“Since there is no escape from the Now, why not welcome it, become friendly with it?…” and more from Eckhart Tolle
On this twenty-fifth anniversary of the birth of the internet, it is so tempting to write a scathing assessment of how it has left us spiritually bankrupt, but I won’t. Instead, because I am a geek decked out in pseudo-holy garb, I’ll say this:
– for the opportunity to realize and monitor a tendency toward addiction.
– for the realization that looking a Dell laptop in the eye is not the same as intimacy with real people.
– for the brilliance of Saint Google who tells me how to fix OS 8.1 before I abandon my vow of nonviolence.
-for connecting me to amazing souls throughout the world who dance the dance of the Universe with me, and return me to myself.
– for awakening us to our duty toward the common good, and connecting us in acts of justice.
– for offering our children the opportunity to learn compassion through their research.
– for those who work toward universal access to the internet, toward a level playing field for all.
– for the availability of the spiritual masters and the great scriptures of humankind available in the public domain.
– for the gift of intelligence and creativity that gave us this gift.
May we use you consciously and with right conscience.
In February of 1989 magic wafted around the day care center at St. Olaf’s. It did not, however, start out that way. At the last minute my helper called in sick, and I was left alone to transition twelve toddlers from nap to play. I managed somehow to diaper and potty all of them, put their shoes on, and feed them a snack. I’ve taught secondary school and adults all my life, and without a doubt, this is the hardest job I’ve ever had…and the most fun.
Twelve toddlers, champing at the bit to get outside, ran around screaming at the top of their not so little voices. The fun had not yet begun. Salvation appeared at the corner of my eye- a left-over Christmas bag on the counter above their line of vision. It was shimmering red with teddy bears on it, a toddler’s ecstatic dream. With no time to let my mind entrap me, I grabbed the bag and shouted with all the delight I did not yet feel, “I wonder what’s in this bag?” On a dime, they screeched to a halt en masse and twelve contralto voices squealed, “I want to see, I want to see!” Wiley Witch that I am, I replied in my best teacher’s bribing tone, “You can’t see until you line up at the door!” They ran to the door, falling over each other’s tiny feet, so excited to receive this wonderful gift. What gift, I had no idea. I asked the question a few times, and the children guessed lions, and tigers and bears, oh my, giggles galore gallivanting around the room. Then brilliance struck. I pulled a camel out of the bag, picked up Katie with the twinkling azure eyes, put her on it, and told the camel to take her outside to play. Katie skipped out on the camel while the other children regaled me with a cacophony of delight. At about child number seven Zack’s mom came in to retrieve him and he burst into tears, “No, Mommy! I want my camel!” We had to let him hop on the camel and Mom went out to get him. What a switch. Play time that day, with children galloping about on a variety of animals, is forever etched in my memory. I pull it out whenever I am in need of my own play time.
The children knew the animals weren’t real, and they didn’t care. They expected nothing, and because of it, their adventure was more real than real, and the element of surprise carried them to another, holier place.
Waiting for the Camels
The essence of joy is detachment. Pure joy is an experience of ecstasy, in which we stand outside of ourselves. It is like the baby featured recently on YouTube. Every time his father tore a piece of paper, the baby erupted into peals of spontaneous gut-giggles(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RP4abiHdQpc. (I dare you to refrain from giggling.) True joy is standing outside of all ego-judgments, and entering into an experience feet first.
Walking along the Puget Sound waterfront in 80 degree weather, I met a Vietnam Vet walking his white shih Tzu, “Pootie.” “Pootie is a service dog trained to create a peaceful environment for the vets he visits at the VA hospital. Time enjoyed with “Pootie” lowers blood pressure, and keeps the demons of PTSD at bay, at least during this sacred, liminal time. This little Shih Tzu seems to have the same effect on his owner. As we chatted there in the glorious sun, joy emanated from this vet and made its home in me.
A walk along Echo Lake began with my daily encounter with “Beautiful,” a magnificent Great Blue Heron. Escaping notice at first, I finally spotted her hiding among the cattails. “There you are!” I cheered. She stretched her long neck and turned her head sideways, the better to see me. I serenaded her with, “How are you today, Beautiful? It’s so delightful to see you again. Thank you for coming.” And she slowly plodded her way over to within ten feet of me. Watching. Listening. Honest.
I continued on to the lake’s end, and watched three groups of people fish. A man walked by me with an eight inch pink-speckled trout dangling from his thumb. His nearly toothless grin and tattered coveralls conjured images of Tom and Huck playing along the shores of Old Man River. I greeted the fisher with, “You caught one!” He smiled widely and announced, “Oh, I caught a few. You want this one?” I hesitated as a movie of me walking home and into the lobby of my apartment building with this fish dangling from my thumb, played out in my head. Tom caught my hesitation and in a mournful tone exclaimed, “You don’t like FISH?” I rushed to explain my dilemma, which he graciously understood. I wish I had accepted Tom’s gift. I could have mounted it on my wall and framed it with a plaque cautioning, “DON’T LOOK A GIFT FISH IN THE MOUTH.”
In 1982, two years after my sojourn in Berkeley, I moved from a small provincial town to Capitol Hill in Seattle. Finally, I could breathe again! Capitol Hill is home to many citizens of the kingdom of Out-of-the-Box. Last week, in 2013, I had returned for an appointment and joyously wasted time strolling down 15th Avenue. I was ecstatic to rediscover the Bagel Deli, which was established in 1980. Last year it was awarded the title, “Best Bagel in Seattle.” Still crazy, after all these years!” (Thank you, Paul Simon.)
Inside, delicious memories, not all culinary, wafted around the loft like ghosts looking for a hostess: stimulating conversationalists, friends always up for a good belly laugh, lox and bagels to die for. It had been a time in my prime, when my body and my mind still cooperated with me. I sat at a table beside a wall of windows thrown open to lure in the cool Puget Sound breeze on this warmish day. Before pouncing on my bagel, I “gave thanks for all that has been, and said yes to all that will be.” (Dag Hammarskjold)
Some people write gratitudes at each day’s closing. I savor these glimpses of joy as reminders of what God can do in me if I jump in feet first. Nourish us with your own glimpses of joy in the comment section, if you feel so moved.