There used to be -- and maybe there still is -- a popular pastime for single men and women: Speed-dating. Speed-dating involved going to a location at which singles would be paired up at tables and given three or four minutes to talk and decide if they wanted to see their companion again. At the end of the allotted time, a signal would be given and everyone would switch tables ... and repeat the process. By the end of the session, with luck, everyone would have discovered someone with whom they might like to spend more time. Or not.
Yesterday, as I went out to the car, I saw my neighbor Joe across the street and walked over to say hello. He was sporting a full, white beard and I told him it made him look good. "People say it makes me look wiser," he said with a grin. We jawed briefly about how strange it was that anyone might judge another person by his looks ... nothing heavy -- just some rueful observations. And then Pat, Joe's wife, came out of the house all dressed up. I complimented her and asked if they were headed for church. "Yes," said Joe, "and we're late." And that was the end of our speed-date.
A two-minute get-together that spurred some thoughts about judging others by how they looked. A two-minute get-together that left me puzzled at my own ignorance ... at how peculiar I thought it was that anyone might go to church. Not bad or good, just peculiar and interesting in the same way I might be puzzled by stamp-collecting since I do not collect stamps.
And the fact that I found it peculiar was itself peculiar. I too had had times in my life when I got up in the wee-early hours of the day and trekked to a Zen center in New York for a couple of hours of practice. And yesterday, talking to Joe, I was perhaps 45 minutes away from going out to the zendo to do a little meditation ... incense, bowing, sitting down cross-legged, focusing the mind, however ineffectually ... how did this vary from going to church? And yet going to church struck me as peculiar. What for? Somehow, at the same time I could parse it intellectually, my intellectual answers struck me as thin tea ... explaining nothing at the same time as they explained well enough.
Maybe life is just one speed-date after another -- answering some questions while posing others. Second after second, there is some new speed-date to consider ....
Maybe I'll see you again.
Or maybe not.