Saturday, March 23, 2013

Thursday, March 21, 2013

When you are sick of sickness


You know the story of the serpent in the garden. Even in Paradise, Eve, who had everything she could possibly have wanted, needed, hoped for or desired, was willing to listen to the serpent's suggestion that she was being cheated of something. Eve was easily convinced that God was withholding knowledge or more specifically power  that would make her even happier than bliss.

The serpent was cunning. Clothed in a pleasing exterior, using the intimate tone of the friend, so very concerned for Eve's welfare, the serpent's real purpose was concealed. Plant the seed and in time Eve convinced herself that she was not as free as she believed, but was subjugated, a pawn, a victim even. Urged by a rising darker self to share her dissatisfaction with her closest friend, the two of them destroyed their own happiness. And so man fell from Paradise, or so the story goes.

It's the human story, reenacted again and again, in families, in the workplace, Little League or the not-for-profit, whenever any group forms to try and work together. No matter how carefully you screen, the serpent enters.

There's a time of waiting and assessment. Which of the group is most likely to play the part of Eve? There's always one who is fearful, suspicious or resentful. One who is constantly alert for signs that they are not included, respected or appreciated enough. A jealous one. That will be the one the serpent approaches first. Easily led by the serpent's tongue to dwell on their anger and dissatisfaction and be on the alert for any sign that reinforces their discontent, such feelings must be shared with a confidant. Yes, that one will agree.... thinking back, I remember when....

The serpent waits...then asks, "What did she mean by that?" The atmosphere chills, there are some signs of hostility.  There is a slow slide into chaos. The serpent sits back and enjoys watching it unfold.

But we have to understand that a serpent can't be anything other than what they are. The poison is in us. There's a Chinese proverb. "When you are sick of sickness, you are no longer sick."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

People can be so kind

i have one arm full of a warm, silken kitten who keeps reaching up to kiss me, hence the one-fingered typing. i cannot bring myself to apologize. he is a bit perturbed not to be the entire focus of my attention so if any apologies need to be made they are to him.

after a ten-day stretch of cold and snow we had a sunny, warm (10 C or 50 F) day. this meant the car would not have to be cleared of snow, nor the windshield scraped free of ice. and since snow and cold are predicted to descend on us tonight and i needed to shop, away i went shortly after noon.

i have a subluxated rib and even breathing hurts. and yes i know that walmart is run by satan and his legions of demons but i shop there at least once a month because they have great prices and on a pension every penny has to count. i also shop there because they have most everything i need under one roof and i rarely have the energy to shop in two places. and they are close.

in fact i sort of love the wallys near our place because - i've said this before - you see people from all over the world there and you can hear a dozen different languages in as many minutes.  and in this wallys the staff is almost always very helpful.

when i reached the checkout today i asked the woman to please pack the sacks light, as I was having a hard time lifting anything. she looked at me - and said - 'i'll take the things from the cart for you, and pack them back in. are you parked in the lot? i'll get someone to take these to your car.' and she did. she unloaded the cart, rang it all through, packed my cart, and called someone to help me. two very kind ladies.

and as i pulled into my spot at home my neighbour gail came along and helped me load my cart, and carried what i couldn't get in the cart upstairs. this was such a help.

sometimes all we hear about are bad things people do, how rude shop clerks are, or how awful 'big box' stores are.  but today was a good day, a day when the kindness i was shown really mattered. i'm still sort of glowing inside, just thinking about it, and also from cuddling the kitten in my lap, who really loves his mama.

Monday, March 11, 2013

If people are quiet, they can be quiet anywhere

A few nights ago there was a documentary on Sister Wendy Beckett known to TV audiences as the lisping nun who has done several commentary series on great art. Sister Wendy lives as a contemplative nun, a hermit, in a small prefabricated house, much like a travel trailer or RV, on the grounds of a Carmelite Abbey. She was a bit perturbed that so much of the filming time was focused on her life, when what she really wanted to talk about were paintings of Christ and what they meant to her personally. In her 80s she is bent, fragile, and as she said, hoping it won't be long before I sleep, nodding at the Abbey's shaded and green cemetery as they passed it, with the other nuns.  A plain, quiet woman, deeply rooted in her faith.  
 
Counterpoint Press has just re-issued Road to Heaven, Bill Porter’s story of his search for Taoist and Buddhist hermits in China’s Chungnan mountains in 1989. In 1989, Porter, a scholar of Chinese religion and philosophy, wondered if the Buddhist hermit tradition still existed in China after years of persecution under Mao's Cultural Revolution.

But deep in the Chungnan mountains — the historical refuge of hermits — Porter discovered dozens of monks and nuns leading solitary lives in quiet contemplation of their faith. He found enough to fill a book with brief, lucid interviews and photographs. When he arrives at their doorsteps, they are generous and polite, but unconcerned with politics and worldly issues. Like many Westerners Porter looks for signs of "enlightenment" or some special dispensation of holiness but he finds plain people who simply have learned to be quiet.

Why come to the mountains?
It is a good place to practice.
Did there used to be more hermits?
There used to be more, and now there are less.
Is it a good place because it is quiet?
If people are quiet, they can be quiet anywhere.
Isn’t it hard?
After awhile, it’s all the same.
Isn’t it cold in the winter?
Winters are a good time to practice.
How do you practice?
I just pass the time.
Do you practice very much?
Practice is the only thing that matters. Have some tea. 

So what am I to take from this?
That I have a long way to go to learn to be quiet anywhere.