The melody arose from the most unexpected place. They heard it deep within the woods and even the birds fell silent peering around, searching for its unrevealed source. It carried on for several verses and then, as quickly as it came it was gone, the final note carried off by a spring wind. No one entered, no one left the woods that day and though many searched no instrument was found and the trees of the woods grew silent at the searchers’ approach.
The most important lessons he taught were in those moments when he was absolutely silent, the smile across his face shouting across the background din of everyday life, his eyes wide with a sort of childish awe that I had long since given up as adolescent.
The child sees everything for the first time regardless how many times she has gazed at what we adults are certain is the same scene, a pure iteration, hears each call of the cardinal as a never-before-heard song, not the now boring chorus of a too long repeated lyric, its melody now painful.
His lessons too easily slipped away, as he did a few years later, mourning a poor substitute for memories that eased into the damp ground with him, but the smile of my granddaughter at seemingly everything and nothing, her laughter at the squirrel inverted from the crook arm of the bird feeder defying the shield below to stop his constant thefts, the giggles at the clouds filling the sky with characters I could not hope to see, brought him back, and with him the joys of my childhood long suppressed.
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)