Friday, October 31, 2003

Sunlight through the leaves of the plant on my bookcase, the office to myself, quiet enough to hear the whir of the fans and the buzz of the lights. It surprises me, whenever I meditate in my office, how noisy it is, even without people. The buzzes and clicks and throbs of unidentified machinery, weird surges of white noise, the dim roar of traffic from nine stories below. An ojective correlative to the anxieties and cravings washing continually back and forth, an everpresent unacknowledged noise in the background of my mind.

The office is tolerant of my meditation cushions -- zafu and zabuton -- and my occasional sits. The cushions perplex casual visitors sometimes. They speculate: is it a dog bed? Or do I nap there? But mostly it evokes the exagerated tact and forbearance of the non-religious. (Someone who prays and meditates in semi-public is probably dangerously unbalanced, and you wouldn't want to push them over the edge by referring to it in any way.) It's the other religious people, practicing Christians and Muslims, who will ask me about it; the athiests and agnostics appear to view the whole matter with superstitious dread. A man who's worked closely with me for years inadvertently revealed, not long ago, that he thought I was Muslim. "Not that there's anything wrong with that!" he added, in something of a panic.

When I'm bewildered by the political stories that my fellow-Americans will swallow, it helps some to remember how deep their ignorance of religion, and especially of non-Christian religion, is. And how much fear it inspires. People who are so nuts that they worship six-armed deities and won't eat perfectly good foods and won't swat biting mosquitos and chop people's heads off for sunbathing -- what's the point of even trying to understand them? All you can do is hope they won't go on the rampage.

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