The birds have hatched. First 3, and then number 4. The above photo was taken about 2 days after the hatching. In the first day they looked like a small pile of tiny red worms thrust against each other for warmth (it’s been cool here). By the second day, if I made a clicking sound, they opened their mouths wide in silent clamor for food.

Food, always food. We have so much of it here in the US, some more nutritious, some less, but we waste and throw away at least a third. I compost our organic materials, but my sense is that the animals get to it long before it turns into compost. Two nights ago, a bear took down the front hummingbird feeder full of sweet water, along with the pole from which it hung—looking for food.

Speaking of the birds, I feel like a proud mama, though of course, other than hanging up the sign telling people not to disturb the mailbox, I didn’t do anything. Phoebe parents did everything, life gave birth to life; all I did was play a minor supporting role.

Minor supporting role feels just right for me. No star, no head honcho, most important: no angry person in opposition, basking in indignation and self-righteousness. Enough of that; the media is doing plenty of it for me.

At different times we give different meaning to our life. That’s not an abstract question because I activate that meaning through my actions. I think my parents wanted the meaning of my life to be survival. They had struggled to survive through poverty, Holocaust, war, and refugeedom, and they wanted their children not just to survive, but also to make sure their tribal forms and religious traditions survived. Nothing would have fit that vision more than by my going to college, meeting a Jewish doctor or lawyer, getting married, and raising children. Other things, sure, but only as adjuncts to the main thing.

From very early on I knew this would not be my way and I never looked back. But what I did derive from that legacy was a tendency towards negativity, criticism (see how much smarter I am than others!), looking over my shoulder, and a low-key depression. It was almost as if I felt it wrong to be happy when life stank for so many people.

Lately I feel these things slowly dropping away. It’s good to take a stance against killing, poverty, autocracy, the lack of homes and opportunities, racism—the anger feels energizing and even cleansing. And I can still lose it a bit (right now upset over the possibility of Bibi Netanyahu becoming prime minister of Israel all over again, surely an inspiration for Donald Trump in 2024). But those are becoming fewer. I want to support good things, not denigrate bad.

Yesterday, Fr. Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, spoke on the Zen Peacemaker platform. I find him one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met (his one-hour talk and Q&A was recorded, and once it’s produced you’d be able to access it on that website). One of the things he said was that, given his 35+ years of working with gangs in Los Angeles, he had probably met more gang members than anyone on the planet. And he added: “I’ve never met an evil gang member.”

He’d buried well over 200 of them, and in a lot of cases he knew how they’d been killed and maybe even by whom, or at least by what gang. But he couldn’t see them as evil. He knew their background, their traumas and suffering, and he can’t condemn them even as he might condemn their actions. Instead, he dedicated his life to giving them a way out of that misery, a way out of that terrifying karma. He became a major supporting player.

I don’t have those pretensions, but I’d like to continue to be a minor supporting player as much as I can, supporting things rather than criticizing, yelling, and obstructing, if only for the selfish reason that it makes me happier. The spiritual life is meant to be joyful, Fr. Greg said. If we can’t ground ourselves in and show people joy, why should they follow us?

Finally, I’m indebted to one of my students for this great story from the Cape Cod Times about a lobster diver who got swallowed by a humpback whale. Suddenly he was surrounded by darkness and it took him a short while to figure out what happened. Eventually the whale spat him out, and other than  a brief stay in the hospital, he’s fine.

What most stood out for me was his comment: “I want to apologize to the whale.” It was not a monster, it was not a manifestation of God’s anger, it was simply a big whale that swept him inside his mouth along with other beings and, after the diver struggled a bit, spat him out.

“We belong to each other,” Fr. Greg said yesterday.

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