A GOOD BOY

“Leave it!”

I’m trying to teach Harry about capitalism, specifically, personal ownership. He doesn’t quite get it and goes after a bone that Aussie retrieved from the forest and brought home. “She got it first, leave it!”

Whoever said that capitalism is fair? It’s especially not fair to Harry because he’s a good dog and stays with me when we’re in the woods, while Aussie the Bandit roams wild and free, occasionally obeying “Come!”, usually not, and running and finding all kinds of goodies from dead animals which she then brings home.

Harry looks up at me as if to say, What’s is my reward for being a good boy?

And I feel like saying, despite what all dog trainers tell you to say: There’s no reward for being a good boy.

Recklessness is what’s emerged for me since Bernie died, an invitation to a wilder spirit. Nothing like a brush with major illness and death, not to mention caregiving for three years, to wake you up to all the constraints and strictures you put on yourself again and again.

There’s the old one of being a good girl. There’s also the spiritual one of being a good person. How does the Metta Sutra begin?

“This is what should be accomplished by the one who is wise,

who seeks the good and has obtained peace.”

And then the prescription:

“Let one be strenuous, upright and sincere,

without pride, easily contented and joyous;

Let one not be submerged by the things of the world.

Let one not take upon oneself the burden of riches;

Let one’s senses be controlled;

Let one be wise but not puffed up;

Let one not desire great possessions even for one’s family;

Let one do nothing that is mean

or that the wise would reprove. “

Which begs the question: Who are the wise? They change over our lives. When we’re young they were our parents. Mine certainly reproved me plenty, and even now, grateful as I am for their love and care, I wish I’d done more of what they reproved me for rather than less. Later, it’s your teachers.

I love the Metta Sutra; we’ve chanted it many times over the years and will do so again. But death can happen any moment, so how do you wish to spend these moments? Not in hostility or anger at anyone, not in self-pity or hiding under the covers, that much is clear. But what I also need to do is pay attention to the essence that continues to live and breathe, the unique being called Eve. Not Gandhi, not King, not Jesus, just this one fuzzy-minded, precious spark called Eve. One day it will extinguish, but for now, may it fire up! May it burn and give some light!

And this is something no one can give me prescription for, the old rules don’t apply: Be kind, be good, be loving. Does that mean I have to return everyone’s phone calls? Respond to every email, every cry for help?

In meditation I sink deeper and deeper into myself, which feels like nothing sometimes. But there are still the snores of Harry on the bed, goldfinches flying outside the window, increasing light of early morning. That nothingness is full of flavor, and the flavor becomes fuller and fuller every morning.