Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Easter parade

At a party once -- lotsa zennies in attendance -- someone got off on astrology. I'm not for or against astrology, so I just listened. In the particular astrological format being described, each human being is assigned some small phrase according to the time and place they were born. Gautama, for example, was "an empty hammock between two trees." Naturally, I couldn't resist finding out what my fortune might be. The fellow leading the discussion consulted a couple of books and then looked me in the eye: "An Easter parade." It didn't occur to me to wonder how, if astrology predated Christ and his Christians as I imagined, anyone knew anything about "Easter." But I didn't quibble. In fact, I liked it -- an Easter parade.

Easter parades are bright and colorful. In my mind, I see them in the sunshine ... scrubbed faces, clean clothes, lots of hats and everyone happy. Some might imagine that Christ had risen, but with or without Christ ... still, everyone happy. Yes, if I had to wear a label, "an Easter parade" would suit me fine.

This morning, out of the blue, a woman called me up to talk about Buddhism. On the surface she seemed to want to know about distinctions between Zen and Vipassana practice (I was the wrong guy to ask), but what she really wanted, I think, was some company and some encouragement. She had to get off the phone twice to take other calls. Each time, she promised to call back. Once, she did. But the third call never came. I have a feeling it was my Easter parade that put her off.

I'm never quite sure how to address the energetic enthusiasms (read, doubt) people can bring to their investigations of Buddhism. I did mention "original nature" once or twice to the woman, but steered clear of "enlightenment" and "Nirvana" and other such words. Mostly I just talked about doing an actual-factual practice, about paying attention and taking responsibility ... not much of an Easter parade, I grant you, but I figured that some part of her was serious ... serious beyond the bright lights and colorful hats.

An Easter parade ... that's just me. I haven't got what it takes to badger people with hopeful wisps like "enlightenment" or "Nirvana." Leave that to the 35-50-year-olds who have a firm bead on things. I wouldn't fault them, but in an Easter parade, I wouldn't join them either. March in the parade, smile at the sun, have a burger (or tofu if you insist) at the grill and, when the day is waning and a soft fatigue sets in, rest supine and replete in the empty hammock over there.

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