You know, Stanley, sometimes I don’t think there’s enough love in the world.
I mean it, Stan. Sometimes I get so tired—gotta do this, gotta do that—and I look around for a helping hand and don’t see anybody.
Yeah, right. Imagine asking you to help make dinner.
I lick bowls, don’t I?
There’s a verse we sometimes chant before someone gives a talk after meditation: The dharma, incomparably profound and infinitely subtle, is always encountered but rarely perceived.
In its original form from Japan, it said that the dharma (which refers to teachings, or truth) is rarely encountered even in millions of ages. This refers to how rare the possibility is of being born a human and encountering the truth of human existence.
But Bernie changed it to read that it’s always encountered but rarely perceived, and that’s been my experience too. The truth of my existence, its exquisite, heartbreaking transience and the glimmer or flash—for a moment, for an hour—of every single life form, including my own, surrounds me all the time. It surrounds me now early Monday morning, the green leaves outside already sagging, laden with mortality but still yearning for sun. Yearning, always yearning.
The truth of our existence is always there to see, but we rarely perceive it.
Love is like that, too. It’s everywhere, a fact of life. The trees ask me to come outside for a leafy caress, the water in the shower is warm, the tiles cool, The silence surrounding meditation is love, and so is the flicker of the candle. Stanley comes in to lick my hands and face and have our morning conversation: Are you feeling sorry for yourself? You’re loved like crazy! That summarizes our daily conversation: You’re loved like crazy!
Just perceive it. Open your senses, pay attention, really feel it. The thing to be known grows with the knowing, wrote Nan Shepherd in The Living Mountain. . . . [M]an’s experience of them enlarges rock, flower and bird. Similarly, woman’s experience of love enlarges love, be it clearing the kitchen counter of dishes and letting the green soapstone shine or inhaling the fragrance of coffee. It doesn’t beckon, doesn’t come halfway, it’s in your face so strongly that it overwhelms, too much, and for this reason it’s subtle, easy to miss, like the air that’s always there for breathing.
My friend L. in London told me this story: Up till several years ago she lived in a big house with a beautiful garden that she cherished and cared for. At twilight foxes roamed from hedge to hedge and banks of flowers surrounded a pool of carp (netted to protect them from the blue heron that appeared regularly). Her neighbor didn’t want to bother with a garden and decided to cover the front lawn of her house with tar.
When spring arrived L. saw tulips trying to come through the tar. She knocked on the woman’s door and pointed this out.
I can’t deal with this, I don’t have time, said the neighbor.
Give them some space and they’ll come out on their own, L urged her. They are fighting for life. Give them space, take my gardener, I will pay for it.
It took her a long time to convince the woman, but she finally and very grudgingly agreed, if only to make her crazy neighbor happy.
The desire for life is so strong, L told me several years later. And the desire for love too, I add. The petals hunt for sun though that same sun will hurry their demise. We hunt for showers of love which one day will end, but it doesn’t matter, it’s what keeps us going. The dog nuzzles me but has a hard time going up the stairs, Bernie will wake up to yet another morning, and another August day will reach out and reach out and tell me: Take me, I’m yours.