Reed was writing about those times that we forget this fixed view of ourselves and we see another self in it’s place. But this new self is something ‘good’ because it suggests the potential and the ability to move on in our lives. This new self is just another stage in the process of becoming. All the things that contribute to this process are alluded to in the song but most importantly it is true friendship that most often helps us to step outside of our self identity and see ourselves anew. The result of this is quite simply; Happiness.
Of course not everyday can be a perfect day – some days will always stand out, however, this sort of happiness is far closer to hand than we think and just requires a shift in our perspective and an acceptance of the world in all it’s unpredictable, changing glory. Either way, as Lou rightly says at the end of the song…
We’re gonna reap just what we sow…