Archive for June 20th, 2010

You Know My Baby Will

Father’s Day, I think, is one of the more useless holidays. I’m not going to look it up, but I suspect it is an artifact of greeting-card companies, or some other entity motivated by money.

When I was a child, myself and my siblings thought there should instead be a Children’s Day. Of course, that was because we were young and selfish. But now that I’m older . . . and no doubt still selfish . . . I again hew to that view. Fathers are not important in and of themselves. What is important is who they father.

The way things are set up in this particular place, life is primarily purposed to produce new life. You do that, and you’ve done your job. The new is ever an improvement on the old. That’s the design.

Among the several wise and true things penned by the mercurial Minnesotan Robert Zimmerman are these lines from “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry”:

well if i die on top of the hill
and if i don’t make it
you know my baby will

Every father thinks that his daughter is bright and beautiful and damn near close to perfect, but in my case it happens to be true. It is also true that she has borne more suffering, with more grace, than I ever have or will. It is likewise true that this suffering is my fault, because her accident occurred in my house, on my watch. Sometimes people try to tell me that this is not so, but they are wrong, and they know it.

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The Communication Has Been Received

Someone reminded me this morning how Catholicism uses, and how Brother David Steindl-Rast explained, the word “obedience” as meaning to listen completely. This meaning is contained in its etymology too. For example, because we do not, are unable to listen completely, in most of our political activity we are pushing a goal which has already been accomplished, beating a dead horse that may return to life because we will not leave it alone. The change has already occurred, but we are unable to see it. We do not have the patience to allow the change its own time because we want the change to occur for our anxiety or ego. The initial accurate push is usually made very quickly and only the alert can go on just as quickly to the next action. The flow can be turned, changed very im-mediately when we realize it is in our own possession, and that all change occurs this way. But it seems to take nine years of wall-gazing or a century of fumbling to realize that fundamental changes or steps are possible and within our possession.

The same is true with people and every situation, we seldom realize the communication has been received, and we do not understand the person’s and situation’s own time. We do not like the idea of obedience, and obey has this interesting and common paradoxical turn, of meaning not just the ability to take orders, but also the ability to be responsive, to be free to love, to change the flow.

—Richard Baker-roshi, “Inside and Outside”

Cleaning House

It is good that I did not unearth Clark Brown’s essay “Cleaning House” until I had nearly finished packing. Because Brown’s meditation is on the value of clinging to everything, while I was intent on ruthlessly letting go.

I don’t know how many books I have accumulated over the years. But I’m pretty sure I recently completed boxing more tomes than Thomas Jefferson let go to inaugurate the Library of Congress.

Long ago they could no longer be reasonably contained in the house. By the time it was time to go, far too many were burrowed away in boxes and bags, crammed into closets and cupboards, teetering in towers lining the halls.

Sixteen or so years I’d lived in that house: the place was like a continent. But the way life now presents itself, island-hopping is the way of my world. Maybe unto the end. Which is fine. So: time to reduce the impedimenta. The goal to unload upon the inaugural island only those materials that I could not leave behind without suffering some sort of serious psychic rash. The exercise to act as if the culled items would be stored some 2000 miles away, while transporting the Chosen Few would be no small feat.

And then comes Clark. With his ode to allowing nothing to slip away.

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When I Worked

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