A woman walked up to me in the supermarket parking lot the other day and asked where I had gotten the only bumper sticker on my car, a bumper sticker that reads "Do No Harm." After I told her, she said she thought it was a "marvelous prayer" and wondered what it would be like if more people acted according to its implications.
Sensing a heart-felt exposition in the offing, I said something non-committal and moved towards the store and the inevitability of forgetting to buy something because I had been so convinced I could remember everything without writing it down.
But later I thought I sort of agreed with her. I like the bumper sticker primarily because it is just three words and it leaves it up to the reader how to interpret and act on them. My daughter, for example, once chided me and the bumper sticker as further examples of the thin-tea, "earthy-crunchy" ambiance of the town we live in.
The bumper sticker is a bit like the peace picket line I join on Saturday mornings. Some of the pickets don signs to indicate a distaste for war, a wish for peace ... things like that. I wear my Buddhist robe because I figure a guy in a dress excites attention and I like to think passersby would pay attention to their own versions of war and peace. Even just a little bit. Even for a nanosecond. I don't care so much if they agree with me or agree with the peace picket. I just hope they will agree with themselves in something other than a simple-minded way.
Last weekend, when Saturday's vigil broke up at noon, I headed towards my car and got a chance to say thank you to the counter-picket ... a lone fellow who stands at a slight distance from the peace picket with neatly-printed signs saying what an unpatriotic, ill-informed and purely pussy view of reality the peace picket depicts. He comes from some distance to stand, all by himself, for the same hour that we stand. He helps our cause as we help his ... pay attention, pay attention, pay attention. He's a pleasant guy.
It's another version of getting around to what "Do No Harm" might mean in reality.