Wednesday, May 27, 2020

GRATITUDE

Imagine what it's like to come face-to-face with a face you haven't seen in 60 years! I don't have to imagine because that's what happened yesterday evening, thanks to Zoom. The coronavirus has recently introduced me to this medium and I have been becoming familiar with it and thankful for the possibilities it has opened up. The neighborhood meditation group I started putting together more than four years ago has been meeting regularly every Wednesday on Zoom, and I have been able to guide the group as I have done in the past. We miss each other's actual physical presence in our sitting room, but Zoom does a creditable job in bring us together. The same goes for our artists' support group. We even use Zoom to continue the exercise program we used to follow with our mentor, Charles, at the gym.

So I met--and fell in love with!--this young woman at Cambridge in the mid-1950s. We had what I remember as a romance but which she barely remembers at all! A fine lesson in humility, as well as in the way we each perceive the same experience in a very different way; and of course in the unreliability of memory. I can't recall what prompted me to look for her online a few years ago--perhaps the simple fact that I could look for her online, something that would not have been possible even ten years before. But I did find her, via devious means, and discovered that she had migrated many years before to Australia, where she still lives. We exchanged some correspondence for a while, and then lost touch again.

Then we renewed contact a few months ago and have been exchanged occasional emails ever since. Just recently I suggested tentatively that we try Zoom, to which she soon agreed. So there I was, last evening, face-to-face with a face I had not seen since, we calculated, 1958 or 1958, when we had known each other briefly in London after our Cambridge years. It was an easy, comfortable encounter. Not quite as though we picked up where we had left off, but--for me, at least--with the comfort one feels with an old, old friend. (We are both now in our 80s, but I don't mean "old" in that sense). I wonder if my face seemed utterly unfamiliar to her, after all these years? I think I would not have recognized her "on the street," as they say, and I struggled a bit to rediscover the features I could recall so well in my mind--or was it my imagination? Eventually, though, I simply gave up on that attempt, and contented myself with acquainting myself and speaking to the person she is now. 

I have to say that I'm amazed that this could even happen. That the initial contact was possible. That we managed to make the reconnection after a five-year silence and a change in email address. That we could exchange emails so easily and with such immediacy. That we could see and speak to each other contemporaneously across the thousands of miles of the Pacific Ocean. All of which would have been inconceivable, except in science fiction, back in the days we actually knew each other. It's a particular blessing, of course, at this time of plague, when physical separation in a requirement for simple survival. Hard to imagine what life wold have been like under the coronavirus cloud without the Internet and digital technology. 

It seems that of all the historical moments I could have chosen to manifest as a human being on this planet, this particular one has been fortuitous in many ways. I was born too late to have had to serve in the Second World War, and in a wrong place to have had to serve in Korea. I was too old, when I became a US citizen, to have had to serve in Vietnam. Good fortune has followed me in almost other every way, including that of having ended up in a kind, temperate climate where the living is almost sinfully easy compared with most other places in the world. I have much to be grateful for, including a friend from sixty years ago...

Saturday, May 23, 2020

DESCANSO

Descanso Gardens, one of our favorite spots in the Los Angeles area, has reopened to the public on an advance appointment basis. We stopped by a couple of days ago, and were happy that we did. Some of the lovely things we saw...








SPELLING

I wish I could remember how to spell "allegiance." I always get it wrong.

Monday, May 18, 2020

SITTING

It was one of those mornings. I sat for 40 minutes and could not get the mind to focus. It insisted on hopping around, from thought to thought, from image to image and confused emotion... I learned (yet again!) what it means to be "driven to distraction."

Yesterday I sat with my Laguna Beach sangha on Zoom--two dozen or more little boxes filled with the faces of fellow-meditators. It was a pleasure to see old friends, with whom I have been sitting on Sunday mornings for twenty-five years and more. We were guided once more in meditation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, whose familiar firm and calming voice allowed me to slip easily into fully focused attention and stay there for the duration of the sit. I am grateful, always, for his guidance, as well as for the community.

Another week of isolation lies ahead. I have lost count of how many there have been, and have no idea, of course, how many more we must expect. This time of uncertainty is visited upon us, reminding us of the most essential truth about our lives: we can be sure of nothing, everything is in flux, and the best thing we can do is to learn to be with uncertainty and change without "losing our minds."

Thursday, May 14, 2020

THE ELEPHANT

Think twice before blaming "the elephant in the room"--that obvious, unnamed, pervasive but unmentionable problem--for your inability to see things or discuss an issue clearly.

Too often, on second thought, the elephant in the room turns out to be... yourself.