Friday, July 29, 2011

hit in the head

The grass was the deep green of summer, the opposing players loped across it in etched uniforms of red and blue, and the baseball game advanced within a format that provided the expected high points of action and lethargic moments of waiting for that action to occur. Onlookers' minds, if they were anything like mine, were at ease in their presumptions.

And then the pitcher threw a ball that hit the batter in the head. An umpire told me later that the ball clipped the kid at the point where the back of the helmet met the neck.

You could hear the contact with the helmet that all batters are required to wear -- a protection against exactly such incidents -- but the contact brought the mind out of its easy comforts and assumptions and excited a sympathetic "ouch!" And then the kid was down, lying next to home plate, legs outstretched as coaches gathered around. I could see his legs. The most frightening part was that, for a while, the kid's legs were still. Precisely still. Unmoving. Eventually, he got up and walked away towards a trip to the doctor, just to make sure.

I suppose that, somewhere in my mind, I was aware that that kid might have been my kid, who was also playing in the game. But the concern I was aware of was that any kid should get hurt while in the midst of playing a 'harmless' game. Some knee-jerk reaction rose up: No! No! No!

In Buddhism, there is a latter-day saying: "Understanding is knowing to get out of the way of an on-coming bus. Practice is for the bus you didn't see coming." Practice does not mean that Buddhists run around hardening their hearts to the misfortunes of life or that they snicker at the fact that there is no good thing that does not contain the seeds of catastrophe. If that were the case, Buddhism would be nothing more than another two-bit religion or another smug philosophy or another slick-willy bolt hole for lazy cynics.

Practice builds strength and willingness, not to constrain or revise what is, but to acknowledge and embrace without regret... to act with as much care as possible, not with any particular expectation, but because responsible caring works out better in the end.

Bright moments and dark ... which highway, which choices in life, is not jam-packed with on-coming buses? Naturally, bright moments are more inviting and dark moments assure tears. But with practice, there is more honest care and more clarity.

There is no especial virtue in it.

But there is some common sense.

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