Perhaps by upbringing, I was never trained to think much of my own efforts and therefore it came as something of a surprise when I felt a small jolt of honest pleasure when I received an email from a Muslim in Norway yesterday -- a note saying he liked my book and might read it all over again. In that small note, it seemed I had been useful to someone and as you get older, your usefulness tends to dwindle, I think. It's nice being useful to someone, or anyway it felt good to me. A pat on the head is nice. It feels connected, less lonely.
In the practice of zazen, or seated meditation, sometimes a group of people will get together and sit in silence. It's pretty powerful, but I will not wax smarmy lyrical about what cannot really be described. It is enough to say that each and every person helps each and every person whether they know it or not. How and why? I'll leave that to the self-help bookshelves.
And it's the same for those who do not practice zazen -- helping each other all the time, with and without words, with and without gestures, with and without debate. Everything, somehow, grows and where a single blade of grass does not grow, the universe is barren and sere.
But each blade of grass warrants a pat on the head, I imagine. Grass, like cats, likes to purr.