Saturday, February 13, 2010

liking the kids

At my son's track meet yesterday, I got to talking with a couple from a nearby city. Their son was likewise competing in the shot put. The immense indoor arena was packed with kids in uniforms, starting guns going off, races being run, hurdles being hurdled, and parents passing the time chatting about one thing and another while they expressed their love and support and waited for their kids to strut their athletic stuff.

The couple were very pleasant people. In the course of our idle conversing, our waiting, our love and support for our kids, the husband and I found ourselves agreeing on our pride in our children. Not in their athletic prowess, though that was nice, and not on their academic abilities or colleges they might attend, but on their active abilities to be decent human beings in a larger world. The man told me a couple of stories and I told him a couple ... not as a matter of bragging, but as a matter of pure satisfaction at knowing people who would put themselves out for others. However self-centered teenagers might be, and both of us had been there and done that and recognized that ego-tripping is part of growing up, still we could point to instances of decency and kindness and ....

We liked our children.

And what a piece of good fortune that was. Our love seemed to me to be like an underground aquifer of some kind -- silent, invisible, nourishing ... the kind of stuff uncertain poets might eulogize to small effect. But to like your own kids was different. It might as easily have happened that although you loved your kids, you didn't like them much. We were happy to like our kids as people who had found a footing in something our own experiences told us was important.

Our small tales to each other did not skirt the understanding that our kids could be self-centered, sullen, or idiotic. Those tales just recognized a bright light on what could sometimes be a dark night.

The conversation made me happy, as if I had found a friend who shared something I took seriously. How nice not to be the only one who felt this way.

And it made me think of spiritual endeavor -- of how anyone might love like a silent aquifer the person who we are and yet it would be a matter of good fortune to like this person, to find within the mistakes and crankiness and pure idiocies a person we could, so to speak, live with and like. Not mindlessly forgive, without ever investigating or examining... but, like a pair of comfortable shoes, just like.

Zen Buddhists will get their knickers in a twist about the duality of this inept metaphor -- what self? who likes the one who is liked? blah, blah, blah -- but I wonder if all that is so necessary. If you like something or someone, you just like him/her/it. Isn't that nice? As Rinzai put it once to his flock of monks, "Your whole problem is that you do not trust yourselves enough."

Put down on paper, it sounds sort of silly ... returning to the place from which you started (or never left) after so much grunting and groaning, failure and success, philosophizing and religion-izing. I like this and dislike that: What's the big deal? I like my kids and dislike anchovies. OK. Then and now ... what's the matter with that?

No doubt I am just getting too lazy to swat flies. But what's the matter with flies?
What's the matter with duality? What's the matter with certainty? What's the matter with doubt? What's the matter with love? What's the matter with laughter? What's the matter with tears? What's the matter with nothing is the matter or something is the matter?

Oh well, I "stayed up past my bedtime" last night ... waiting for my sons to come home from the post-track-meet partying, watching "A Few Good Men" on TV ... stayed up past my bedtime and so am a bit wooly around the edges, writing not-quite-coherent stuff ... and I have to get my tail in gear for an hour's worth of peace-picketing at 11. I'd rather sleep, rather erase the wooly mind but ...

What's the matter with a wooly mind?

What's the matter with peace-picketing?

I like my kids.

That's nice.

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