Yesterday, as I sat typing, I heard the front door to my left-rear open. It opened as it sometimes does when the wind is blowing outside and the door has not been properly latched ... a quiet little slip-click. But the wind was not blowing and, when I turned around to look, there stood a small young woman with hair that seemed too black to be true.
She introduced herself politely and asked about sitting in the zendo, or Zen meditation hall -- a possibility I advertise as occurring Sundays from 9 to 11. It was 9:30. She wanted to sit, had sat in other times and places and was a senior at a nearby college.
She had caught me while I was doing something else on the day when sitting was advertised within a prescribed time frame. If it was advertised as 'x' then, well, why wasn't it 'x?' The young woman did not ask such questions and it did not seem to occur to her that, if what was advertised had been true, then she would be late and the advertised promise would no longer be available.
Sit still, sit straight, shut up, focus the mind ... it's a kind of daring I call 'daring' based on my own past and persuasion. When the delicacies of despair rise up and inspire this sort of action ... well, I have to admit I am touched and will do what I can to support the effort.
But one man's daring is another man's cowardice and everyone makes their choices. My choice rests in the realm of a willingness to reflect within. It really takes balls, from where I sit ... and it is touching, perhaps because I too was touched.
The young woman was late again on her return. An agreed-upon 11 turned into 11:30. I had given up at 11:15 and gone out to sit, asking my wife to direct the young woman if, by some chance, she actually did show up.
She did, knocking on the zendo door, entering, settling herself on a cushion and then sitting for half an hour or more. No chanting. No kinhin or walking meditation. Her tardiness implicitly said, "Our agreements are subject to my whim." Which, of course, they were ... except that they were up to me as well and I had things to do. I will do what I can to help, but a step-'n'-fetchit appreciation of spiritual life does not strike me as either kind or appropriate.
Afterwards, outside the zendo, the young woman said she would like to come again. I said fine, but please give me a heads-up a day or two in advance of her coming ... and between the two of us, we would find some mutually-agreeable time. I have done the get-up-at-3 a.m. Zen practice in the past, but nowadays I need my sleep. The young woman said 9 was a bit early for her ... so ... OK ... we can work it out. I told her with a smile that if she was late the next time, I would kick her butt. She smiled back. Daring does not show up all at once.
Later in the day, I had an email from a Catholic priest friend, one of the rabble-rousers in the bid to correct a variety of Vatican corruptions. As usual with email correspondence, we batted several topics back and forth before the connection ran out of steam. In one email, I mentioned that I had had lunch with a fellow whose wife's brother had studied Catholicism with my emailing friend. Yes, my priest friend responded, he remembered meeting the couple ... nice people, but he remembered thinking they were "all talk and no action."
All talk and no action ... not enough daring when it came to raising Cain within the Catholic church.
I wrote back that the friend with whom I'd had lunch was living out a delayed-action hell that centered largely on his time as a Special Forces medic in Vietnam so many years ago. He was working hard to assuage, if not escape, the grueling, grinding ghosts of the past ... a no-fucking-around pastime. And if the Episcopalian links that he had chosen as part of his daring effort to confront that past ... if those links rested on benevolent and loving talk, then who was I to quibble and wax wise and lay claim to some much-improved view? Was he placing his faith in a house of cards that was bound to collapse? Sure he was ... but then, which of us has not done and which of us does not continue to do the same?
You can't just talk -- you gotta DO something about it! And if you don't, then you are "part of the problem" and less worthy in some sense.
I am sick of uppity wisdom, my own as much as any. "All talk and no action." The thin-lipped or mealy-mouthed representatives of some more-laudable approach ... well, stick it where the sun don't shine! I freely admit that I can marvel at an apparent unwillingness to investigate a self-imposed format -- of talking the talk but being unable to walk the walk -- but that ... is ... my ... problem. I see nothing wrong with stating my point of view, but it's only my point of view and life is more interesting than my point of view, however much I may love and cling to that point of view.
Daring ... what is not daring? Cowardly ... what is not cowardly? I don't mean to dissolve the scene into some relativisitc puddle of mediocrity. But seriously ... humanly ...
I like chocolate. I dislike anchovies.
What a pussy!
What a hero!
If I could get a handle on what I'm trying to say here, I wouldn't have written so much.
So it goes.