Wednesday, March 3, 2010

off to school

With three children, there are many memories and one of them concerns the daily trek to school. Before school each day, there were sandwiches to make, shoes to be tied, warm clothing to be zipped during winter months, books to be found and placed in back packs, homework assignments to be checked, hair to be combed, fears to be eased ... all the little and large preparations for a single day in grade school then middle school, then high school.

And because I got a note from someone newly-interested in Zen practice today, I thought of my kids and how they were sent off to school. Of course spiritual endeavor may seem infinitely more sophisticated and grown-up and important than gearing up for school, but I felt, when responding to the note, a little like a parent gearing the kids up for school.

Isn't spiritual effort like that? The Zen encouragements of the past are stuffed into the backpacks of our fellow travelers, but in the end, it is they who must go to school. We may hope that they are well-equipped to meet the day and its classes, but the fact is, they are the ones going to school ... while we stay home and take our own classes in cleaning up the crumbs and bits of peanut butter on the kitchen counter. And who knows when the call will come? -- "Hey pop, I forgot my baseball cleats. Could you bring them up?" or "Jesus Christ! I didn't bargain for how hard Zen practice might be!"

Maybe everyone is always packing everyone else's backpack ... all the time. Old, young, educated, uneducated, happy, sad ... everyone just packs everyone else's backpack and bids a fond farewell to the one who actually must go to school. Maybe the school means "Mesopotamia" or maybe it means peanut butter drippings on the counter.

Same school, different student.

Same school, same student.

Different school, same student.

Different school, different student.

All of us sending each other out the door with a kiss and a hug ... all of us heading for school.

"Have fun! I love you!"

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