Tuesday, January 29, 2013

enter without expectation, leave without regret

Enter without expectation.
Leave without regret.

This morning, I spent some time responding to a letter in which a 14-year-old was "so excited" to think that someone might be reading her words. She described herself as "a very spiritual person," a practicing Jew who believed deeply in "God" and yet was interested in the world of Buddhism. How could she "combine" her interests? What books should she read? What practices should she pursue?

I have to say I love getting my ass pinned to the wall. And I felt pinned. Who is serious and at what depth can never be known. I held the inclination in check ... to tell her to go out and sin some more. Something was compelling her to write ... long-hand ... with lots of little smilie faces. What was it? And how could I possibly address whatever seriousness she felt? There was no knowing ... and so, of course, I wrote something in reply ... more to honor her effort than to give any sort of meaningful response.

"Fourteen!" my mind exploded. "Are you kidding me?!"

But my high-handed surprise was held in check: Does age have anything to do with the unsatisfactoriness that life can dish up? Are tears any less wet because a teenager weeps them ... or an octogenarian?

I wrote, put a stamp on the envelope and placed the letter in the mailbox. Just because I'm not sure what to say doesn't mean I can't say something.

The girl's letter caused me to go back in my mind and to review the whole of my own spiritual interests and failures and delights. It didn't get me anywhere, of course, but I found myself doing it anyway: I was pinned; I was tongue-tied; I was left stammering. What the hell did it all amount to? Others may have smooth and assured answers, but I have not. More to the point, perhaps, I don't mind as much as I once did. Answers are pretty flimsy customers.

But the review process did bring to mind my own perhaps-too-fiery conviction that has gained nothing but heat over the years: The spiritual format that invites you in but does not usher you out is not worth the powder to blow it to hell.

Enter without expectation.
Leave without regret.

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