Friday, March 06, 2009

The Rarity of Community

Rarity of Community

For my Contemplative Writing students.

Don't cook the meat too long. The juices escape out the skin, making even the inside brittle and crisp. Return to the center again, palpating the outside of the brisket. The center may be bone, but inside of that is marrow, from which butter-like blood cells are born. Cut into that stone, that diamond in the rough gristle, and serve the meat to each other on a gold-rimmed platter. Eat in silence to better appreciate each other. The heart can be cooked and rise again. Puree it, process it, and serve it to company with parsley, and yet it regenerates like a many-headed worm. The more you divide the heart, the larger it grows until all you know is heart; even hate will have so much heart in it that you won't be able to escape the love.

This is how we feast with each other. This is how we need one another and our selves, the very cells that expose themselves to the air each time we cry or cough or laugh in the witness of instant acceptance. Presented as is, always as cooked or as raw as needed for the dish, and always enough to feed the ears of those who attend. Take some extra with you at the end. We're surrounded by a city, a world, starved of this kind of marrow.

The French prefer their beef bloody, but hide their true souls from each other until they are certain it is safe. The Brits cover over even that safety with sarcasm and irony. And Americans don the armor of adolescent bravery - a faux strength that belies our weakest spots in the very act of putting it on.

Try all you want, but an Achilles Heel will ache its way out of your high-heeled shoes and sexy attire. The fire will continue to cook you until you let off steam and write with your finger the words that linger on the face of your reflection in the bathroom mirror. This is not an argument for willy-nilly expression, no, but for finding what's needed for all of us that can escape through a constructive hatch, light the right match, pump into the valve and feed the blood of many boys and girls as they listen to you live your actual life, not some fantasy, but reality. Your broken knives, your previous wives, the five hearts of your own you've hidden from everyone until every bone in your body moaned to go free. Let yourself breathe with the world and when the pain comes, receive it and you will find love and when the love comes, give it away and you will find five more hearts worth of love waiting to refill your coffers.

Every fable tells us of the people poverty mind infects. The Emperor who must wear the best even if naked, Rumpelstiltskin, who needs the most gold. And yet nothing you hold weighs as much, fills as much, feeds as much as Now. We try to pretend that while makign love or winning a race or getting a raise or feeling the grass on our toes we've done the best we can and if we could stay there the love would last. But we miss it the rest of the time; love the marrow feeding the blood of Hate. The storms that blast poor families into space, the infections that take 40 year old friends in two days.

Khandro Rinpoche said once at a talk to a woman next to me who had expressed that she didn't personally understand how Karma could be so cruel, that the woman "understood perfectly well how the world and Karma worked. (She) just didn't like it." Didn't like that hibiscus blooms next to rust, that not all babies grow up to be adults, that all suffering can be, already is, ameliorated with love.

I'm not sure I like it, either. But I do now believe in the love. And I'm starting to believe it's not as medium rare to rare as we usually think it is. Stick your fork in. You are all ready to serve the world.

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