Yesterday, I got an email from a doctor who wanted information about Buddhist temples in western Massachusetts where I live. He wrote that he had run across my web site and thought I might be able to help.
He didn't say why. He didn't say what school of Buddhism he was interested in. He didn't really offer any concrete realm in which to answer. Perhaps his brevity was an expression of diffidence. Perhaps it was an expression of fear. Perhaps it was an expression of arrogance. Perhaps it was just a little intellectual curiosity. Perhaps ... I had no way of knowing anything except that he had written to ask based on a web site I think of as rather musty but still containing a bit of fun.
How little any of us know and can know of anyone else. Each of us, whether secretly or openly, is intensely interested and informed and touched by our own lives and yet cannot really apply the same concern or intimacy to someone else's life. Sure, we can be 'empathetic' or 'sympathetic,' but what we actually know never reaches and sees the twinkling facets of another's jewel.
I didn't know anything about this doctor and yet ... I knew exactly -- much as anyone might know exactly about their own twinkling jewel. Two arms, two legs, prattling on about the differences and similarities that might distinguish things, waxing wise or feeling stupid and bereft, looking for support or hoping to stand tall ... on and on and on. How secret or different is any of that? How many jewels are there, really?
Yes, yes, I agree: Absolutely unique stuff from one to the next. And yes, yes, the devil's in the details. But the details get tiring and stale after a bit: Same old phiz in the mirror, same old twinkling facets ... and what lifted anyone up now bears them down. Is any of it somehow rare or hidden or extraordinary? Yes, we may want it to be extraordinary (after all, it's all closer to us than body odor), but is it really?
I wrote back to the doctor as best I might, pointing out a web site that listed Zen centers and saying he was certainly welcome to come here this morning and do a little zazen. But did it help? Did it respond? I have no clue.
Today, the birds began singing at 4:30 a.m.