He says he is waiting patiently for the arrival of heaven on earth.
He is not sure what that will be like and the descriptions he has seen are too fantastical to be believed, all clouds and angels and music
He is hoping the things he loves most will be available in heaven, a good Alfredo sauce and German chocolate cake, for two, but heaven should be Starbucks-free, since he will be able to drink espresso at any hour, for you have no need of sleep in heaven.
Until that moment comes, he will sit for hours in the neighborhood Starbucks because of its free wifi and search for the best top ten lists of ways to avoid hell and where you can get wifi and a good decaf espresso.
God is fixed in the firmament seen as puppet master by some patrician uncle, small child endlessly shifting blocks in new, transitory universes. All things recede from a point, have since the creation and that point, dimensionless is God, vast and infinite. It swings lazily, back, forth a needle in its cusp tracing lines in the bed of sand in constant motion as we and earth, and all of our universe spin slowly around its focus, it swings lazily back, forth, tracing an ever-shifting path marked in displaced sand ponderous from its fine steel tendril which rises to a point without size, shape, or time, frozen a singularity from which all else emanates. God lives, bat-like on the ceiling of the San Francisco Science Museum and the Hayden Planetarium and countless other buildings given to science, omnipresent yet fixed dimensionless and infinite always a ladder’s climb just out of reach.
He’d been searching for ever, or so often seemed, for no-self, and he couldn’t fathom why it was so difficult to attain simple absence, nothing must be less than something, after all. He knew, like Sisyphus, he would continue to search until he succeeded, the gods of his soul decreed it and you don’t fuck with them. It was difficult recalling how much time had been wasted in the search for mirrors and when he found one, looked, there he was selfsame, self-filled, and he imagined, selfish. He took to always carrying a hand mirror and when he thought he might have found it he glanced at the polished surface in his hand and there he’d still be, his endless self older now, but there, very much still there. One day, frustration getting the better of him he wandered deep into a massive forest, hours later sitting on a fallen trunk, he reached for his mirror, gone. There was tree and sky and earth, that was all, as night enveloped everything, even his no-self.
Settling into perfect stillness, each of us in our brown robes on brown chairs, benches cushions, note his entry is somewhere between the thundering of a forgotten storm or the garbage trucks crawling slowly down the street. His gray-blue shirt and jeans flash by. He is large in every dimension, even his breathing nice and even is large, but regular. No breeze, only a large moth comes through the open windows and dances around the rice paper light shades. The incense hangs over the burner on the altar waiting to be carried into the room. You return to thoughts of thoughtlessness invite ideas to come and quickly leave. You grow heavy sinking into the earth your weight and his equally heavy. The moth grows bored and slips out the window.
To arise from the earth is simple, too fall back the more difficult, for that is a journey we all seem to fear, though with no arising, there can be no falling back. When I finally admitted that I feared dying and didn’t want to be drafted to fight in that war Roshi asked me if I feared being born. “Fear,” he said, “takes up all of your energy and there is never time enough for that.”
They lie in the field uprooted slowly desicating in the harsh sun, the fruit they might have borne trapped in the dying flower, the seed of another generation denied. It was not supposed to be like this, the sun should have fed them, the soil nourished their souls, their stalks growing thicker, drawing ever more life from the earth.. But here they now lie, torn away left to wither, and we mourn them, and the loss of what might have been. The question how we or those like us could so callously disregard life, and know that this part of our nature will never be easily overcome.
When did we stop being of the soil and begin to fear it, to tell our children not to touch the ground, it is dirty when once it was only dirt, and we put it in our mouths, from time to time trying to drive our mothers crazy. She says if you are going to plant wear gloves, and when she walks away I pull them off of my hands and plunge fingers into the turned and dampened soil. This, I am convinced, is how it is supposed to be, how nature intended, before designer dyed mulch, rubber mulch, before we became the robots our parents’ sci-fi writers anticipated. Later, in the shower, scraping the dirt from beneath fingernails, I watch as it flows reluctantly down the drain I bid farewell to that bit of my childhood but I swear I won’t deny my grandchildren.
Wherever you stand still you can see the rainbow but walk to find its end this one or that one and it will be gone on your arrival. Sit in the fine mist and look at the earth – how many colors do you see?
A reflection on case 42 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)
She wants to know if I want to her gloves while planting so I don’t get dirt deep in my skin and under my nails. There is no way I can explain to her there is a certain joy in placing my fingers into the just wet soil, in moving it with my hands, squeezing small clods of earth, watching bits of soil fall away. It is certainly dirty work but I know that this is as close as I can get to the earth from which I came without engaging in that final, eternal intimacy.