Since the line between a determined effort and a rooted insanity is sometimes thin, I viewed the email I got yesterday with something between care and skepticism. It came out of the blue from someone I didn't know and was couched in an opaque desperation -- not quite sure of how to ask for help or why, but describing a personal situation in vague terms, as if wanting to defend against a rebuff that would sting or knowing that being specific would reduce the force of something so forceful. You couldn't say from that note what events or thoughts contributed specifically to his discomfort.
The young man didn't mention practicing Zen and was careful not to get to specific about the difficulties he had encountered. He said traditional psychology had put no dent in his sorrows, but yoga seemed to be helping. And he was looking for "wise words" that might speed up a more comforting life.
Sometimes, because I have seen such plaints so often before, I think I will be somehow "over" them -- that I am now calm and collected and beyond all that. But it doesn't work. Each time I get one of those notes, no matter how evasive things are, still, I feel what I imagine to be the ache. And I feel bound to respond. In my next incarnation, I will be a Zen student.
So I wrote him a note encouraging his efforts and offering a place to practice zazen if he felt inclined. It's a hard thing to make a direct effort against the uncertainties that have nested in our house, so I didn't press too hard. If all the worries were somehow erased, who knows -- then we might become well and truly crazed. Who would we be without our worries? Sometimes our sorrows are a real comfort and it won't do to try to take someone's comfort from them or press them with imagined freedom.
About the best I can say for myself is that in 40 years, I am better at suggesting and less inclined to sell. The delights of sorrow are not to be taken lightly.
But sometimes I wish the notes, in whatever form, would stop coming, stop reminding me, stop putting me into a knee-jerk-response mode. I know it isn't going to happen, but still....
As I say, in my next incarnation I will be Zen student.
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