I love my daughter. When I see her or think about her my heart swells with an intense joy. Right now, and for the past year or so, she can’t stand me. I need only to be present, or worse, to speak, and I become the recipient of a withering gaze and a cutting remark.
What’s nice about this love for her is that it makes me nearly immune to her scorn.
I know it’s real, I know it’s how she really feels, but I also know that it’s temporary and necessary, etc. So it bums me out, but it doesn’t really touch me. I still get all googly when I see her.
But for right now she’s also kind of more enjoyable to be around in the abstract.
It seems to be true that we are really living in a samsaric realm. It’s a little bit harder to see when you happen to have been born whole, born to parents who love and care for you, born into a family and a home, a functioning economy, with no obvious physical deformities or grave mental defects, gifted with your five senses, not beaten, threatened, starved, continuously raped, or hacked with machetes or have bombs dropped on your village, etc.
I mean, from this vantage point it just swirls around the periphery: it comes in through the electrical outlets of your home, via television and radio and internet and in the daily newspaper and the weekly magazines and it passes from hand to hand and mouth to mouth at work and in the streets. Like contagion. The disaster virus. Somewhere else the machetes swing into the night. Somewhere else the car bomb explodes as you are walking your children across the street, carefully, watching both ways for traffic. Somewhere else the men come in the night and hold you down as they rape your wife and children before hacking your arms off and cutting out your tongue. Somewhere else the men come into your cell and close the door behind them and they come at you again. With their tools. With their empty eyes and their stone ears that are deaf to your cries for mercy.
It doesn’t really touch us most of the time.
Then it does. In all its many ways. Intimate and intensely personal, it worms its way into your own body or the body of your beloved. It takes your old life away and gives you something else in its place.
It tears away the curtain you’ve been holding up in front of you as protection from the endless pain of the real world.
Raw. Real. Unendurable.
But we somehow manage to patch up the curtain in time and hold it back up. Sure, we can see through the tears and holes, see a lot more than we did before, but it’s nice to get that curtain back up there nonetheless. A little more comfortable. A little more secure.
It sometimes seems like we are abandoned children, starving for food and for love and left to dig in the garbage for our survival. Sometimes we happen upon a scrap of food, or a piece of clothing that we can wrap around ourselves and we beam with joy and happiness. We know then that the universe loves us. We do a little dance in our glee.
But this is not quite correct. It isn’t.
Because the truth is also that this world is a wonder of wonders. It is jampacked with beauty and tenderness and quiet pleasures. There are wide, clean beaches where you walk hand in hand with your beloved and the murmur of the surf washes over you and the whole of the sky puts on a heartbreaking display of wild color, for you, for everyone, for free. There is touching the body of your beloved. There is the taste of fresh fruit. There is art. There is science. There is everywhere a man laying down his life for the life of a stranger. There is compassion. There are miracles. I myself live in an endless parade of them, blessings and miracles raining down upon me like a wild summer rainstorm, drenching me and taking my breath away.
I am loved.
I am loved.
I am loved.
Yesterday I met with a friend of mine who’d left the Sheriff’s department a year and a half ago to go to Iraq as a private security officer. With Blackwater or one of those operations. This guy is a former Marine officer, a fifteen year SWAT cop, boxer, martial artist, weapons expert, etc. He had trained his whole life for combat and had never really gotten into it. No shootings, no wars, etc. He had terrible timing that way. And he was always, always, always looking for it. He had no humor, no sense of perspective, no room for anything but vigilance and anger.
He was a terrible person to be around.
So he came back last week from Iraq. He was completely transformed. When I saw him I was stunned by this light coming off of him. He looked like Jesus Christ or a saint or Buddha. He said he was changed. He said he was calm now, for the first time. He said that he understood things much better than before. He described his time in Iraq, the eerie unreality of it, how it seemed to him like he was in a movie about hell. How he and his team did things time and time again that he could not believe. How there were no rules. How death came regardless of your training and preparation. How there was no protection from it. How it was capricious, how his own body and his own mind were no different than a piece of brick or a cow or a parked car- nothing magical, nothing special about it that would somehow spare it from destruction.
This guy, who’d been a mostly terrible person to be around, had gone to a terrible place for the worst of reasons, and he had found his salvation there. He’d been opened, touched. Transformed.
The mechanisms are variable.
It is my fervent hope and prayer that this day brings you peace and that it does not leave you untouched. I pray that you are attentive today to the myriad small miracles that are hidden all around you. I pray that something cracks open the tough shell, either from the outside or from within, and lets a little light in. Or lets it out.
“For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length. And there I travel, looking, looking, breathlessly.”
– don juan