We have grown tired of counting the mind cannot deal with numbers of that magnitude, Stalin was correct, it is all statistics now, and bodies, always more bodies, never enough, always too many, by violence in the street, in the economy, in the courthouse, in the COVID ward, there are too many places now, where the dead gather, and we cannot bid them farewell, for we do not want to be counted among them, to join them, to admit that we in some way have led them into disease, into poverty, into death.
If you are able to speak maintain silence, If you can bear the silence, listen to the song the sea sings. If you can sing with the sea count the grains of sand that wash in on the next wave. If you lose count, begin again before the wave recedes. If the wave recedes before you finish counting, bid it farewell. After you bid farewell return to your cushion and listen to the silence which is the body of the dharma.
He is four, has been for five months now, but when you ask them how old he will be at his next birthday he doesn’t pause, says, “thirteen,” with a smile that shouts, “yes I know how to count quite well, but sometimes I just choose not to!” He is slowing down, actually, the last week he decided he was seven and decided he would be 27 on his next birthday. I am certain it has nothing at all to do with the presents his classmate’s brother got his Bar Mitzvah, but there is something in the smile of a Jewish four-year-old that reminds even a grandfather who long ago gave up the faith that there is something magical about turning thirteen despite the ever dreaded thank you notes.
The old monk stooped carefully, gingerly picking each browning leaf from the dry garden and gently placing it in the sack he carried. With each leaf he would increase his count, always certain that it fully fell into the sack. When the last leaf was picked and even the autumn tree dared not drop another this day, the monk dumped the leaves onto the stone of the garden and stooped carefully, gingerly picking each browning leaf. A watching visitor asked the abbot if the monk had dementia, but the abbot smiled and said, “He is the sanest one among us, watch how he wholly engages his practice.”