There is a lens to our awareness of others that we constantly have to adjust for context and proximity. For example, the personality of a comedian is one that often explodes the personal to mythic proportions for laughs, and as the audience grows, the message changes because the audience and impact also changes and the comic must take responsibility or create derision. But, as ego also inflates with the kind of surreal success of celebrity (often) it tends to shut off empathy. The very thing that gave them insight when they started, becomes their blind spot. And those they love, loved and lost, suffer in that darkness too. It is a trajectory we see often in those we once considered “great”.
Sometimes people just CHOW DOWN ON HATE, like wild dogs and there’s not much you can do but find a place where they can’t get you. Because, when I think about it, only one or the other bad thing will happen: If they get you they will tear you to pieces OR, and this is worse, you’ll join them.
We forget that often the history we remember is the one that we are told, and that it ignores a lot of divergence, a lot of diversity. And yet, we celebrate the “genius, the artist and the philosopher/poet” who rises above the common story repeated to us about identity. Because they are special? No. I think it’s because they’re who we really are, each of us, when we are not afraid to live the lives this marvelous earth has given us.
Not everything is possible, but awareness of our potential is.
Its hard enough raising a child who is born wanted by two parents, surrounded by family and friends who are in harmony, have the resources, will, maturity, and the time, living in a society at peace, with a history of social justice, tolerance and inclusion. *Its hard enough* If that scenario ever exists.
Now strip all that away. Add pain, fear, loneliness, lack of resources, housing insecurity, income insecurity, no history to recall on to find hope, no one to call at all. Knowing your baby, the one you had no choice but to bare and birth, was just excuse for that society to further grind you down to being nothing. You and your baby. Just in case there was a slim chance of you reaching towards a fair share of what is good.
And now think of the crying. A mind, body and if there is a soul, that too, being stretched to the limits of existence while a tiny developing brain wraps itself around continuous want and neglect, sucking on the dry teat of hypocrisy, of an ideology that used your abstract beginnings for its politics. If this brain develops enough to speak it can only say:
“I was not and then I was, but only as part of your agenda. AND NOW THAT I AM I am NOT WANTED. not really, you BUY ME nothing more than A GUN.”
There are worse things than terminating a pregnancy. Everyone knows it. We come closer to caring for each other when we give access to safe abortions to those who need them.
I did Desmond and Mpho Tutu’s “Forgiveness Challenge”. https://interfaithsn.org/forgiveness-challenge/ At least I started it, but when I signed up, many years ago, I was still so contracted by anger that I knew it would be very difficult. But at least by signing up I put myself on a road. However, “forgiveness” is a very Christian idea and I am not a Christian.
Over the years (I don’t consider myself a Buddhist either) my Zen practice has matured and many things that were held in a fist of hurt have fallen by the roadside without much effort. I realize that whether we call the loosening of contention “forgiveness” or not, there is no freedom in hate and anger.
As human beings we can be lost and suffer and cause suffering. We can and will always see the rise of tyranny, selfishness, violence and contracted states, but at some point, we come to understand the road we are on and know we can’t pretend to not choose to continue it or to leave it.
There is a movie that will be free on Facebook on June 2nd made by Desmond Tutu and the Dali Lama called “Unite for Joy” about their wonderful friendship.
Her bedroom curtains are always open and I can see when the light beside her bed is off
5:00a.m. Her pillow askew. The sheets thrown back. The slippers gone: I know that both of us are once again awake before dawn.
Then I get sick.
I’m sleeping around the clock. Until one night, I get up a lot to have a pee or take a pill.
I see her light is still on, her white head asleep on her pillow, curled on her side towards the window.
And I still don’t stop to wonder about her because I’m so sick.
Maybe the day after or the one after that. I finally stop and see she’s gone. Along with everything in her room.
The windows are open.
The light of the sun sweeps across the bare floor.
Until someone comes, and her curtains for the first time, are drawn.
Every moment is revolutionary.
Yesterday, after a whole year, the shadow of my potted plants was cast upon the wall.
I thought I was going through stuff, and here an entire planet was tilting towards the sun.
This week at the sitting with the Toronto Zen Community, the teisho was the “Master Ma is ill”. Hekiganroku Case 3, Sun-faced Buddha, Moon-faced Buddha. I was almost moved to tears. A little about what is going on for me. I have occasional bouts of depression that are very physical. I ache all over and it seems that sad facts stick to me like tissue paper does to polyester when the air is too dry. This trek to “the dark mountain” has been accompanied by various concerns and the coldest winter on record. I have succumbed to this state where I plod through my day as the winds of too much thinking and too much pain swirl around accompanied by Winston Churchill’s Black Dogs barking and Hannibal Hector’s favourite play list.
Now when I say “almost moved to tears” I need to say, we sit in Zazen during the teisho, neither looking…
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The “Wight Christmas, Holiday Horror and Seasonal Subversion” is available from Amazon and my story “The Selfless Gift” is included.
My story grew out of a writing exercise where the words “velvet silence” were a prompt.
I have spent part of my life traveling through places covered with snow returning to family homes for the winter holidays, in various states of mind, through different eras and phases of my life.
The thing I like most about snow is what it does to sound, so, the words “velvet silence” could only mean for me a snowy night. From there I saw a lonely road driving away from one difficulty towards an uncertain tomorrow.
Christmas, for many, can be the most difficult time of the year. Birthdays can be ignored but Christmas punches a hole in the calendar and threads wishes, family, love, longing and regret together through the years until it can almost seem an entity in itself. I tried to capture those traditional pains and joys in a short story.
Was there ever a better story than a Christmas ghost story?
Unwind the balls of barb wire and stretch them out across the land that stood in perfection. Take that understanding that had the strength of a heart beat, that was a sound as big as an ocean, that made us say, “I know that sound!” and make it academic. Put it in a library somewhere far away and then say, “it never was for you to understand”. And with it the light that stretches from one horizon to the other, the wind that circles while panting, panting with the breath, the water that falls, that funnels, dances and destroys, the trees and plants and miniscule things growing, the uncurling grasp of a baby’s fist, the fluttering lids of the dying, and deliver your surgery: this declaration, your pretense of history: “You shall always be divided against yourself along this line and from all who are not you.” It is no less. -Rio