Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pavement Poetry

Walking along to the Post Office the other day, I began noticing the pavement. There it is: ordinary, foot-friendly, home to a fallen leaf, chewing gum, dogshit, grime. An endless weave of gray canvas. I began to ask myself the question Pema Chodrun recommends: 'What IS this?' That simple inquiry is just Pema's way of encouraging us to see without judging. 'What IS this?' After several minutes, voila! I began to see the pavement as a work of art. I thought: 'I could slice out two feet of this, frame it, and put it in a museum." I wasn't kidding. Even now, I can see it hanging with aplomb on a long slow white gallery wall. Artist: God. Cost: priceless.

My inquiry continued. When I got to the Post Office, I found myself in line behind a blind woman with her ultra-kind seeing eye dog. 'What IS this?' The woman's turn came, and I helped direct her to the clerk. It turned out she wanted to fill out a Change-of-Address card. The clerk leaned out to me and said: "Will you help her?" I said, "Sure." We walked to the side table, and the woman gave me her name and address while I filled in the form. Then I directed her back to the clerk, who thanked me. The woman thanked me. Yes, and the second clerk next to the first one thanked me. Thankmania! Well appreciated, I got my stamps and left. On the walk back, I kept on asking:'What IS this?' A stranger passed by me, turned around, smiled, and said "Hi!". I smiled back. Shortly afterwards another stranger came towards me, smiled, and said "Hi". I responded. Then a third stranger, turning a corner, looked at me and waved. I waved back. 'What IS this?'

I don't remember having strangers on a street greet me before this. All I know is that if ever there was evidence that human angels exist under our facades and are able to hear the footsteps of a judgment-free walk to the Post Office, this was that evidence.

'What IS this?' I have no idea. But I do get one thing: that under the apparent multitude of divisions before us, everything is connected. Always.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bent Trees

I was enjoying a cup of coffee on Starbuck’s patio when I noticed something unusual about one of the trees in front of me. It was oddly bent. Its leaves were sprightly and green, but its trunk tilted at an awkward angle over the street. Amazingly, because of that steep tilt, it was able to cast massive shade on the cars parked beneath it.

I don’t know how the tree felt about being tilted - or whether it even cared. But I'm certain the cars parked below it must have been grateful for the umbrella of cool green shade protecting them from a blazing sun.

Sometimes we too grow up awkward or tilted. When we look around our universe and notice the unblemished stance of others, we can feel envy. Or, we can notice the healing shade our past wounds now provide; and the comfort we often bring to those who also feel tilted or scarred in some way.

Unbent. Bent. Who can say which is more valuable?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Future Tales

Case #785

A man, deeply in love with power, had enjoyed a hectic and busy life making commands, building empires and fending off detractors. Not surprisingly, he was rewarded with many plaques and titles and bank accounts.

However, when his power began to wane, he became very depressed and fell ill. A friend stopped by to see him and asked, “Is earthly power the only happiness?” The man sighed and said, “Yes, I believe so.”

Arriving in Heaven, he quite naturally expected his high status to be admired. Ah, the tragedy of expectations! When he became aware that God ruled All, he was stunned. “This isn’t right,” he thought. Being an avowed activist, he decided: “I know what! I’ll lodge a complaint.”

It was at that very moment he discovered he had no lips to complain with.