Monday, June 13, 2005


I woke this morning to silent tears, the tick of another heartbeat, a cloud of warm hair, the weight of grief. And this is one of the good lives.

A friend used to write of how horrible things were, of abused children and lingering deaths, challenging me, maybe, to give her optimistic it's-not-so-bad-after-all-answers -- saying, so how does your Buddhist cheerfulness answer that?

No. You don't understand Buddhism. It's far worse, far worse than that. If it were only despair and cruelty and weakness it could maybe be fixed. And if death was an end it could at least be escaped.

No. Worse than that. This life is saturated with grief. If you look close enough, you can see misery sweating from every pore of it. Worse than you think. If you could see what even the pleasure and satisfaction are made of, you'd recoil in horror.

The unmaking of this grief has nothing to do with stopping wicked people's wicked designs, with feeding the hungry and healing the sick. It's far harder than those (already impossible) things. Don't come to me look for it's-not-so-bads. It's worse.

If the joy were predicated on fixing this world, it would be time, past time, to cash in and go home.

One crow swept up into the gray sky, calling out hoarsely, as I pulled away from the curb. Blue gleam of black beak. An impudent flirt of scruffy feathers. A dry leaf whispered across the windshield, and spun away. A thread of cobweb tickled across the back of my hand.

The grass growing through the cracked sidewalk was so green that it jarred my eyes. The red of the stop sign, a huge glowing splash of blood, stayed in my vision long after my turn. The street rolled under my feet -- brown scattered duff, rough pavement, mossy curbstones. Trash spun by the wind of the passing cars trembled and skittered. I could feel the air pressed and driven by the little car; I could feel the tires shake as they explored every pitch and unevenness of the road.

If not now, never; if not here, nowhere.

No. Go elsewhere for comfort: nothing at this shop but grief, and joy.

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