Saturday, October 04, 2008

On A Pleasant Saturday The World Can Take Care Of Itself

As I do most Saturday mornings lately, I took the car for an hour's drive to Silver City here in New Mexico. To get there, you drive on a road unromantically named "Route 180" and there is nothing especially romantic about the scenery, and yet it is beautiful. There are mountains and ranches occasionally interrupted by villages or towns like Hurley and Santa Clara, some industry and some agriculture, and then you arrive in the handsome little town that Silver is, one Saturday after another showing you that life is taking care of itself, the land is preparing itself for autumn thank you very much, and the cows are grazing.

Over near the university is the Silver City Zen Center, where I've been going to sit with a supportive group of sitting people, and this morning Paul, the resident priest, gave a lively talk about one aspect of our practice that can be very challenging in an election year: trusting in a wisdom that has nothing to do with our opinions and our convictions about how things ought to be. It's a good group of people who aren't afraid to ask questions and challenge their teacher. Is meditation a way of burying one's head in the ground? Does practicing Zen mean to turn away from the affairs of the world, with an air of studious detachment, to be holier than thou? No, that's not why we're indoors on a Saturday morning. We are there because we are convinced we have personalities, opinions, and objective ideas about how to fix the world; and we have seen the mess these convictions have made.

Helpful action is possible and needed. If you're going to get in your car and drive somewhere, though, you had better clear off the windshield first. We forget this routinely, and we are very much prone to forget this in an election year when the front page of the newspaper reads like a political thriller. There are things we want to worry about and the ability to discuss these things rationally, never mind do something helpful, seems remote.

So take a walk. On the main street of Silver City's historic downtown, people are out buying vegetables and drinking coffee, connecting with neighbors and admiring each other's children. Father Marcos leaned over a railing with a cigarette in his hand to say hello and introduce a newly-arrived seminary student. No ecclesia for either of them this morning - they looked ready to play beach volleyball. It was that kind of day.

Stopped at a gallery where my colleague has some work on exhibit. Mrs. Griego's sculpture would strike fear in the faint of heart, which is much to my liking; her glass works are sunnier and also very beautiful.

Where there are people trading recipes and selling their wares and asking after each other's grandchildren or the new roof of the rectory or the newly redone hedges, and fresh coffee, there is hope. Where there is sangha, people supporting each other in Christian prayer or Buddhist meditation or non-denominational kindness, there is a chance for wisdom to do what it does, indifferent to our big ideas and opinions.

Politicians are doing what they do, just as the cows are doing what they do. Cows are eating straw and pooping. Politicians are telling increasingly unbelievable lies about each other, like the Republican trash-talking Obama this morning in the press: "Our opponent ... is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country." That was Sarah Palin, and she wasn't done. "This is not a man who sees America as you see America and as I see America." Take that, black man. You're a terrorist. Thank goodness grownups are in charge.

How do I see America? This morning, I see people who work hard all week, now enjoying the creosote and the wildflowers a little while longer, checking their faces for signs of age, noticing how quickly their children are growing up (have I mentioned that my baby is trying to walk?), worried about the future, and looking for what is truthful and decent in their world. As you do on a Saturday.

Someone will become President, and we will soon be talking trash about them around a barbecue or over coffee. The cows will need tending, the papers will need grading, the bills will remind us of our financial obligations, and our children will remind us that life is skipping along.

1 comment:

Pam said...

Life will never be the same once the little man is on his feet and mobile! It's no stopping him then!

You're right, life does skip along with most of us doing what we would be doing on any other early fall Saturday.

Today the boys and I hauled the Halloween decorations down from the attic and merrily set up our ghosts and goblins and grinning jack-o-lanterns in anticipation of the upcoming trick-or-treat night.

One wants to dress as Hulk and the other is thinking Ironman.

It's the 4th. We will most likely go through many more verbal costume changes before the actual purchase date.