Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Tao of Glory


It's been one of those weeks when the contradictory patchwork quilt of human existence becomes particularly vivid. We learn that the number of military suicides in January of '09 is greater than the first month's combined deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. For those young men and women the war never ended. They knew and tried to tell us so. While commanding officers debate whether or not PTSD qualifies one for the Purple Heart, they say look, you want blood, we'll shed blood too. Perhaps suicide is violent enough for some.
A child loving woman adds 8 more to her single parent family and thinks it'll all be fine when she earns her Master's degree. Her only hope of sanity is a reality TV show. We all know how mentally stable those folks are.
A large dose of American brand "messy glory" got spread over everything like salmonella laden peanut butter when Barry Bonds went back to court. He's in deep peanut butter and now can lift a hand to A-Rod to help him out. Michael Phelps will watch from the sidelines for awhile because they don't allow anything faintly resembling a bong on cereal boxes. What if he'd been sipping a crystal glass of Kentucky bourbon-would it make any difference?
Seems like these folks are always going to their own funerals. Maybe that's why they always seem to be picked up and delivered in black SUVs.
We live in a green light culture. Go on ahead. Go for it. Go Baby Go! I'm not sure what we enjoy more building up our celebrities (they are not heroes, most of 'em) or knocking them down. What's certain is that we do both consistently well.
II.
Last night, on a whim, I Googled the address of the home where I spent the first 22 years of my life. When I left almost 40 years ago, only my father lived there. Our family had disintegrated around him. First my sister married and moved on, then, a year later, my mom died. Three years later I finished college and went off to be a VISTA volunteer and ultimately get my teaching credential. My folks little American Dream fantasy island was all they really had. My dad obsessively manicured his lawn. It was his lawn. Even the big Silver Maple in the middle of the yard, (the tree that endlessly shed leaves that I could never rake up completely), died soon after.
I was prepared for the worst. I know the area has changed over the last four decades. Much to my surprise, the house, still recognizable, was one of the best cared for homes on the street. The lawn was perfectly groomed. The front porch was gone in favor of additional landscaping. Looked like an add-on in the back yard. Many of the best cared for homes back looked rather worn and bare. No lawn, large trash barrels scattered, generally haggard, looking their age. Somehow, it brought a smile to know the place that will always be known as "my house" is being cared for, and cared for well.

The fundamental idea of Buddhism is to pass beyond the world of opposites, a world built up by intellectual distinctions and emotional defilements. - D.T. Suzuki

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