The weather forecast is for more of the same -- more of the 90-degree (32 C) heat that has been with us for the past few days and spawned storms and widespread power outages in the Mid-Atlantic states. Vast heat and no air conditioning ... I can tell that I have no Bedouin blood in my veins, wilting as I do in big temperatures.
Would it be any hotter or cooler if I didn't know the temperature? Sometimes I think that sleep is just nature's way of offering a respite from the deft calculations of this life. Temperatures, spiritual enthusiasms, the barbed-wire boundaries of a sheep pen. Do things have edges? I doubt it, but that doesn't mean I can't calculate and shape and lay out wise and delusional borders.
When my father taught me how to play dominoes, he told me that in Mexico, where men with etched faces sat in the shade around a make-shift, milk-crate table, sometimes there would be knife fights ... that's how seriously these men of 40 and 50 and 60 took their domino games. I guess I learned that lesson: One evening I beat him nine games out of ten in a dog-eat-dog, take-no-prisoners confrontation. It was a bloody take-down.
This morning, I watched a black ant walk across the macadam sidewalk, heading for the patch of grass that passes for a front lawn here. The ant seemed purposeful in its stride, but that was just my deft calculation. Was the ant whistling Mozart or striving for enlightenment or 'determined' about something I could neither fathom nor calculate? If yes ... now what? If no ... now what?
Did you know that in spiritual endeavors, people speak of separation and oneness, God and the devil, enlightenment and delusion, heaven and hell, joy and lamentation, peace and uncertainty? And some even go beyond speech, making heroic -- really, heroic -- efforts to actualize something that is more than a belief or homily. Such efforts can leave Mexican knife fights in the shade.
So much effort, such a touching effort. And yet, where sleep closes in, things become simple as mayonnaise and deft calculations drift away with a satin smoothness. Deft calculation may suggest that becoming 'as a child' or 'taking a lesson from sleep' ... more deft calculation.
The delicate tiptoeing of the ant is as nothing when compared to the delicate thunder of the land in which deft calculations find some respite.
Heat, ant, calculations ....
Today, if I find the energy and will, perhaps I will go swimming at a nearby pond. Air conditioning is a wonderful blessing but it is as confining as barbed wire. Water, like sleep, dispenses with deft calculations, reminding without saying a word.