Moon, croon, June, spoon ... how much of what passes for spiritual life is little more than an effort to defend, advance, protect, elevate, improve or expand the reach of a noble endeavor? Call it the Wowsers Factor, though those who indulge might be put off their feed by the term.
It's all so important and you can see it written on the faces of the earnest duets who knock on the door on one Saturday or another ... the good news. But Bible-thumpers are far from alone ... others are just more subtle and wily and paradoxical and ... moon, croon, June, spoon.
But I have to admit that I pray from time to time that those willing to go the distance with their noble endeavor will slow down a bit and consider the possibility that this noble endeavor may be conversational and plain and that its soaring peaks can soar ... but this is not nose-bleed territory nor is its point to aid in the advance any cause.
Conversational as in:
"Have you seen my glasses?"
"They're on the hall table."
"Where's the TV remote?"
"Between the cushions."
I always liked these words, attributed to the Zen Buddhist teacher Dogen:
To study Buddhism is to study the self.OK, it's Buddhist and not everyone is a Buddhist. Noble endeavors come in all shapes and sizes and the important part is only whether anyone is willing to go the distance... and find the plain-Jane conversation that noble endeavors sometimes camouflage.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things.
To be enlightened by all things is to be free from attachment to the body and mind of one's self and of others.
So how about it? Is it conceivable that Dogen was simply making an observation about the nature of anyone's life ... or anyway as he saw it? Suppose it was just a passing remark that might or might not help anyone to locate their glasses. Nothing fancy. Just a point of view. No noble endeavor necessary. Just a willingness to go the distance maybe. Maybe or maybe not, but in either case, nothing weird or wild or "Zen" or improved.
These are questions individuals may ask themselves when the Wowsers Factor gets a bit stale. Who is this "God" on whom so much praise is lavished? I mean really ... when no one else is around to applaud or improve. What is compassion really ... when there is no more "compassion?" And what about this "self" when the lecture tour ends?
When someone says your glasses are on the hall table, there is no thunder and lightning. You just go and look because some old man like Dogen made a suggestion... a friend who may be right or may be wrong, but it's the glasses that are important.
And God knows any of us might be lost without the TV remote.
PS. I have no way of knowing whether it is true or not, but somehow Dogen's last line gets rewritten in my head: "To be enlightened by all things is to forsake the barriers of birth and death" ... "forsake" being the operative word.