Today in odd places, at the most unexpected moments, a child will smile without reason, a young girl will laugh, the young boy will stroke the neck of a wandering cat, and in that place at that moment there will be a simple peace. Only the children will notice this, though it gives lie to those who deem peace impossible. A child knows that it is only preconceptions and attachments that blind adults to the peace that surrounds them.
The greatest speech is given only when the mouth falls shut. To talk of peace is to be at war with peace, to speak of war is to be at war. When listening disappears peace reemerges, when peace emerges the listener appears.
A reflection on Case 12 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (The True Dharma Eye)
a day, clouds drop rain replacing tears locked inside stones and cloth red and blue unseparated still worlds apart orderly ranks all at attention and silence thundering anger a mad world soaked in peace only until midnight.
Are you serious? You have the temerity to ask me if I am sleeping? Seriously? If, for a moment, you thought that I was sleeping, why in hell would you jostle me and then ask me if I was sleeping? And how many times do I have to tell you that I never liked the name John. I am Jack and you know damned well that is what I want to be called, by everyone. It is not that hard. Here’s a hint, I was sleeping until you woke me. You realize if we weren’t family what I would be doing to you right now. But mom and dad would have a fit, so just consider yourself lucky, but know that someday I will get even with you. Remember I was there when you were a baby, so I have seen it all. And if the bells didn’t wake me, why should I care if they are ringing? Answer me that. Now go away, preferably forever.
He wants to have his midlife crisis in peace and quiet. He has penciled it in his calendar for at least five years now. Something always comes up, something that demands he be in public, and he simply will not have a crisis in that setting, no matter what. He’s sure he supposed to have one although as time goes by he isn’t sure what purpose it would serve, it isn’t that his life isn’t half over, merely that he has what he wants and the crisis is best used as an excuse to get something utterly unnecessary and useless, and that, for him, is so five years ago.
He always wanted to take the scenic route home, it didn’t matter if it took longer, he probably preferred that and he rarely commented on the scenery. It was more that he didn’t want to get where they were going and the scenic route was guaranteed to take longer and with luck they’d get lost once or twice along the way. He’d be fine when he got there, it was about the arriving, and the leaving both of which were abrupt, and abruption carried with it the fear he would never again find the peace of place.
Like the Anasazi’s sudden departure from his cliff dwelling I too snuck away, with hardly any trace from a life no longer in clear recollection, only faint images survive, of hours in the City Lights Bookstore reading Corso, Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg, then buying the slim volume “Gasoline” not because it was my greatest desire, but its price. Now the worn volume sits nestled between Wilbur and Amichai, a fond memory, like an afternoon in the park in Salt Lake City the tarot spread out before me whispering their secrets for the slip of blotter, the small blue stain bringing an evening of color and touch and that momentary fear that nothing would again be as I knew it to be. The Anasazi knew the arrow of time had flown, had passed the four corners where I lay in the street another senseless victim of a senseless war, while Karl held the placard demanding peace, until the police urged us to move along, and offered the assistance we were sworn to reject. Now the corners seem older, more tired of the life that treads on them daily, on my path to the Federal Courthouse to argue a motion where once we spilled the red paint the blood of our generation. Now there is a wall with their names, a permanent monument while we, like our Anasazi brethren, are but faint memories.
First Appeared in Ellipsis Literature and Art, Issue 35, 1999.