The newspaper was delivered at 4:45 a.m. Sitting on the porch, I can see the lady's lights when she swings onto the block each morning, makes a couple of stops and finally slips the paper under my door. No one else is around. She does her job. Somehow, I am impressed: No one else is looking; do it anyway.
I wonder if it's true ... maybe sometimes, but not always: People who have suffered more are more honestly kind to those around them. I was remembering the kindness of Dokai Fukui, a man who, before he became a monk, had been captured by the Chinese during World War II and spent some time as a badly-treated slave building a railway. He returned to Japan with a number of physical ailments, became a monk, and yet, when he encouraged me to practice zazen or to see things in another light, he was the soul of kindness ... firm but ever willing to lend a hand.
Yesterday, I read an interview with a woman who had considerable contact with the world of Buddhism. She had tried Zen but switched to Tibetan "because they are happier." I too love the Tibetan smiles, but it is too late for me: Smiles and frowns each carry their wisdoms and their idiocies and my job, like anyone else's, is to winkle out which is which.
Yesterday as well, I reminded the woman who came to sit with me that there was a mythological swan in Hinduism -- a swan which, while floating on a vast body of water, is capable of sipping the one drop of milk hiding in its vastness. Even those who have precisely zero interest in spiritual endeavor do the same, I imagine: Sip the pure milk from the murky water; find the truth among the fabrications. It's a hell of an effort and some get no further than text and ritual ... the ability to parrot the wisdom and kindness of others; the ability to read and regurgitate instructions; the ability to gather up and husband the cozy, if uncertain, contentments of belief.
What does it take to be a swan? Sometimes I think it just takes a courageous curiosity ... but maybe that's wrong. A swan is a just a swan -- what need for curiosity? Drink your milk.