My own sit, yesterday, was one of extraordinary calm and ease. Most often, sitting for that length of time, my mind wanders off in countless different directions, remembering past events and planning for future ones, inventing its own fantasies and stories in the attempt to keep it distracted. It's usually a struggle, at some point during the hour--particularly, I find, towards the end--to maintain a quiet and focused attention on the breath. Yesterday, it all seemed to come naturally and effortlessly, and the hour flew past. Before I knew it, the bell sounded, and I found myself wondering if I had been asleep. But no. No one remarked about having heard me snore--as I have been known, embarrassingly, to do! And my head was clear. It was just one of those glorious sits that seem perfect in every way. A rare gift.
Our talk, in the hour following the sit, was about travel, about America viewed from other parts of the globe: about our values; about Las Vegas and the glittering promise of the pursuit of happiness perverted into the pursuit of material wealth; about the opulence of the tsars and the obscene salaries of hedge fund managers and corporate executives; about the nature of happiness itself in a world that gives so much to so few and so little to so many. Our talk was perhaps a little more chatty than the dharma talk and readings that occupy us on many other Sunday mornings, but was nonetheless enjoyable and mutually instructive for that.
In the afternoon, it being Father's Day, I sat with my friend Brian--a father, like myself--and smoked a Gloria Cubana cigar out on the back patio. I will confess to being something of a skeptic about these Hallmark card days, but I had great joy in hearing dutifully from each of my three (no longer!) children in the course of the day--from Matthew, visiting with his in-laws in Montpellier in the South of France; from Jason, in flooded Coralville, by Iowa City, which has been much in the news; and from Sarah, in Los Angeles...
And I pondered once more the grievous irony of Tim Russert's death, at the very moment of his son's graduation from college; and so shortly before Father's Day, for a man whose father meant everything to him, and a father whose love for his son, and pride in the way that son has grown to be a man, are deeply touching reminders to all of us of the true values in this life we share. I sent this letter to the NY Times:
There's a life lesson for all of us in the shocking suddenness of Tim Russert's death. One of the great hindrances in contemplating the end of our lives is the fear of not knowing the end of the story. What a sad irony, in this light, that Russert died without being allowed to know the end of the greatest story of his professional life--a story in which he was so passionately engaged. He must have been looking forward with enormous excitement to the party conventions, the campaign in the fall, and the night of the November presidential election. All this was snatched from him by the intrusion of an event so unanticipated that it shocked an entire nation. It's a sad reminder of the fragility of life and the unpredictability of its conclusion.
It will be little short of a miracle if it gets published, of course, but I thought it worth saying, anyway.
Have a great week!