This morning, after my usual morning conversation with Kwan-Yin in the back yard, I went to visit Stanley’s grave 15 steps behind the wooden statue. It was warm (35 degrees at 7 am!) and it was going to get warmer. The dogs’ nostrils quivered excitedly, they knew that a spring-like day was coming.
The snow covered Stanley as it has done everything here, and I was getting all spiritual and James Joycean about it till the dogs decided to do some canine desecration. The nipped and frolicked, leaped up on each other, I think Harry even peed. I could hear Stanley groaning underneath it all: No rest for the weary.
You danced around your grave when Tim and I were digging it, I wanted to remind him. You thought that big hole in the ground was so cool I had to make sure you didn’t fall in. The Spook said nothing back, but I have a feeling he’ll have a conversation with the Juvenile Delinquent and Harry the Cur pretty soon about respect.
Subsequently I looked online to see who won the Super Bowl and found it was our own New England Patriots. Again. Bernie was a New York Giants fan, but we happened to come to New England at the very time the Patriots’ dynasty was beginning, and he got a big kick out of them. If the game were on at night he’d record it because he was too tired to watch late, then get up at 4 in the morning and watch what he missed. When I got up he’d be shaking his head.
“So what happened?” I’d ask.
“Always the same thing,” he’d say. “Brady gets the ball, throws it, takes it all the way down the field, and they score a touchdown. When they get the ball back, Brady takes the ball, throws it, takes it all the way down the field, and they score a touchdown. Again and again.” I think that was the year they had their perfect season.
He enjoyed the Patriots and rooted for them, but fanaticism and orthodoxy were not for him. He loved being Jewish and Buddhist, but didn’t feel even an ounce of triumphalism in connection with either. What is triumphalism? Pretending to be liberal and open-minded about all faiths and traditions, but inside being certain that your way, your religion, will ultimately be proven to be the right way, the right religion. That was as far from Bernie as could be.
Just be a mensch, is what he said. Don’t be a Buddhist, don’t be a Zen master. Don’t ever think that what works for you works for everybody. Just be a mensch.
So I thought of him when I read this passage by E. B. White, on the day before Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address and maybe even invokes emergency powers to build his wall:
“Before you can be a supranationalist you have first to be a naturalist and feel the ground under you making a whole circle. It is easier for a man to be loyal to his club than to his planet; the by-laws are shorter, and he is personally acquainted with the other members. A club, moreover, or a nation, has a most attractive offer to make: it offers the right to be exclusive. There are not may of us who are physically constituted to resist this strange delight, this nourishing privilege. It is at the bottom of all fraternities, societies, orders. It is at the bottom of most trouble. The planet holds out no such inducement. The planet is everybody’s. All it offers is the grass, the sky, the water, and the ineluctable dream of peace and fruition.”