I went shopping today. I got some books of comic strips, and a small book of quotations of Shunryu Suzuki, founder of the San Francisco Zen Center.
During a discussion, someone asked Suzuki Roshi if he ate meat.
"Yes, I do," he replied.
"Buddha didn't eat any meat."
"Yes, Buddha was a very pious man."
My friends...are not Zen people. Neither are most people, I guess, and the world has endured in spite of that. Odd to have such a large spiritual dimension to my life and not have much place to let it out; but it's all mine anyway and there's not much hope of sharing it. Eventually I'll learn to keep my mouth shut.
(Various people have been hoping for that since I learned to talk and have so far remained disappointed.)
Wendy thinks I'm uncaring because I make unsympathetic jokes about things like the way the meat industry treats animals (often pretty horrid, and she's a vegetarian), generally the way the world is fucked up. I think it's very funny most of the time; Wendy works for an environmental nonprofit and is very passionate (if not always well-thought-out or clearly articulate) about her beliefs on government and human nature.
This always makes me think, because several people have told me this in the past, most recently Mona: that my flippancy and lack of reaction indicate a thorough and selfish callousness. Except that I do care about things and people, and that's apparent to most people who haven't been unfortunate enough to have dated me. I mean, my personality has lots of sang-froid--I don't get hopping mad about how psychotic the Bush administration is, or that we're destroying the world's freshwater supply, or whatever else. These things make me kinda sad, because humanity is causing itself a lot of suffering, and we could do so much better with just a little bit of thought, but I'm not going to get into a shouting match about it. I probably get that from Dad, who is also not massively excitable.
Anyway. I've been connecting my feelings to the rest of me, and it's working and good and nice and (sometimes) fun and all, but I'm completely consumed with finding harmony in my own life, and I have zero energy to devote to trying to fix the world in any other way. I believe that finding peace and truth in my life will ripple out to everything else; that my being nice to the janitors who clean the office bathrooms will contribute to changing the course of history (for some reason the janitors barely acknowldege that I've said anything, but they seem like nice guys and I persist). It could well be a cop-out, given your point of view; but I'm doing what I'm able to, and I don't answer to anyone but me.
Today I also got a two-disc recording of Bach's B-minor Mass, whose finale we performed at Loomis--Dona nobis pacem, but grab a recording of it and discover that it's absolutely not the "Dona nobis pacem" that grade-school kids sometimes sing at Christmas. I'm finding out, as I listen to all this stuff, that Mr. Gottschalk (our somewhat tyrannical director) liked to take things at a slightly faster tempo, with a bit more energy. I think it was a good choice, and I miss that energy in recordings: I'm now listening to Rachmaninov's "Vespers", from which we did Bogoroditse devo.
Speaking of which, it makes me cry every time, and if you have any sense of the divine spark in you, I recommend listening to Bogoroditse devo and the Gloria from the B-minor Mass. If you're a devout atheist and you can only hear them as works of art, I have to go out on a limb and say that you're missing something. (Not that I'm trying to change your mind, but if you want to hear God's voice it's very clear in those two pieces [God's voice is also in that rock you stubbed your toe on that one time, but the music will make you cry in a much less painful way].)
I had a fun Friday night, pleasurable and touching on some stuff in my head that I'm happy to start getting to. It has me a little disconnected, a little out of it, but that's also because I haven't slept nearly enough this week (or indeed, this year). I have no explanation for why I feel the way I do, but I'm starting to feel that an explanation may be unavailable and/or unnecessary, and the important thing is just to really let the feeling come and be communicative about it, and eventually it will subside--and as with everything else I've been processing, the more relaxed I am about letting the feeling come, the more easily it will subside. In technical terms it's almost a workaround rather than a solution; but people are not computers, and since there really is no "solution" to be had, the workaround becomes the solution, because that's all there is.
One day a student asked, "Roshi, I have a lot of sexual desire. I'm thinking of becoming celibate. Should I try to limit myself in this way?"
"Sex is like brushing your teeth," Suzuki answered. "It's a good thing to do, but not so good to do it all day long."
All these passions, all these desires, possessions, relationships, are all empty if we're not focusing on what we're doing, if we're not paying attention and acting directly instead of trying to satisfy ourselves. If we pay attention, making toast becomes the Japanese tea ceremony, movement becomes a sacrament, a kiss becomes an emanation of the universal joy.