“And God said, “Let there be light,”
and there was light.
And God saw the light that it was good.” — B’Reshit (Genesis) 1:3-4
I mean God is omnipotent and omniscient, so why create it if God had even the slightest doubt that it was good, and is God even capable of doubt. But that isn’t really the point, for now I sit knowing that I could, one day, sooner or later, lose my vision, that a darkness would descend upon me and I don’t know for sure what God would think of it, but I would not find it the least bit good. A rabbi might say that I should not blame God, that God giveth and taketh away, but I have a long list of things I would gladly have God take away without a whimper from me, but light and sight are nowhere on that list though faith may end up somewhere in the middles. We’ll just see how things go.
If you are asked “who are you?” how will you reply, and who is the person asking the question? If you answer, you are blind if you say nothing you speak loudly. The sage will tell you that there is no you and if you doubt him he will hold up a mirror and ask what you see. If you answer “I see myself” he will laugh because no one can see themselves unless they see everyone, for you are both the reader and the writer of these poor words.
A reflection on case 131 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye)
They were always almost mythological, heroes of a people I could only imagine as my own, knowing I came from a far different place, one of shtetls and pogroms, of seaside villages, the beaches of Cascais. It was half a lie, but I couldn’t know it then, couldn’t guess my dream was reality, my reality a dream torn away by DNA. In a moment my unknown Portuguese father was unborn, replaced by a faceless man of Celtic soil who marched to the piper highland or uillean, the bodhran, who stood alongside Pearse and Connolly, Bonnie Charlie, and a century on, I’ll lift a pint of Guinness in their honor, take a wee dram of Talisker and whisper Slainte to the unknown generations that brought me here.
He spends considerable time looking in the mirror trying hard to see what is there, to see inside himself, to truly see himself as he imagines others see him. The mirror denies him a static image, it is always shifting, and try though he might to grasp one single image he finds it impossible and always gives up in frustration. Still he tries again the next day, and the next after that, never attaining his desired objective. Ask yourself, what is his failure? If he would become the mirror, then, and only then, he might see himself, rather than a mere image on glass.
A reflection on case 125 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye)
It’s all a question of knowing where to look for one, but ask what would you do if you stumbled across it. It’s not a simple decision, nor should it be. The better question still is how you will know when you finally find it, for it is marked only deep within your heart.
Tonight I will again walk through my dream scrapbook re-creating you. For a bit longer, at least, I have full creative expression knowing now that you died six years ago, never married. I will search from the carefully or inadvertently dropped clue, your obituary, bits and facts that could never have come from the adoption file, beacons however faint that will lead me into the harbor of my true identity. But for now I can imagine you sitting in a corner at the singles dance, looking as your sisters pleaded for a nice young man, long past being fussy. It didn’t take much for him to sweep you away, at least for that one evening, away from the teletype keyboard, away from the cramped apartment. I do wonder if your brother finished college, was at the same one you left when the war made money tight. I can fashion all of these things into an ever shifting mural of my own life, but soon enough I will search, and with some luck will find our shared name. I may never see your face save in the mirror or the eyes of my granddaughter, but in her smile, in the smile of your grandson, I know you better than you could ever have imagined.
We walk forwards to try to see where we are going, always wanting but never seeing where we have been. Is it better to walk backward seeing clearly where we will not go without idea of a destination. Look down and decide.
A reflection on Case 92 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)