I am being driven not-so-slowly insane by the electric lights in our house. A couple of years ago, we had a remote-operated timer system installed for our garden lights and for certain areas of lighting in the house itself. The system has never worked properly. Mysteriously, whole banks of lights will switch themselves on in the middle of the night. We have a lovely Buddha lamp, inherited from Ellie's stepmother, and another lamp that are both supposed to operate via a remote switch by the bed. Sometimes one will go on and the other not, sometimes both go on together, sometimes neither. And they, too, will happily operate themselves with no prompting from us. I have even known the garden lights to flood the whole yard with illumination in the middle of the night.
Bad enough. Now, yesterday, the motion-sensor light in the garage refused to go off. I fiddled with the switches and found a way to turn it off manually, but then I noticed that none of the lamps in the living room would work. A trip to the circuit breaker board succeeded only in stalling the entire audio and video system, which required rebooting. Miraculously, after much frustration and bewilderment, the motion sensors in the garage began to work again--but the motion sensor lights down by the side of the house now refuse to switch off: they have been burning all night, probably blinding our neighbors into the bargain. They are still burning, and I have been unable to find a switch that will override the sensor manually.
That's not all. My bedside light went on the blink a couple of weeks ago--a halogen job which seemed to have been designed in such a way that the heat of the bulb would corrode the very fixture that held it. No sooner had we had that rewired, than the identical light on Ellie's side of the bed played the same trick. It was rewired last week--at vast expense, of course--and has now gone on the blink again. And when I went to make the morning tea--with the lights at the side of the house still burning in broad daylight--I noticed that the bank of little under-the-cabinet lights had begun to flicker on and off insistently.
Poltergeists? A curse? I'm a complete duffer, of course, when it comes to anything electrical, and am totally dependent on those who claim to know. All I know is that our electrical system seems like a mirror-image of the national economy, where even the experts only make things worse. Trying to achieve a measure of sanity, I ask myself what would the Buddha do? The Buddha did not have electrical systems to deal with--nor in fact any of those technological things that provide us with an ample source of annoyance today. There is simply so much that can go wrong, and frequently does. All he had was a pair of feet to travel on and, I suppose, a candle or two to burn at night, maybe an oil lamp. Our lives today are so complicated, and we are so dependent on others to keep things running smoothly that I find equanimity in short supply when the machinery that surrounds us runs amok. I think that I understand--and value--the concept of not-clinging, of not being attached to outcomes. I understand that how the need to control the uncontrollable serves only to increase suffering. But, boy, is it hard to "return to the breath" when the vicissitudes of life take over!
I missed my meditation this morning--the last thing to do in such circumstances--because I was obsessed with the thought of all those pennies being burned up uselessly by the lights outside. And with what it would cost to bring in, yet again, an electrician who would find, perhaps, a fix that would turn out, yet again, to be only temporary.